Save Battersea Arts Centre

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The fate of one of London‘s most influential and successful local venues is in the balance as talks begin over the future of Battersea Arts Centre in Wandsworth

  • Save Battersea Arts Centre

    Battersea Arts Centre

  • Show your support by downloading Time Out's 'Save the BAC' petition form.

    The arts space is facing an imminent threat of closure after Wandsworth Council announced plans to slash its funding. The council will be meeting BAC artistic director David Jubb to discuss how the centre will continue to be funded, following the council’s announcement ten days ago that its £100,000 annual grant to the venue would be slashed with effect from April. In the same letter, the council announced it proposed to charge the organisation over £270,000 annually in rent and running costs. ‘With these cuts the theatre will have to close,’ said David Jubb, BAC’s artistic director. ‘The cuts represent 30 per cent of our annual turnover and it would certainly render BAC’s current operation unviable.’


    The move is the latest in a line of crippling cuts, which includes the closure of Wandsworth Museum. According to the council, the drastic measures result from a lower-than-hoped government grant that has left a £5 million gap in the budget. The council claims that BAC, which just two months ago won the Best Community Contribution by a Business award at a council-run event, has become a regional, rather than a Wandsworth resource and so should not be the responsibility of the council. ‘Why should Wandsworth residents be funding a facility that is mostly serving people from outside the borough?’ said cabinet member for leisure, Councillor Malcolm Grimstone.

    The final argument may turn on what proportion of BAC’s users are from the borough: the council claims it is 25 per cent, BAC says it is 45 per cent.

    But in an apparent backtrack from the proposal to slash all funding, Grimstone told Reporter last week that it ‘could be prepared to provide 25 per cent of costs if BAC can find another source of funding’. Grimstone said the Arts Council should now take over BAC.
    However, the Arts Council already funds BAC by almost £500,000 per annum and is itself dependent on an imminent government spending review that is unlikely to boost arts grants significantly.

    ‘We are shocked and dismayed by Wandsworth Borough Council’s decision to withdraw its funding to BAC,’ said Sarah Weir, executive director of Arts Council England, London. ‘BAC is an invaluable organisation in London’s cultural landscape, not only for its high quality, broad-ranging and innovative artistic programme but also its commitment to the development of emerging artists.’

    ‘The building is essentially many different buildings in one,’ said Jubb. ‘Apart from the theatre, every week there are school assemblies, crèches, healthy eating classes for toddlers, and a church every Sunday. We held 84 marriages here last year and the café is used regularly for meetings. We’re the only theatre in the whole of Wandsworth. We’ve been trying to balance the local and national. I think we’ve been doing it very effectively.’ He added that Wandsworth invests the equivalent of 22 per cent of BAC's annual funding. ‘With a local theatre audience of 25 per cent, and a local arts centre audience of over 45 per cent, Wandsworth is actually getting a remarkably good deal in return for its investment.’

    ‘There are some people who think that the only thing that is important is keeping council tax as low as possible,’ said Martin Linton, MP for Battersea. ‘But life is a bit richer than that. People like low council tax, but to get rid of the area’s culture and history in a scramble to keep costs down is mad. People who live in Battersea and Wandsworth expect more from life.’ Wandsworth residents currently pay the lowest council tax in the UK.

    BAC, which would celebrate its twenty-fifth birthday this year, is renowned for an extraordinary array of artists who have developed their careers at the theatre, including French and Saunders, Complicite, Paul Merton and The League of Gentlemen. Recently it achieved acclaim for its production of ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’, which went on to achieve huge West End success. It also has an extensive outreach programme, which benefits over 3,500 children in Battersea schools.

    A final decision on the future of the venue will take place at a council meeting on February 6.

    We're showing our continued support through the Time Out London presents: Critics' Choice at BAC series of theatre productions. Find out more and book tickets .

    Show your support by downloading Time Out's 'Save the BAC' petition form and sending it to the leader of Wandsworth Council, Edward Lister.

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4 comments
David Bell
David Bell

Brian has it spot on. The Tory council have not been forced into this decision by government cuts but made the choice for themselves. This sort of short sighted penny pinching can only harm the local community.

Sueoil
Sueoil

I completely agree with Brian Tomlinson. Although I don't live in the immediate vicinity of the Centre, I have and know of numerous others who regularly visit the BAC. Not only does it provide an endless list of activities and services, it provides a plae where young people can experience art in a friendly and relaxed environment. We should surely be encouraging this type of exposure, rather than stiffling creativity and expression in young people.

Brian Tomlinson
Brian Tomlinson

BAC is a thriving cultural institution. Locally loved and nationally revered it serves the full breadth of Battersea's mixed and vibrant community, from schools and community groups, to families and young professionals (such as myself). It is a focus for cultural, social and community activity and enriches the life of the Borough. The BAC is also a focus of commercial activity on Lavender Hill, bringing people into the restaurants and bars in the surrounding area. Given that we have an institution that serves us so well in the heart of our community, Wandsworth's Tory council should be striving to keep it open, rather than short-sightedly ensuring its demise. This decision is a perfect example of the small mindedness of Wandsworth's Tories.

Jane Pike
Jane Pike

The Council Tax in Wandsworth is low but I woud willingly pay some more if I thought it would help keep open BAC and the little Wandsworth Museum which is also threatened. It is so important to keep some cultural venues going in the borough as they add such variety and interest to the community.