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The Doodle Bar formed the heart of TESTBED. It was conceived by illustrator Serge Seidlitz and filmmaker Jules Coke, residents of the offices above the original TESTBED1. A series of one-off parties in 2009 with aLL Design engaged them in devising a plan for the site and, together with Russell Bagley, preserving the warehouse as a permanent bar and event space.
aLL Design and Bagley retained the industrial charm of what was once a Victorian dairy and formerly a tile kiln. aLL Design proposed restoring the ceramic brickwork and installing a bar made from reclaimed teak boat hulls. The floor was stripped back to reveal the original terrazzo tiles. Bagley installed some steel cage lights on poles in the ceiling, amongst scaffolding planks that were lined with spikey sound-proofing foam. Steel lamps were bespoke and integral to the bar. An entire wall became a blackboard that enticed visitors to use the tins of chalks placed around the bar.
The Doodle concept encourages drawing, writing and sharing ideas over a drink. A programme of events evolved at the original Doodle Bar and were frequented by locals and tourists: life drawing, secret cinema, market days, lectures, launch parties and weddings.
Street Kitchen and various pop-up eateries set up stalls in the courtyard and the bar expanded to include a ‘beach’ – a brightly painted seating area overlooking the Thames and planted with exotic flora.
The bar proved a great success, adopted by neighbouring businesses and residents; the Royal College of Art, Vivienne Westwood, Victoria Beckham and Foster + Partners, it became a hub of creativity and conversation. The Testbed 1 site was purchased in 2015 for redevelopment and the Doodle Bar moved to Druid Street, London. The programme of events continues to expand and we are currently redeveloping the railways arches behind the bar to create TESTBED3.