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  • Writer's pictureIna

Visit London’s Secret Island This Weekend

Eel Pie Island Summer 2023 Open Studios

If you’re in the mood for island hopping, head to Eel Pie Island this weekend! Every summer, resident artists on this small sliver of land open their fascinating studios for 2 weekends. This year, it is happening on July 15-16 and July 22-23 between 11.00 am - 6.00 pm. Not all studios will be open both weekends, so make sure you check with individual artists beforehand. (Check out photos here and here).

Eel Pie Island is a small island on the River Thames, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. The island became a sensation in the 1960s for hosting a club that became a pivotal venue for the blues and jazz scene.

Today, Eel Pie Island is primarily a residential area, with a close-knit community of artists and craftsmen. It has a unique charm and is known for its artistic heritage. The island hosts open studio events, allowing visitors to explore the creative works of local artists. It also has a small boatyard and various workshops, contributing to its vibrant atmosphere.

Eel Pie Island is privately owned, and access to the island is restricted to residents, authorized visitors, and during specific public events. Its distinctive name, rooted in its historical connections with eel pies and music, continues to captivate the imagination and curiosity of visitors and locals alike.

Can you visit Eel Pie Island any time?

Yes. The small residential district beautifully located on an island in the Thames is technically open all year round and is only accessible via a footbridge in Twickenham. If you wish to wander around the arty studios, their doors are open to visitors only a few times a year: for instance two weekends in June or July and one weekend in December.

Why is it called Eel Pie Island?

Eel Pie Island, located in the River Thames in London, is an intriguing name with an exciting history behind it. The island's name can be traced back to the 19th century when it gained popularity as a recreational destination. Here's why it's called Eel Pie Island:

  • Eel Pies: In the 19th century, Eel Pie Island was known for producing eel pies, a traditional British dish. Eels from the River Thames were caught and used as the main ingredient in these pies. The island became renowned for its eel pie shops and restaurants, attracting visitors who wanted to savor this delicacy.

  • Pleasure Gardens and Tea Houses: In the late 19th century, Eel Pie Island transformed into a popular pleasure garden and entertainment venue. It boasted lush gardens, tea houses, and other recreational facilities, becoming a favorite spot for day-trippers and pleasure-seekers from London. The eel pie shops on the island continued to thrive during this time, contributing to its reputation.

  • Music Venue: In the 20th century, Eel Pie Island gained further fame as a music venue, particularly in the 1960s. The Eel Pie Island Hotel, situated on the island, hosted legendary music performances by renowned British R&B and blues artists, including The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Pink Floyd. It became a hotspot for the emerging British rock and counterculture movement.

  • Cultural Influence: The island's association with eel pies and its thriving music scene contributed to the unique cultural significance of Eel Pie Island. It became an emblem of counterculture, bohemianism, and the spirit of artistic expression. The island's name, Eel Pie Island, stuck as a reminder of its culinary heritage and the diverse cultural activities that took place there.

Is Eel Pie Island man-made?

No, Eel Pie Island is not man-made. It is a natural island located in the River Thames in London, England. The island is formed by the meandering course of the river and is approximately 500 feet long and 150 feet wide. It has a rich history and has been inhabited for centuries. While the island has undergone some modifications over time, such as the construction of buildings and structures, its formation is entirely natural.

An eclectic, artistic, and bohemian oasis

The aesthetic style of Eel Pie Island can be described as eclectic, artistic, and bohemian. The island's unique atmosphere and creative community contribute to its distinct visual appeal. Here are some characteristics of the aesthetic style of Eel Pie Island:

  1. Quirky and Colorful: Eel Pie Island is known for its vibrant and eclectic mix of buildings, studios, and homes. The structures often feature bright colors, artistic murals, and creative architectural elements. The island's residents embrace individuality and express their artistic personalities through the visual appearance of their spaces.

  2. Artistic Expression: Art is a central theme on Eel Pie Island, and this is reflected in its aesthetic style. The island is home to numerous artists, craftsmen, and creative professionals who utilize their spaces to showcase their work. Artistic mediums vary, ranging from paintings and sculptures to pottery, jewelry, and other crafts. The island's aesthetic is shaped by the artistic expressions found throughout.

  3. Creative Use of Space: Eel Pie Island has limited space, and residents have creatively maximized the use of their properties. It is not uncommon to find artists' studios, workshops, and galleries tucked away in repurposed buildings, converted boats, or unique architectural structures. The efficient utilization of space adds to the island's bohemian charm and artistic character.

  4. Nature-Inspired Elements: The island's location in the River Thames and its natural surroundings influence its aesthetic. Residents often incorporate nature-inspired elements into their spaces, such as gardens, sculptures, or outdoor installations. The presence of greenery, flowers, and riverside views adds a touch of serenity and natural beauty to the island's aesthetic.

  5. Unconventional and Informal: Eel Pie Island has a relaxed and informal atmosphere, which is reflected in its aesthetic style. The artistic community fosters an environment that embraces non-traditional and unconventional approaches to design and expression. The island's aesthetic is characterized by a sense of freedom, experimentation, and a rejection of rigid norms.

  6. Retro and Vintage Touches: Eel Pie Island's history as a music venue and its association with the 1960s counterculture movement influence its aesthetic. Some spaces on the island may feature retro or vintage elements, paying homage to the island's musical past and capturing a sense of nostalgia.

Overall, the aesthetic style of Eel Pie Island is a vibrant fusion of creativity, individuality, and artistic expression. It embodies a bohemian spirit and embraces a wide range of artistic influences, resulting in a visually captivating and unique environment.

*All photos were taken by Ina/WithinLondon unless stated otherwise.


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