Battersea Arts Centre Recovers
On the afternoon of Friday 13th March a devastating fire ripped through Battersea Arts Centre. The blaze started in the Grand Hall which was completely destroyed but thankfully all staff and visitors were evacuated safely. The Lower Hall at the back of the building was also affected as were surrounding spaces due to the huge amounts of water necessary to put out the flames.
Faced with such devastation BAC’s reaction has been inspiring and extraordinary. Amazingly it closed for less than 24 hours the website proclaiming ‘we are open’ on the evening of Saturday 14th where two sell out shows were performed as planned.
Artistic Director David Jubb has since kept the public up to date with a series of blog posts revealing an incredibly pragmatic and practical approach to the tragedy. Wasting no time they immediately launched the #BAC Phoenix fund which raised £52,000 in its first weekend. They are now well on their way to a one million target at £800,665.
Support from London’s theatrical community has also been astonishing. The set of Missing by theatre company Gecko was completely destroyed in the fire and yet they still performed the show at the Southbank Centre ‘unplugged’ the Friday after the fire. 13 Grand Hall performances have been hosted by other arts organisations and on 18th April the Southbank Centre put on a huge fundraiser featuring actor Mackenzie Crook and poet Lemm Sissy amongst other actors, authors and comedians who owe much of their success to early opportunities they found at BAC. 2,100 people attended this sell out show in the Royal Festival Hall which alone raised £46,000 and included a crowd-sourced poem about The Grand Hall, taken from tweets fondly remembering the building.
Since the very first hours after the fire the message from BAC has clearly been that the best way the public can support them is by continuing to visit and participant in its life. By keeping the building open they have ensured their vibrant artistic community suffers as little as possible whilst the huge task of rebuilding takes place. Undoubtedly behind the scenes people will be working extremely hard to regain normality but when we visited a recent production a few weeks ago you would not have known there had been a fire at all. The atmosphere was chilled, the bar bustling and the performance seemingly unaffected.
The artistic programme in the rest of the building remains jam packed and ambitious. Upcoming shows include Siege about the Israel and Palestine conflict and This is How we Die by Christopher Brett-Bailey, a chaotic mixture of surrealist spoken word and storytelling.
Battersea Arts Centre – Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN