Photographer calls for music heritage centre in Hampstead police station
Oasis and Pink Floyd snapper offers alternative to Abacus planning saga
31 January, 2020 — By Helen Chapman
Jill Furmanovsky is founder of the Rockarchive collective
A rock ’n’ roll photographer wants to open a centre for music heritage in the old police station site in Hampstead.
Jill Furmanovsky has been photographing music artists for more than 40 years and is known for her shots of Pink Floyd, Bob Marley and Oasis.
She said: “I love the idea of a police station. It just makes me think of Jailhouse Rock and the band The Police.
“There were a lot of criminals, or what would be criminals, who were saved by rock and roll. “I just think it is a very punk thing to do – to put a rock and roll museum in a police station would be fantastic. Everybody would go for that.”
The police station in Rosslyn Hill has been closed since 2013 and is at the centre of a long-running planning saga over whether it can be turned into school.
Camden’s planners blocked Abacus’s move into the building for a second time at a meeting in November, but the primary school – currently bussing pupils from Belsize Park to a temporary site in King’s Cross – is appealing against the rejection.
The case has split opinion and many neighbours opposed the idea with the view that the site was not suitable for a school – and the school-run traffic.
Ms Furmanovsky said the Department for Education – which owns the old police station – should fall back on her idea.
“I hope it would serve the community,” she said. “I have got grandchildren, I want them to go to school. I am not trying to deprive schools but I think it would make some money. I am not a breadhead, as they say, I am an old hippie – I don’t know how the money works really.
“But it should be for the public as well, like when they build housing, some of it is commercial and some of it for the public.”
She added: “For a couple of million, probably, you could make a fantastic museum without touching anything.
“And it would make money for the Department for Education. Plus they are cutting back on art and music in schools. My granddaughter is at Hawley and my daughter went to Parliament Hill. I know what they [schools] are suffering.
“But this – if they did it right – could fund quite a lot of art and music education.”
Ms Furmanovsky is founder of the Rockarchive photography collective based in the Dove Commercial Centre, Bartholomew Road.
She ran an exhibition about the Manchester music scene in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, bringing thousands of visitors to the Manchester Central Library in 2018.
The exhibition is currently awaiting a permanent home.
She read about the listed old police station site being empty for six years in the New Journal after our coverage of Abacus’s bid to move in, and the council’s refusal based on traffic concerns and historic features inside.
“It doesn’t matter that you can’t park there because people would be walking up from Belsize Park or from Camden if they were tourists,” she said. “The schools could come there and have private lessons in the cells.
“I just think it would be great fun. It would be fun and it would make some money and it would be a great use of the space.
“It wouldn’t matter about the interior. It wouldn’t matter about the court. We could have acoustic concerts in there.
“I think the cells would be fantastic. You could have mini exhibitions there.”
Ms Furmanovsky said she envisions the sought-after building being host to photography exhibitions, a shop, bar, café and a space for local grassroots musicians to record.
“There is no circuit for the visual history of rock,” she said. “The rock and roll period is nearly over because when the Rolling Stones die, when Pink Floyd die, when my generation who have been filming them all die, then that era is over.
“Yet it hasn’t been packaged up. If it isn’t packaged up properly, it’s going to be lost.”