‘Interim Spaces and Creative Use’ is a documentary output of the research project under the same title which was funded by the Leverhulme Trust (RF-2012-518) with £45,000 over a period of two and a half years (1/10/12-31/3/15). The research project investigated whether vacant land can be beneficial for local communities if officially brought into interim uses. It built upon a historical review of interim spaces (UK and international) to focus on London in the late 2000s and early 2010s downturn. A number of initiatives in London were examined through an empirical study of local creative use in five interim sites representative of such initiatives. The research design comprised on-site filming and interviews with users, site surveys, a website, and a public workshop open to all participants.
Using the documentary as a starting point, the paper highlights links between past and present creative temporary projects developed in vacant urban spaces from the post-war context of London up to the early 2010s recession. Through these links, specific themes emerge, which provide insights into practices and ideologies relating to temporariness and vacancy and their tangible and intangible legacies for contemporary urban projects: from gardening as a vehicle for community cohesion, to the reuse of vacant land for environmental awareness and remediation and long-term regeneration. Most historical temporary projects are long gone, leaving no physical traces behind; some, however, remain and have managed to endure. The making of the documentary responds to the need to capture and protect the heritage value of such temporary interventions even after these may be physically gone or altered. The paper highlights the importance of tracing that legacy in how vacant space has been reimagined through temporary use in 21st century London, and its relevance for the longer-term production of the city.