Acme Studios — #1 Acme's beginnings

Supporting Artists since 1972

#1 Acme's beginnings

50 stories from The Acme Archive

The first properties to be managed by Acme Studios were 105 and 117 Devons Road in Bow, E3, in the heart of London’s East End. These short-life, redundant and semi-derelict Victorian shops, licensed to Acme in 1973 by the Greater London Council, marked the beginnings of an organisation which would become the largest provider of working and living space for artists in the United Kingdom.

On 9th November 1972, Acme Housing Association Ltd. was formally registered as a non-profit making company under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965. It was an initiative by recent graduates from Reading University Fine Art Department, young artists seeking cheap space to work and live in London. The original founding members were Kevin Goldstein-Jackson, Tom Goodman, Jonathan Harvey, Rosemary Harvey, David Panton, Claire Smith and Susan Sauerbrun. It was led by Jonathan Harvey and David Panton (still Acme Co-Director 50 years later!) and was formed with the sole aim of providing the seven founders with cheap studio and living accommodation.

The possibility of renting ‘short-life’ houses and shops in East London from the Greater London Council, properties destined for eventual demolition, had been pioneered by Martin von Haselberg (aka Harry Kipper of The Kipper Kids). Martin negotiated a boarded-up pub in Poplar, ‘The Cobden’s Head’ (189 St. Leonards Road, E14), for himself and one or two other properties, including the Post Office in St. Leonards Road, Poplar, and Bernstein's, a former chemist's shop in Whitechapel. These were all occupied by artists.

Access to housing stock was through the Housing Department of the GLC, who would only deal with properly constituted organisations and it was this route, the formation of a housing association, that the seven founding members of Acme decided to take.