Anne Noble-Partridge. Image courtesy of the gallery.
Tell me about the Crypt gallery, how did the initiative come about to turn part of a church into a gallery?
That is quite an interesting story. My partner’s father took over being Vicar at this church about 12 years ago and when he first started they were in the process of working out what to do with the crypt. There are various different options: you can turn it into a café, you can turn it into a homeless sanctuary, use it as a community centre, or just hire it out. When he first got here he invited me and my boyfriend down to have a look at the space. It’s a fascinating space there are still 570 odd bodies down there and it looks like a crypt. When we went down it was quite scary and interesting. My first reaction when we walked down into the space was that this would make an amazing gallery if it was kept the way it is — no white walls and concrete floors, the idea was to keep it the way it is.
From there they decided to turn it into a gallery. This was 12 years ago and it became successful almost immediately, I think, mainly because they got the pitch right they didn’t do anything to it. And the little work that was done came from the community, for example, one artist donated the spotlights. We also keep the rent prices low so that the gallery is affordable.
What is your background?
I do a lot of things, I was working at Candid Art Trust in Angel for a long time which is run in a similar way in that people hire it and there is no agenda with regards to the work coming in. So most of my experience comes from working in galleries that are on the outskirts of the gallery system and the art scene.
I also run my own company called London Drawing, so I’ve got lots of experience in arts administration and teaching as well. But I have always been on the outskirts of the main scene I’ve never really been that interested in dealing with big galleries or getting involved in that kind of thing.
I’ve been running London drawing for about 6 or 7 years when Claire, the person who run The Crypt for the first 11 years decided to leave last year. The church was concerned with finding a replacement. Maintaining the gallery is not a full-time job but it is not a one-day a week job either. You have to have enough happening in your own life and to be flexible. So I was brought in as my schedule is flexible — I have enough projects on the go to have work during the quiet periods, and I can dedicate more time to The Crypt when it gets busy. Also, I had a history with the space that no one else did.
How does the gallery operate do you curate the shows or can anyone just rent it out?
There isn’t a curated schedule of artists coming in that have been handpicked for specific reasons. Our process is that people approach us with a proposal we look through it, and we either accept it and rent the gallery space to them or we do not. Because it is a crypt and people are buried there we do have a small list of restrictions, the church doesn’t really want shows that deal with the occult, or are gratuitously violent, or pornographic, or contain any human flesh.
The gallery has been around for 12 years now, how has its vision and mission changed?
Over the years the gallery has been able to refine its choices a little bit more, but I don’t think it really has changed that much as it managed to stay a space which is accessible and affordable to people.