Our homes are under threat.
The Haringey Warehouse District, also known as the Manor House Warehouses (or simply 'the Manor'), is a former industrial area in South Tottenham. Over the past two decades, artists, makers, performers, and alternative community advocates have transformed the space into live and work areas.
The cohesive community living, affordable housing, creative space, and opportunity for collaboration have attracted hundreds of residents. The creative inhabitants have steadily transformed the warehouse spaces into art spaces that host community events, making them an iconic and vital part of London — and unique in the world.
We live and work in Omega Works, one of the main warehouse complexes on Hermitage Road, N4. I've been here for just over a year. The building was previously used as a piano factory in the 1930s where the largest piano in the world was created.
Here, we look out for each other, and our neighbourhood relationships are incredibly strong. They provide a support network for a diverse group of under-represented and under-resourced people to cohabitate, collaborate, and create a real community.
"I get to know my housemates, which I really value in a home"
Before Omega Works, I was living in a three-bed flat in north London, with people I didn't know. The absence of communal space and the small size of the bedroom meant it was very difficult to create the work I needed to do (I work part time as a fine artist and also create set design work for various productions), and also to get to know my housemates, which I really value in a home.
One of the main unique aspects of warehouse living is the containment of living space and work (studio) space in the same area. It is incredibly costly and unattainable for most of us to be able to afford a room in London and also a studio. The sense of community is also one that brings a lot of us here. As a safe space for marginalised communities, including LGBTQ+ folk, neurodiverse people and young international artists moving to London or England on their own, being surrounded by like-minded people who look out for one another is truly an indispensable support. Without it, we wouldn't live in London.
We give back to the community — contributing to the cultural offering of Haringey and north London as a whole. In our spaces we host accessible workshops, gigs and exhibitions, fundraise for charity, and hold health and wellbeing sessions, and activist meetings for social justice issues.
But now the council and developers want to demolish Omega Works, and replace it with four generic blocks of flats.
"We have had no response from the council"
We have attended several Zoom meetings with the developers, expressing that these plans will destroy our community, and that we do not want them to go ahead. The current development proposal states that their plans will ensure 'the existing community can continue to live and work in this typology'. However this is simply not true. From a 25% rent increase, to a drastic decrease in 'work' areas, and the proposal of luxury flats built above our warehouse units, there are endless flaws in the plan that we, as residents, know would not enable us to continue to live and work in the way that makes our community thrive, and continues to make this a viable place for creative freelancers to live here.
It seems that rather than changing the development plans to really consider the existing community, they have merely stated several times that it will do so. We have contacted three separate people on the council within the last year, and had no response. We are in the process of trying to reach out to them in other ways.
"It will not work for anyone"
The spaces we currently have here in Omega are truly unique. The flexible live/work spaces, concrete floors and walls that are forgiving to paint, woodwork, etc mean we can use them in a way that suits us. Each unit works hard to ensure each resident has the work space they need for the profession and their preferred style of working, creating beautiful and functional aesthetics using the existing architecture and found materials. The community generally creates their spaces on a circular economy, where the waste of others on the street often becomes the beautiful, characteristic furnishings of warehouses.
The proposed architecture would completely disrupt our way of life, and the new surrounding residents too. The plan is to give us three shared 'work areas' between eight warehouse units. The current plans confusingly indicate that these work areas will be available to us between 8am-7pm Monday to Friday, with no guarantee that they are available outside these hours. As most of us also have day jobs, these prescribed hours are completely unrealistic.
We also strongly believe that noise pollution would become a very apparent issue to our neighbours. Many builders and makers who live in this space are constantly using power tools, not to mention the musicians, sound producers and DJs. The idea of housing families just one level above us is ridiculous; it will limit us in our work and cause major upset to our neighbours. The developers think this is a compromise, but it will not work for anyone.
They're not going to stop here, either. We already know, from looking at the development plans on Haringey Council's website, that the 'masterplan' is to knock through Crusader (a working industrial estate behind Omega) and through to Arena Design Centre, which is another work/live warehouse inhabited by over 100 residents similar to us.
"It will be the start of a domino effect"
If Omega is demolished, it will be the start of a domino effect on all of the surrounding warehouses, and destroy this community forever.
We have a petition that can be signed as a way to show the number of people who believe this is an important cause.
If you live in London, or in Haringey specifically, you can write to your MP to let them know how you feel about this and similar developments, to put pressure on the council to retain and work with — not destroy — their creative communities.