Finsbury Parl cultural hub ‘aimed at artists and community’

The Jones family next to a Francis Bacon repro - left to right is KELLY...KRISTIAN....KATE.....MATT.

The Jones family next to a Francis Bacon repro - left to right is KELLY...KRISTIAN....KATE.....MATT.....JOHN - Credit: Archant

A family arts business has ­revealed its plan to launch a “cultural hub” showcasing local talent when it opens its new headquarters in the spring.

The finishing touches are now being made to the six storey building in Morris Place, Finsbury Park, which will be occupied by the long-standing Islington framing firm John Jones.

Their illustrious list of clients has included artists David Hockney, Turner Prize winner Damien Hirst and the late Francis Bacon.

Plans to expand the company and create the new state-of-the-art home on the site, where it has been based for 20 years, were widely opposed by the community as the ambitious scheme needed to be financed by a separate block comprising 475 student homes and retail space.

Islington Council rejected the proposal in 2010 but a government planning inspector overturned the decision. This ruling was later declared unsound but the council subsequently lost its case against the development at the High Court in 2012.

The delay meant John Jones, which employs more than 100 people, had to relocate its workshop to a bigger premises in Hertfordshire – where it will now remain – in order to meet demand.

But marketing director Kate Jones said moving the production arm of the business has worked out for the best as the new site will now be dedicated to studios for design, conservation and photography, as well as a new public arts exhibition space, a studio for fledgling artists and a community café

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The 40-year-old promised this new “cultural hub” would bring huge benefits to the community, harness artistic talent and help drive forward the regeneration of the area which has been kick started by the nearby Park Theatre in Clifton Terrace.

She said: “Our artist in residence studio will be given to the artists for six months.

“During that time we will help them along with their work and at the end of the six months they will put on a solo show.

“The whole idea is to nurture artists, help them make contacts and get them out there.

“Ideally it will be someone interested in Finsbury Park, so that the exhibition will in some way reflect on the area and ­engage one of its many communities.

“We will have one artist in residence a year, and we’ll be ­announcing first one in the next month. There will also be four exhibitions a year.”

The company has also ­employed a part-time curator, Cassandra Needham, to manage the programme which will include talks, seminars and workshops for the community.

Mrs Jones, who is married to John Jones’ son Matt, who is the company’s managing director, added: “We’ve built our ­career on art, so we think it’s our duty to give something back.

“We recognise how difficult it is being an artist, graduating from university – it’s really hard to make a living.

“Almost 50 per cent of the people who work at John Jones are artists but can’t afford to live off their art alone.

“We’ve been holding exhibitions for about eight years now, but it has been on a very low level.”

John Jones, who took over the business from his brother in the 1960s, was made an MBE for services to the arts in the New Year Honours’ in January 2012.

Although still involved with the running of the business, the 62-year-old has taken a step back in recent years and his family manage the day to day running of the company.

Work on building the student flats adjacent is set to start when the business vacates its current home, which will be bulldozed.