Above: Two of the four old underground carriages mounted on the original disused viaduct high above Great Eastern Street.
You might think that the heading is some dark reference to some illegal or subversive organisation when nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, Village Underground is an artists’ community in Shoreditch that operates from four recycled London Underground (LU) carriages, raised high on top of a huge, restored Victorian warehouse. The four carriages provide affordable studio space in an increasingly expensive working area of Central London, situated on an old disused railway viaduct beside Great Eastern Street.
The old warehouse provides hi-tech, in-house film and photographic facilities and can also be used to host a variety of cultural events, including gigs, fashion shows, and film screenings. In addition, the large space has also been used for a flexible and multi-functional arena for a wide range of creative activity. It is often used for one-off club-nights providing a perfect, atmospheric venue. Shoreditch has one of the densest clusters of creatives in Europe. For those working in such an environment, it is essential to be located where the work is and the location has to be affordable.
The ‘London Rebuilding Society’ web site describes it as ‘an ambitious project to provide affordable workspace for creatives in Shoreditch and also to transform 4,000 square feet of Victorian warehousing into a multi-functional art, music and cultural centre. Recycled London Underground train carriages are kitted out using sustainable materials, having carbon-neutral heat and power, the interiors are eco-designed and there is a rooftop garden – the ‘village’ of Village Underground – with an outdoor cinema and space for live music during the summer’.
For those who may not know the area near Shoreditch High Street Station, Shoreditch High Street and Great Eastern Street, it should be pointed out that the immediate impression to the visitor is of tall, rather unattractive Victorian warehouses. You would not really give any of them a second look. However, on closer inspection, you will find that they house many creative workshops and businesses, a large collection of restaurants (like the Tea Warehouse) and, in the evenings, several very well-known clubbing venues. It is actually a vibrant area but, if you just walk past, you would hardly guess all that from the outside.