The Arts Lab was an alternative arts centre, founded in 1967 by Jim Haynes at 182 Drury Lane. Although only active for two years, it was influential in inspiring many similar centres in the UK and continental Europe, including the expanded Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, the Milky Way/Melkweg in Amsterdam (where Jack Henry Moore was one of the founders) and the Entrepôt in Paris.
Drury Lane Arts Lab
The Lab contained a 'soft floor' cinema in the basement designed and run by David Curtis. In the entrance there was a gallery space co-curated by Biddy Peppin (Curtis's partner) and Pamela Zoline. In a separate (but connected) warehouse was the theatre, designed by Jack Henry Moore, who initially co-directed the activities there. Both the cinema and theatre were constructed by David Jeffrey, whose partner, Philippa James, was closely involved in the Lab's day-to-day running. Upstairs, the space in front initially housed a film workshop put together by Malcolm Le Grice and students from St. Martin's School of Art and the London School of Film Technique, and subsequently a restaurant run by Susan Miles. Haynes lived in the back above the storage and dressing rooms. A number of other people lived in various corners of the building, and the all-night cinema was often seen as a cheap crash-pad. Such amenities made it perfect for live events and "happenings" and helped establish it as the quintessential drop-in/drop-out centre of the London counterculture.
Arts Lab Movement
One of the most significant features of the Arts Lab was that it encouraged similar establishments to create other independent centres, many of which outlived Haynes' original, which closed in the autumn of 1969. On 18 December 1968 the Alchemical Wedding benefit for the Arts Lab and BIT alternative information centre took place at the Albert Hall, and following it, on 25–26 January 1969, the Arts Lab Conference in Cambridge emphasized the strength of the Arts Lab movement, listing 50 such centres across the whole country, including the Birmingham Arts Lab, Brighton Combination and centres in Exeter, Farnham, Guildford, Huddersfield, Loughborough, Manchester, Southampton, Bath and Swindon.
Yoko Ono and John Lennon's first joint artwork "Build Around" was exhibited at the Drury Lane Arts Lab in May 1968. David Bowie, who used to rehearse (and perform mime) at the Drury Lane Arts Lab, co-founded a Beckenham Arts Lab, which organised a one-day free festival, but was disillusioned by the lack of interest of other performers/artists taking an active role in the continuation of the centre. Dave Cousins of The Strawbs organized the Hounslow Arts Lab. The Havering Arts Lab run by future Stuckism founder Charles Thomson, then aged 16, resulted in the headline "Sex Orgy Tale—Group Banned" in the local newspaper.The Bath Arts Workshop which was founded in 1969 by ex Drury Lane workers continues to this day (2014) as parent body for the Natural Theatre Company.
In London, a New Arts Lab (also titled 'Institute for Research in Art and Technology') was founded by a breakaway group of original members and others, including the London Film-Makers' Co-op. Housed (1969-1971) in a short-life factory building in Robert Street, London NW1, it contained a cinema run by David Curtis, theatre and gallery spaces, the London Film Makers' Co-op workshop, John Hopkins' TVX and a printing workshop run by John Collins. The full-width opening doors at ground floor level enabled J.G. Ballard's 'Crashed Cars' exhibition to be held there.
- Sue Miles obituary, The Guardian, 13 October 2010.
- Jim Haynes biography.
- Noel Greig obituary, The Guardian, 23 September 2009.
- "Summer of love: psychedelic art, social crisis and counterculture in the 1960s" By Christoph Grunenberg, Jonathan Harris, Tate Gallery Liverpool
- Philip Norman (2008), John Lennon: The Life, p. 542.
- Kerry Juby, In Other Words...David Bowie, Omnibus Press, 1987.
- Arts Lab Newsletter, 1969.
- The Art History Archive - Stuckism.
- J. G. Ballard's 'Crashed Cars' Exhibition of 1970.
- IT - Covent Garden - Jim Haynes has found a space for his new arts' supermarket - 28 April 1967
- Biddy Peppin and David Curtis talk for Adhocracy - August 2011 at Rich Mix Arts Centre
- LUX history - The Arts Lab, LFMC and IRAT
- Lee Harris' involvement with the Arts Lab, 1966-68
- Portsmouth Arts Workshop
- BIT Report on Arts Labs around the country, 1969 - compiled by Nick Albery