MELT: Hypha Studios & Creative Land Trust supporting the cultural ecology
Two charities are helping support the cultural ecology at the grassroots level. Hypha Studios and Creative Land Trust provide free exhibition space and affordable studios to emerging artists in ever more unaffordable cities. They come together over Frieze London week for a celebratory exhibition of some of their best creatives from the last year.

With the increase in online shopping, inflation, and rising energy costs, traditional city centres are changing, with once-bustling UK high streets now replete with empty or boarded units. Meanwhile, traditional employment is also changing with the rise of digital, changing economies, and a post-Covid shift of traditional workplace and contract cultures, leaving large floors of commercial and office property silent and hard to let.

This has a huge impact on our built environment and urban architectures. What is a city or town centre if its language, functions, and attractions so abruptly depart? There are plenty of ongoing discussions around the future of urban centres, ideas for what may replace the shops and offices model of the last century or longer, and there’s no doubt that as well as new approaches to commercial offers, a diverse mix involving residential, social, and cultural will be central.


While these discussions are going on, two London-based charities are busy getting on with the job of helping shape that new urban economy. Hypha Studios and Creative Land Trust exist to provide emerging artists with space to make and show across the creative disciplines. To mark Frieze London, when the capital bursts with exhibitions and cultural events, the two have joined forces to put on a collaborative exhibition celebrating some of the best creatives they have worked with over the last year.

Hypha Studios was launched in 2021 by Camilla Cole and Will Jennings – Editor in Chief of – with a simply ambition to offer up empty high street retail space to emerging artists to exhibit directly to their communities. In response to a free-to-enter open call, local artists are selected by the charity trustees and a local creative partner to mount exhibitions in non-gallery spaces. It’s been a huge success, with over 600 painters, theatre groups, sound artists, digital creatives, poets, sculptors and more putting on projects in 27 locations from Eastbourne to Penrith, Sudbury to Bristol.

“What we find,” says Cole, “is that members of the public who may not normally venture into a town’s art gallery encounter an artist making or showing in what was once one of their local shops and they simply step in – it’s a familiar threshold on the high street they are so used to.” This was the case with Hypha Studios’ first space, a former estate agent in Eastbourne, Sussex, where artist Molly Stredwick not only showed work to her hometown community, but also sold paintings to them. Stredwick was selected by Joe Hill, director of Towner Eastbourne, the public contemporary art gallery which hosts this year’s Turner Prize.


The artists get the space for free, and as well as making or showing their work, they have to propose public engagement events – which could be talks, workshops, readings, or any other kind of project, ideally to attract new audiences and speak to the immediate communities. Over 300 events have taken place over the two years since Hypha Studios began, with exhibitions welcoming over 75,000 visitors. In that time, the charity has grown in both strength and reach, with short and long-term spaces across the country, including a former Sainsbury’s in Stratford, London, which is now a huge gallery hosting two exhibitions simultaneously, and a new space just off Euston Road, opposite Warren Street tube station, which launches with MELT, the Frieze London-adjacent exhibition.

Hypha Studios invited Creative Land Trust [CLT] to work with them on a launch exhibition for the site, seeing in them another charity dedicated to reimagining urban spaces and providing affordable opportunities for the next generation of creatives. Though Hypha do have some studio spaces, and are looking to expand this offer, they have largely focused on spaces of exhibition for their first years of operation. CLT, led by Gordon Seabright, are however focused on spaces of creative making and manufacture, already home to over 250 makers across three London buildings since starting in 2020.

Celebrated installation and sound artist Haroon Mirza is a CLT Ambassador, and says of the organisation: “London and the UK are quickly becoming inhospitable for creative practices, which needs to be thoroughly addressed immediately.” Mirza is a guest artist in MELT, the joint exhibition which presents both charities to the international art crowds gathered for Frieze London, just ten minutes’ walk away in a series of Regents Park tents.


The exhibition title, MELT, is not only a playful reversing of Frieze itself – perhaps suggesting an alternative economic and structural model which melts the hyper-capitalism of the art market – but also references the 1988 Damien Hirst-led YBA exhibition FRIEZE, held in a redundant Docklands warehouse. The event has gone down in history as an important staging post in the rapid emergence of the contemporary British cultural sector, and also recalls a period in the city’s history when empty space wasn’t hard to come by and was occupied, used, and utilised creatively legally and otherwise by a young generation of creatives.

That city has changed, though with shifting economic and urban conditions, space is suddenly not hard to come by – it is, however, often hard to unlock or open up. The former coffee shop that Hypha Studios and CLT are presenting MELT in belongs to British Land, who invited Hypha to take over the unit for three years. The launch exhibition, running until 22 October, features 32 artists who have worked with both organisations, and all works are for sale, generating much-needed financial support for the organisations.

After MELT, the space will be turned over to Hypha’s normal model of a rolling programme of emerging artist exhibitions. An open-call earlier in 2023 saw a huge number of applications, from which eight collectives or curators have been selected to put on an exciting and mixed-media roster of exhibitions, turning the otherwise-empty space into an important stop on any cultural Londoner’s gallery circuit.


These two organisations are not the only solutions to supporting the cultural economy in the face of cultural cuts, Brexit, and inflation, but they are boldly putting what they do right in the centre of the communities the artists come from, and working to build culture into the next generation of high streets, communities, and developments. By presenting their work in the maelstrom of Frieze London they remind that culture is not just the blue-chip and commercial galleries, but also grassroots and those who struggle to practice and be seen in the current climate. Their proximity to the art-market wealth and power in Regents Park and at galleries across the capital, serves to remind the importance of the ecosystem, and that without the next generation having the space, affordable studios, and conditions to develop and grow, future art fairs will be a lot poorer.

MELT exhibiting artists

CLT Ambassadors: Adelaide Damoah, Haroon Mirza, Emmanuel Unaji

CLT Artists:  Shiori Akiba, Urania's Children, Enej Gala, Zarina Khan, Lindsay Mapes, Max Maxwell, Ruoru Mou, Mimi Owen, Hanne Peeraer, Carina Santos, Luke Grosch

Hypha Studios Artists: Margaret Ayres, Paul Barbu, Luca Bosani, Flora Bradwell, Hot Desque, Chris Elliot, Elliot Fox, Jon Kipps, Sara Marinangeli, Celeste McEvoy, Lindsay Jean McLean, Ellie Niblock, Hazel O'Sullivan, Kinga Oktabska, Marine One, Aaron Peevers, Maria Positano, Kialy Tihngang.

Hypha Studios emerged as an idea during the pandemic, prompted by the three-sided problem of increasing high street vacancies, loss of community spaces and deteriorating conditions for artists and creatives. Founded by Camilla Cole and Will Jennings, both curators, the non-profit organisation was set up with three core objectives: one, to bring culture and engagements in the arts to the public throughout the UK, two, to help landowners keep their assets alive through an injection of local creativity; and three, to help artists unlock new bounds of creativity by unlocking vacant units, free of charge.

Creative Land Trust was founded to tackle a long-standing problem for London, and indeed other global cities. The loss of affordable workspace, and consequent outflow of artists and makers, present a serious threat to the wellbeing and prosperity of a city so reliant on creativity for its success.  Artists are unable to focus their time on their practice due to the instability inherent in relying on temporary workspace, and expert studio providers are displaced from their locations despite years of building equity. Creative Land Trust is making space for art to overcome these challenges.


MELT, an exhibition organised by Hypha Studios and Creative Land Trust, runs until 22 October, and can be found at Unit 3, Euston Tower, 286 Euston Road, NW1 3DP.
Full details available at:


figs.i-v Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios. Emmanuel Unaji, “Tems, If Orange Was A Place” (2023), in Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios.
fig.vii Jon Kipps, “Peace Test” (2023), in Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios.
fig.viii Lindsey Jean McLean, “Boa on Fire” (2023), in Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios.
fig.ix Marine One, Untitled (Nicolas and Ryan (2023), in Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios.
fig.x Haroon Mirza, “After the Big Bang” (2014), Chris Rabbit, “Folded under the pressure of male expectation” (2023), in Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios.
fig.xi Flora Bradwell, “Tree Hugger” (2023), Kinga Oktabska, “Riverspaces Reach” (2023), Mimi Owen, “Boy Problem”, in Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios.
fig.xii Elliot Fox, “Ant Talkin” (2023), in Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios.
fig.xiii Paul Barbu, “Blasphemous”, in Hypha Studios X CLT, MELT exhibition, London (2023). Photos © Carlo Zambon. Courtesy Hypha Studios.

publication date
09 October 2023

Paul Barbu, Flora Bradwell, Camilla Cole, Commerce, Creative economy, Creative Land Trust, Creative sector, Economy, Elliot Fox, Frieze London, Gallery, High street, Hypha Studios, Inflation, Will Jennings, Jon Kipps, Marine One, Lindsey Jean McLean, Haroon Mirza, Gordon Seabright, Shop, Molly Stredwick, Studios, Turner Prize, Emmanuel Unaji, Workspace