St John’s Wood exhibition shows area’s rich cultural history

Caf� art show helps promote St John’s Wood as a “creative quarter”

Do you know which pub first housed the St John’s Wood Arts Club?

Or can you say where in St John’s Wood the famous Victorian French chef Alexis Soyer died?

A new exhibition at the Queen’s Terrace Caf� aims to educate St John’s Wood residents about the area’s rich cultural history while showcasing some of the talent the area currently has to offer.

Caf� owner Mireille Galinou says St John’s Wood owes much of its identity to its creative residents of yesteryear.

“It started with the development of St John’s Wood as an area, which was at the beginning of the 19th century,” she said.

“There were artists there from the outset and many of them started to build massive studios and hold parties at them. There was an artists’ school and an arts club but gradually the whole thing unravelled.

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“The artists didn’t move out but the focus moved elsewhere.

“Most of the studios have been converted into people’s bedrooms or drawing rooms. From the outside you can still spot the characteristics, like the large windows, but there’s no longer a studio scene – that has completely disappeared.”

But through exhibiting the work of seven St John’s Wood and Hampstead residents, Ms Galinou aims to show that this artistic tradition is still “alive and kicking”.

“I was interested to find out if St John’s Wood was still active as an artists’ quarter and I came to the conclusion that yes it is,” she said.

“The exhibition is just a tiny bit of the art being produced in the area.”

Painter Charlotte Halliday, 75, has lived in St John’s Wood since 1946 and has her work exhibited at the caf�.

She says while there used to be a “thriving” art community in the neighbourhood, the exhibition shows that the arts are not dead yet.

As well as viewing the exhibition, visitors to the caf� can take part in a competition to find the 24 “cultural hot spots” of St John’s Wood.

Armed with a series of clues and a map, people can take to the streets to revisit the history of the St John’s Wood artists’ quarter.

n A private view talk by Dr Cathy Ross, Museum of London director of collections and learning, on London’s Creative Quarters: The topography of art in London, will be held tonight (Thursday) at 6.30pm. Tickets, �6, are still available.