Block9 is a set design and environmental design company based at the Cannon Factory in Ashley Road. It was founded almost a decade ago and is best known for its work designing venues and installations at Glastonbury Festival, where the company has showcased its creations since 2007.
Block 9 relocated to Tottenham from Stratford in February 2016 after it was introduced to The Mill Co. Project, a social enterprise scheme designed to provide business support to start-up creative businesses in London .We’ve been featuring the initiative and the projects they back.
The support includes providing competitive rental spaces while the eventual aim is to bring employment to the local area as each business grows.
Block9 Producer Paula Clark tells us more.
Which venues do you put on at Glastonbury festival?
NYC Downlow, The London Underground nightclub (a 5-storey decaying tower block with a life-size, blazing tube train bursting from the 5th floor), Genosys (a vintage electronic dance arena). Plus other kinds of smaller venues behind the scenes like Maceos, which is a backstage crew bar.
Wow, it must get very busy.
We’re already full throttle on planning for this year, but it’s still nowhere near as busy as it gets in April and May. As we get closer to the time of Glastonbury festival our production managers start arriving, bar operations managers start getting involved and the team just swells until eventually we’re on site and there’s hundreds of us… it’s getting on for 1000 crew and artists during the live event.
Block9 have done some really iconic stuff. So, how did this all start?
Block9 was started by our creative directors Stephen Gallagher and Gideon Berger almost 10 years ago. They were both makers working in the creative industry – on film sets, in theatres, on dance projects, on advertising jobs etc. They met each other, got on really well and they started Block9 to start building their own stuff and creating their own visions.
When did Block9 first cross paths with The Mill Co. Project?
It must have been slightly over two years ago. It was an introduction made through a networking event with the Greater London Authority. We were looking for commercial property in London. We needed to move because we’d been in a ‘meanwhile’ space in Stratford.
What’s a ‘meanwhile’ space?
A ‘meanwhile’ space is a building that is going to be demolished for redevelopment. You tend to get leases of a year to two to three years until the building is demolished. In that period of time you maintain and keep the building, usually at a reduced rate of rent in return.
Why do you think it’s so hard to find space in London?
Sheer affordability. If we only needed to be in a tiny office block then there wouldn’t be a problem but we’re makers so we need a workshop space.
So why are you in London?
It’s part of us. We are from London. Block9 is London. We represent London, and London should support us to develop the work we’re creating.
Just because it happened this way. It has been a real delight to find ourselves here. Stratford was a good property but it didn’t have the community, especially the creative community that’s bubbling up here in Tottenham right now.
Has being a part of that community in Tottenham helped?
It’s certainly spurred some really interesting conversations and skill exchange on all levels and not just with creative ideas. We’ve met set builders, local artists, makers and have actually employed them on our projects.
Is there anything you would urge others to uncover in the Tottenham area?
Styx. The guys there, Felix and Josh, are amazing. Loven Presents, the pizza pop-up has gone which is really sad but they’ve now opened their own restaurant in Seven Sisters. Styx just one of those spaces you’ll go down for lunch and you’ll bump into some of the creatives from Punchdrunk or a little theatre piece will be happening…It’s just really cool.
You are planning to bring your own pop-up venue to London, can you tell us more?
It’s a large-scale touring project and it’ll be exploring the area where music and art collide. I can’t really elaborate more at this point in time but watch this space. We will be dropping some further information soon.
Interview and words by Selma Willcocks
Images by André Ainsworth