About the Robert Street New Arts Lab (IRAT):

Facade of the Robert Street New Arts Lab

The Robert Street ‘New Arts Lab’ was housed in a short-life building offered to us by Camden Council, at a peppercorn rent and rates. It was big, very cold in winter, and was rather too far from the West End to draw casual visitors, but we could do as we liked with it. These floorplans give a sense of the scale, and show how we divided up the space between our different functions:

Floorplan of the Robert Street New Arts Lab

Even before we opened, we managed to attract a lot of press coverage of our plans, such as this piece from The Times:

New arts workshop planned, The Times. 3 Feb 1969.

A letter to members from early ’70 – with its appeal for help – reveals how rough and ready were conditions at the Lab, and how still incomplete were our plans long after our official opening. But there were a few triumphs that year, among them Ballard’s Crashed Cars and the Hilliard / Breakwell exhibitions in the Gallery, and Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys in the cinema. 

Letter to members

Another triumph in 1970 was the International Underground Film Festival at the NFT (National Film Theatre) which a group of us organised from the Robert Street Lab. This was memorable for many reasons – not least it was a first gathering of avant-garde filmmakers from across the globe in the UK as scattering of names on the poster suggests. But often overlooked in accounts is its staging of Thames Crawling, a collaborative work by John Lifton, Carolee Schneemann and others, which echoed multimedia work at the Lab and drew on the Lab’s resources, among them the so-called ‘arts lab orchestra’ (possibly its only appearance!). More of Carolee, John and Cybernetic Theatre later..

Poster for the International Underground Film Festival (designer unrecorded)
Thames crawling Programme Note