Three years ago, a fire ripped through south London’s much-loved Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), sending a towering column of smoke over the city, and reducing the venue’s Grand Hall to rubble. But the BAC was always determined to rise from the ashes. The theatre’s beloved black cat Pluto disappeared on the night of the fire: his return home five days later was the first victory. Now, after some intensive restoration wizardry from Haworth Tompkins, the Hall is very nearly back in action. It'll officially re-open to the public on 6th September, with a run of Gecko's 'Missing' – the show that was playing at the time of the blaze.
The BAC always planned to mark its triumphant return with a group photo starring some of its many supporters. But President Trump’s controversial visit provided the chance to turn this photo into an act of protest. Whether or not Trump will catch a glimpse of the protest banners on his flying visit to the UK (BAC is near-ish to the US Embassy, kind of), it acts as a powerful statement about the power of community, togetherness and tolerance. And inside the Grand Hall, the architects have made another act of defiance: they've decided to preserve the original charred and blackened walls, as a memento of the fire that almost destroyed Battersea’s plucky arts centre.
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