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Live at The Apollo

A derelict video shop in Herne Hill gets transformed into a hub of art, music, film and performance

Much like the Wombles of Wimbledon, the south Londoners of Herne Hill have had enough of people leaving things to rot and are taken matters into their own hands. Starting with derelict video store, The Apollo, on Norwood Road, local residents have secured the ex-rental store for the next month, which is set to become a central hub for exhibiting artists such as Keith Coventry, performing comics, agit-lit provocateurs Neither Am I, and even an evening of crazy golf. With its opening night launching tonight, Dazed Digital decided to take a peak behind the scenes and chat to the project’s Creative Director, Jon Hughes.

Dazed Digital: Who are the group behind the project?
Jon Hughes: The Apollo Project was originally the brainchild of myself, Laura Ward and Seth Jacobson. After this initial grouping we were joined by the artist Kypros Kyprianou, and the Whitechapel Gallery’s administrator, Annette Graham.

DD: Why did you choose the video store as the location?
Jon Hughes: The Apollo has been empty for two years, so we decided that we’d try and do something good with it. Although there are several empty shops in Herne Hill, nowhere is quite like The Apollo. It has an edge. There is a bus stop right outside and people just used to sit there waiting for a bus, and see the sign above it saying, 'Apollo – Home Entertainment'. We wanted to turn it into 'The Apollo – The Home of Entertainment'.

DD: When did you decide to get the ball rolling?
Jon Hughes: I had been thinking about the shop for over a year, when Seth encouraged me to stand up at a local forum meeting and propose the idea of an arts festival there. Reopening The Apollo seemed like the path of least resistance, but instead of stocking films we wanted to put photography in the sleeves of DVD cases and fill the walls with images. Since we didn’t have much money to spare, and, given the current economic climate, it seemed appropriate, so we used sites like Freecyle to find TVs, DVD players, and even cases. Word soon spread, and the local community really rallied behind the project. Everyone wants The Apollo to reopen.

DD: What's the motivation behind this project?
Jon Hughes: The motivation really lies in the community aspect of getting people together to do something positive. A kind of DIY culture is starting to emerge in cities, and I see this as part of that movement. Times are changing. Resources are getting scarce, and consumption has gone too far.

DD: How have you gone about selecting the talent to exhibit?
Jon Hughes: The quote, “Build it and they will come," from the film Field of Dreams really applies to this project. Once people heard about us we were mobbed with local artists, photographers, bands, poets and comedians. My personal forthcoming highlight’s the crazy golf night organised by Mike Gilden – I’ve gotta a great short game.

Apollo Home Entertainment, 29 Norwood Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24. Opening night tonight with DJ set from Fem Fatale. Check website for full listings.