ConstellationsStour SpaceMelkwegLX Factory – thousands of miles separate these hotspots of cultural creativity. From the farthest corners of Western Europe to the vibrant canals of the Dutch capital, these creative spaces welcome artists, musicians, dancers, professionals, creatives and even brunch-clubbers from across the world through their doors on a daily basis. Responsible for promoting and encouraging artistic expression in their respective cities, these spaces are defined by their common ethos of community and their resolve to create character out of once lifeless buildings. From Lisbon’s dockside LX Factory to Amsterdam’s titanic Melkweg, these venues continue to radiate positivity in a time of social and cultural uncertainty. In a world that, in many cases, is becoming ever-more divided, it is important that as a community, we focus on what unites us…not what divides us.

While the language, heritage and even cuisine may differ, we take a look at three venues from across Europe that we believe share the same energy as Constellations. With a focus on art, live music, community and charity – we start close to home with London’s very own, Stour Space. Opening in 2009, the Hackney Wick venue has made compelling use of a once disused industrial warehouse. Galvanising their immediate local community, the team behind Stour Space have created a meeting point for close-by artists; many of whom have relocated to this hidden corner of East London to escape the clutches of inner-city gentrification and rising rental costs. Blossoming from the industrial wastelands of London’s now defunct fishing industry, Stour Space houses around 40 artists of every different genre. Musicians, painters, graphic designers and more all come together under the shadow of the 2012 Olympic site to make this space one of the most compelling creative hubs not only in London, but the whole of the UK.

With free art exhibitions taking place regularly and creative workshops often dominating their mid-week schedule, there is no pretension surrounding the venue, with the laid-back and welcoming vibe encouraging visitors to explore the many innovative sights and sounds the space has to offer. Just this summer they have; refugee fundraiser parties, local community awareness conferences and a number of art exhibitions for all tastes. If you can’t make it down to London to check out this vibrant space, Constellations will be awash with a whole host of creative and artistic offerings this summer. Situated behind the Constellations warehouse space, the recently opened Ley Lines Studios will be offering a number of creative workshops for all ages and skill levels over the coming months. From 20th July, the Ley Lines team will also be hosting an exhibition in the cafe, showcasing some of the most powerful protest posters Merseyside has ever created. With a deep-rooted history of standing up to austerity, classism, racism and much more, the exhibition will strive to convey this proud local history. For those of you who simply can’t wait, if you haven’t yet been able to catch the Art of Reggae Exhibition, you have just a few days left to get down, see it for yourself and put in a bid on the artwork you see – all proceeds will be going to the Alpha Boys School in Jamaica!

Looking beyond the UK, this multi-dimensional ethos of artistic expression, musicality and community can be found throughout Europe. Amsterdam’s Melkweg has been honing this vibe for almost 40 years, having been discovered back in the 1970s by a group of youths in search of some summertime accommodation. The abandoned milk factory turned cultural hotspot gained rapid popularity alongside Amsterdam’s then booming reputation as an international city for arts, music and underground culture. Today, the venue houses a club space, a cafe, a small-screen cinema and a garden; it is known to host everything from photographic exhibitions to theatre.performances. 

With over 750 events taking place over 2016, the venue is at the heart of Holland’s artistic community. For those that may find themselves in the Dutch capital over the summer months; Melkweg will be hosting a complete collection of shows, exhibitions and performances for visitors to sink their teeth into. In particular, October will see the quarterly, “Helemaal Melkweg,” take place; an event that ties together the entire venue’s programming with live music, film, theatre and exhibitions all taking place under one roof. With Positive Vibration: Festival of Reggae still fresh in our minds, an event that tied together all aspects of reggae culture including: music, art, food and dance – there are plenty more multi-dimensional events happening at Constellations and across the Baltic Triangle over the coming months. Be sure to check out our listing page to keep up to date with what’s going on!

Winning an architectural award for our outdoor bar canopy at the National Wood Awards back in 2015, we are incredibly proud of our garden at Constellations. Designer, Howard Miller likened the prize to “Tranmere beating Liverpool in the FA Cup Final” as Constellations went up against some world-renowned engineering and design firms. Elsewhere in the Baltic Triangle, venues and independent businesses have triumphed in repurposing derelict and industrial buildings into creative spaces and artistic hubs with the area housing video game designers, recording studios, bakeries, cafes and nightclubs. Transforming disused spaces into places of cultural value can never be achieved alone; this is none more evident that in Lisbon’s LX Factory. Likened to the Baltic Triangle, the 23,000 square metre district is home to over 150 creative and forward-thinking businesses. Situated in the dockside neighbourhood of Alcântara, LX Factory has found home in a once disused textile and manufacturing complex.

Across Europe, it’s hard to find a city harder hit by the recession that the Portuguese capital. Whilst economic turmoil had forced young creatives from their city centre homes, they found refuge on the city’s less polished outskirts. Here, LX Factory sprung up like a flower through the cracks; with street art adorning the walls of hip coffee shops, music venues and art and creative spaces. With secret dining experiences, scores of boutique and independent shops, design studios and much more, the complex mirrors the Baltic Triangle in its eclectic offering of creative industries, eateries and musical experiences. With pop-up restaurants the likes of Xiringuito and Finca at Constellations, the Baltic Triangle is no stranger to street food, fine dining and everything in between. If you find yourself in Lisbon this summer, be sure to make use of their “Residents” page to find out who is currently operating within the complex.

The Baltic Triangle and Constellations are undoubtedly part of an international artistic and cultural community dedicated to repurposing disused and abandoned spaces for creative and expressive innovation. What unites these spaces is not solely their commitment to renovating industrial wastelands, but the mutual vision they share for the future of their respective cities. Many further examples exist, and gladly so. It is now up to us, the community of creatives, artists, musicians, dancers, professionals and even brunch-clubbers to champion, to safeguard and to celebrate these spaces…only then, can they continue to thrive in this ever-challenging social, cultural and political climate.