UEL students battles for bid of old museum

NORTH WOOLWICH Old Station has been standing empty, standing grandly in the community...but severely vandalised and falling into disrepair for the last two years.

But it could be electrified once more — thanks to two University of East London students.

The old station, on Pier Road, North Woolwich, ran as part of the Great Eastern Railway service from 1874. The grand building was electrified on the now defunct North London line and reopened as a railway museum in 1984.

However, the old museum in Newham’s “island community” has been derelict since the railway museum closed in November 2008.

But two students from UEL have higher hopes for the building and they have made opposing bids for the lease.

MA Fine Arts student Leezac Robinson, 32, Gainsborough Avenue, Manor Park, wants the station to be transformed into a creative arts exhibition space as part of his ongoing Culture Over Crime campaign, which aims to get young people off the streets by getting them involved in creative projects.

Leezac came up with the idea when he stumbled upon North Woolwich Old station after missing his bus home one night from university.

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He intends to get the community involved by recruiting architecture students from UEL to design the arts centre, which will form the basis for the lease application. He also wants to set up an apprenticeship scheme with the Prince’s Trust to get the young unemployed to build it while earning a qualification.

Ambitious Leezac said: “If we are all involved in the process of creating the space, then it will feel like we own the space.” Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, said: “I think what Leezac is proposing is an idea that could be very popular and could draw on a lot of community support.”

But Leezac has competition from UEL Photography student Alex Cudby, 26, who is living in New Cross but wants to move back to Newham if his bid is successful.

Alex, who approached the Trust first and also wants to build a ‘community-led’ arts centre and recording studio says he has the University’s support. He said: “It is slightly different because I have gone through the University route for a collaboration on funding and support.”

The station is currently the responsibility of City Hall and The River Lea Tidal Mill Trust, who decide what happens to the building in the next month.Trustee Beverley Charters said: “We could have it as office buildings but we want more than that. We want someone who will keep it for the community.”

The Trust have encouraged Alex and Leezac to work together on the building’s renovation. Alex said: “I want to get in touch with Leezac and work with him because I’ve heard he’s an artist and it sounds like what we want to do. I am sure that we could work together.”

Local politicians want to see the station given back to Newham residents including Steve Brayshaw, councillor for the Royal Docks, and Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who said: “I am sure that having access to such facilities will be incredibly beneficial to young people in and around Newham, and will enable them to channel their energies towards creative ends.”

Whoever is granted the lease of North Woolwich old station next month, the real winner will be the community.

Leezac believes that the renovation will benefit Newham residents for years to come. He said: “This will be a lasting legacy. Everyone will remember the transformation and be able to enjoy it afterwards.”