The Art of NCW


In the 1970s and 80s, the rundown and semi-derelict warehouses of Wapping became home to many artists' studios. 

New Crane Wharf was one of the most creative and celebrated of these artistic communities, hosting exhibitions and events, and housing artists in its rabbit-warren of semi-derelict floors.

Since first writing this article in 2007, I've had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with two of the artists who made New Crane Wharf their artistic home in the 70s and 80s. 

Having tracked Kevin and Rima down on the internet, we arranged to meet at NCW on a fine July evening.

I had no trouble recognising them as they walked down the street - even after 30 years, they were instantly recognisable as the two young artists I'd seen in the photo of "New Crane Studios".

We walked around NCW, and up Wapping Wall, and down to Wapping Lane, then retired to my flat where Kevin and I drank copious amounts of wine, while Rima showed us photos and catalogues she had kept from the heady days of "55 Wapping Artists", and other exhibitions in NCW and Metropolitan Wharf.

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The following memories and images are those of Kevin Jackson and Rima Farah.

"New Crane.  Having a studio there seems now like a lifetime ago. I was there from '77 until the end of '83, so, not the first artist tenant to arrive, or the last to leave.

I was E4; if that means anything now. It was at the top of the furthest stairwell from the yard gates, and my studio was on the yard side, but the floor stretched to the river front and we sunbathed there in the summers.  Also climbing onto the roof. So many memories that I don't know where to start, or stop. It was so bloody cold in the winters!  The whole wharf just settled down and froze. 

'Johnny' Ellicott had the ground floors as a warehouse, and seemed to deal mostly in tomato pulp.  The big cans of the stuff would blow and burst, and his forklift trucks spread it in tyre tracks and skid marks all over the place. 

There were photographers there, Christian Grandjean, Tom Evans . . others?  I ran an etching workshop, 'New Crane Studio'. A group of the artists approached the owner, Capital and Counties, if memory serves, and were offered the purchase of the whole wharf for £1 million, but they couldn't find enough takers amongst the rest to make a try for it.

Artists Ken Oliver and David Brown, both Royal College graduates, were amongst the first to make studios at New Crane. So many artists had studios there and around the corner towards the Prospect of Whitby.  Also, Butlers Wharf opposite the Tower Hotel.

It was all abstract impressionism then, and punk.  And, post punk."

With thanks to Kevin Jackson & Rima Farah for the memories and the images.

Photo of Kevin Jackson and Rima Farah by Christian Grandjean.

There are many more photos and documents relating to this period, leant by some of the artists, and we will endeavour to update this story soon.

© New Crane Wharf 2006-2021