Jan 19, 2007


There are few places in London that I enjoy an evening more than at the Battersea Arts Centre, surrounded by both staff and public who are unpretentious, enthusiastic and share a real love of theatre. Some of my happiest times in the brief period I've been in this smoggy metropolis have been drinking an overpriced Magners (something I can forgive them for as it would seem at present the potential for a reasonably priced Magners remains firmly untapped) in the BAC bar, chatting with actors, staff and assorted other utterly lovely people. It seems to attract them, probably something to do with the effort required in making it to this pleasantly quiet corner of South West London.

And this is before I ever mention the startling, exciting, gloriously naive and ambitious theatre that you can see there. From an evening of 5 minute sketches based around the fire of London in for the which the entire building was filled with smoke and Firemen, to the utterly magnificent Particularly in the Heartland you can always be guaranteed something interesting.

Which is why this news from Lyn Gardner has me postively foaming at the mouth with frustration:

Last week BAC's local council, Tory-governed Wandsworth, gave notice that from April 1 it intends to cut BAC's annual grant from £100,000 to zero and simultaneously start charging a commercial rent for the Lavender Hill building of more than £270,000 per annum. If this was to go ahead, BAC could not survive and would have to close.

£100,000. Probably the amount that the Tory led council spent on pens last year. Surely, you don't have to be involved in theatre in any way (even in watching) to realise that this is an absurd situation. As Lyn says:

You might think local councillors would be thrilled and proud to be the custodians of such a local and national treasure; delighted by the 220,000 visitors that BAC receives each year and the positive impact that those visitors have on the local economy (about £2m-a-year, the centre estimates). But you would think wrong.

It's by no means cut and dried however hence this post is not a memorium but a call to arms. The head of Wandsworth council is Edward Lister, and here's a spiffy idea - email him. Really let off some steam and put all those hours of typing practise to some really good use. And for those people who might chance upon this and have a few more readers than my mere trickle. Please do spread the word.

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