Obsessions: Pool of talent: Waterhouse Studios in London's East End offer professional facilities at cheap rates. Dolly Dhingra put on her cans

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The Independent Culture
Water seems to be a running theme when it comes to recording studios in East London. Once there were the popular Steam Rooms in Poplar and now there's the recently re-opened Waterhouse Studios - to be found underneath a swimming pool. While Newham residents get their kit off to go swimming, they usually do it to the distant sounds of some young hopeful letting off steam on a drum kit somewhere below.

Waterhouse has a quaint East End 'rags to riches' story. It began in the late Eighties in the basement of a co-operative house in East Ham set up by John Foster. After attracting the likes of the now established rap poet Benjamin Zephaniah, it finally received funding from Newham Council and moved to the current premises in 1990. Over the last two years it has undergone major renovation due to a cash injection from Newham Leisure Services and the dedicated efforts of volunteers including Steve Dray, Rohan Taylor, Mark Danks and Simon Wring.

As Martin Brown, aka Nelson Bloodrocket, a founding member, puts it: 'These guys have literally put blood into this place. They've done some serious graft working all hours just to knock out walls.' There was a look of relief on Rohan Taylor's face on the opening night. 'I'm just glad that it's all finished - now we can start enjoying it.'

Waterhouse is the only community-based studio in the borough and one of the cheapest around. Rehearsal rooms (which include access to PA, amplifers, microphones and drums) cost pounds 2.50 per hour. A 16-track recording studio, computer-controlled with full MIDI synchronisation and a large live room, is pounds 80 per day. They also provide storage space for equipment and pre-production set-up for composition and training, as well as free, friendly advice. 'We do our best but there are some things we won't do - we have to say no when people ask us to write them songs and music,' Steve Dray says. Future plans include providing workshops and courses in recording, composition and production, and perhaps even a women-only class.

The launch day attracted a healthy stream of enthusiastic musicians. DJ Lovely John Superstar, window-shopping for a studio, was impressed: 'It's really cool and really cheap. Usually you find that people who run studios, especially in central London, are very snobby - the staff here are down to earth and don't patronise. The equipment is just as good but the attitude's a lot better.'

Keith Palmer, a local promoter, considers it to be 'something desperately needed in the borough - most of the locals can't afford commercial prices. There's a phenomenal amount of unrecognised talent in Newham - but hopefully not for long.'

Nelson Bloodrocket has further ambitions. Eventually he wants to secure some European funding so he can 'take this place to higher levels of technology - but still at a basic rate.'

Available to non-Newham residents. Waterhouse Studios, Atherton Leisure Centre, Romford Road, London E15 (081-519 3842). Commercial studios around the country: Koh-san, Avon, Bath (0225 858028); Tone Deaf Ltd, Oxfordshire (0491 641942)

(Photograph omitted)