Trip The Light Fantastic

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TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY JUHI PANDE

The trains overhead provide a steady, rhythmic soundtrack. Below the tracks are the enormous railway arches of Haggerston, repurposed into restaurants, event spaces, gyms and bakeries. Two of these arches make up Tripspace Projects, a space for “progressive activities for contemporary performance, social engagement and tasty food & drink".

When I moved to the neighbourhood in the dead of winter, I set about looking some form of physical exercise that would get me out of bed every morning rather than be petulant about the weather. I toyed with the idea of taking a yoga class at Tripspace – it’s only 300m from my apartment – knowing my excuses to bail would be exhausted in a week. On a sun-less Monday morning in January I walked into my first yoga class.

It’s been 18 months since, and the four-times weekly Ashtanga led class is a big part of my routine. So big that I’ve gotten to know the people behind Tripspace Projects fairly well. Guiliana Majo, Montse Ventura and Peter Fiala are usually in by 8 a.m., working on their laptops or helping out at the coffee counter that doubles up as a bar by night. The restaurant and yoga/dance space are two different adjacent arches that Giuliana and Montse took over in 2013, but the idea for Tripspace had come to them in 2010.

The hours were long and the work hard, but building a project from scratch has its own joy and satisfaction.

Rewind to 2005

Giuliana and Montse, both dancers, met in 2005 while working for the same dance company run by a Chilean gentleman named José Vidal. They used to help run and dance in a monthly event called Trip The Light Fantastic Toe at different spaces in London. In 2010 when José left to go back to Chile, Giuliana and Montse found the arches at Haggerston and decided to work on a space for performance, yoga, workshops, food and drink, building on the idea of Trip The Light Fantastic Toe. That’s a tall order for two people working on their first enterprise. Peter Fiala, a man with astute business sense – and whom Giuliana calls a “culture-vulture” – decided to partner with the Tripspace ladies and make the team a high-functioning triad.

The idea was to have a space that provided a large enough area for practice, teachers that aligned with their aesthetic and food that was wholesome. It took three years from the inception of the idea to the opening of Tripspace Projects. The yoga classes were immediately popular, and dancers – a substantial community in London, one that Giuliana and Montse know from their dancing days – started to flock to Tripspace. Trip The Light Fantastic Toe continued as Trip The Light.

“When we started Tripspace Projects I found myself really equipped actually, in a way I hadn’t expected to be,” says Giuliana. “I definitely use a lot of skills that I had to develop as an independent artist. As a dancer you have to learn to promote yourself, work long hours because you have to keep the contacts, network, you learn how to make your website, manage people, manage dancers and just apply yourself constantly.”

The hours were long and the work hard, but building a project from scratch has its own joy and satisfaction. The big moment for team Tripspace came in January 2016 when they took over the Tripspace kitchen. Up until then, the kitchen had invited guest chefs to serve a residency. The food was always great, but they wanted more. “To unify the vision,” says Giuliana, “to feel comfortable in it and to make Tripspace into one wholesome unit run by the same team.”

The sense of community at Tripspace is palpable. People from around the neighbourhood drop in for classes, coffee, beer or a meal. In the summer, when the sun is out, everyone lounges by the canal, and there is constant chatter. There’s always a wave or a loud and cheery “Hey!” from someone familiar. More than get me out of bed every morning, this corner of Haggerston has made me feel right at home.

It’s a Friday morning and I’ve managed to get team Tripspace to huddle together for a photograph. As I’m getting done I ask them about the idea of more Tripspaces. “Sometimes we think about it,” says Giuliana with a big smile. “It’s taken us a while to get here, it’s been a lot of work but we’re in a good space. So we’ll let this sink in for a little while. Though I must add, we do talk about it.”

Tripspace, Arches 339-340, Acton Mews, London E8 4EA. Phone: 0779049 9598