Goldsmiths alumni mark 15 years of Second Floor studios

The Second Floor in-house gallery. Pic: Sarah Howell

The UK’s largest artistic studio project, established by Goldsmiths alumni, celebrates its fifteenth anniversary with an open event today in Woolwich.

Founded in 1997 by Lewisham resident Matthew Wood and Kevin O’Mard, Second Floor Studio and Arts was set up to fill a void in affordable studio space.

The site now plays host to over 215 different artists, most of whom will open their doors to the public tonight, kicking off a three-day schedule of events.

Speaking to Eastlondonlines, Wood said: “Second Floor contributes to the genuine art ecosystem of London. While we have to support ourselves, as we receive no funding from government bodies or other organisations, our members go on to do great things.

“We tend to be the seeding ground of creativity. Our artists have a space for experimentation and a chance to expose their work and larger organisations like the Tate pick them up once they are more established.”

Originally based on Greenwich High Road, the project moved to its current location in Woolwich three years ago, setting up studios in several old riverside warehouses.

Two artists welcoming visitors into their studio are furniture designers Sebastian Cox and Liam Treanor. Originally from Lincolnshire, the pair recently moved to the capital.

Furniture designers Sebastian Cox and Liam Treanor. Pic: Sarah Howell

“London is where it happens,” Cox said. “The majority of our clients and retailers are based here. It was so remote in Lincolnshire it was hard to get clients to visit projects. The trouble with London is its affordability.”

Treamor said: “If we weren’t at Second Floor, we would have to rent a bench in a commercial workshop and work alongside other people’s projects and share equipment.”

The issue of affordable studio space is still as prevalent now as it was 15 years ago, according to Wood.

“Redevelopment and gentrification flattens our sector. Artists move into cheap areas, set up communities, make it more habitable and ‘trendy’ and then get priced out of the area.

“Other businesses benefit from them being there, but the artists’ income hasn’t risen and they have to move. This kind of nomadic existence is unsustainable.”

Second Floor’s Open Studios event also marks the first year of Thames Barrier Print Studio, the latest branch of the project, whose artists will be exhibiting work at the in-house gallery No Format from tomorrow until December 2 of this year.

In the future, Wood plans to expand SFSA to accommodate more artists.

He said: “In an age where such little funding goes into the arts, we need investment and will be launching a project in 2013 in order to expand our provision.”

Open Studios opens this evening at 5:00 PM. For more information visit

The studio can be found here:

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