Battersea Arts Centre

Coordinates: 51°27′53″N 0°09′39″W / 51.4648°N 0.1607°W / 51.4648; -0.1607
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Battersea Arts Centre
AddressLavender Hill
London, SW11
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°27′53″N 0°09′39″W / 51.4648°N 0.1607°W / 51.4648; -0.1607
Public transitNational Rail London Overground Clapham Junction
OwnerBAC Trust
DesignationGrade II* listed
TypeProducing house
Capacity640 (500 Grand Hall; 140 Lower Hall)
Opened1981; 43 years ago (1981)
ArchitectE. W. Mountford

The Battersea Arts Centre ("BAC") is a performance space specialising in theatre productions. Located near Clapham Junction railway station in Battersea, in the London Borough of Wandsworth, it was formerly Battersea Town Hall. It is a Grade II* listed building.

In March 2015, while a major programme of renovation works were underway, the Grand Hall was severely damaged by fire. Approximately 70% of the theatre, including the 200-capacity Council Chamber, the Scratch Bar and the Members Library, was saved from the fire and remains open.

The building is now used for theatre shows, weddings, filming, shoots and meeting room hire.


Battersea Town Hall in 1893

The building, designed in 1891 by E. W. Mountford,[1] opened in 1893 as Battersea Town Hall, the administrative headquarters of the Borough of Battersea, shortly after the borough was transferred from the county of Surrey to the newly formed County of London. It is built from Suffolk red brick and Bath stone,[1] on the site of Jane Senior's Elm House, a villa with a small wooded estate.[2][3]

Bertrand Russell's essay Why I Am Not a Christian was originally given as a talk in the hall, on 6 March 1927, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society.[citation needed]

Following proposals by London Borough of Wandsworth to demolish large parts of the building, a vociferous and ultimately successful campaign to save it was fought by the Victorian Society and Battersea Society [4] it was given Grade II* listed protected status in February 1970.[1]


In 1901, a large pipe organ was installed in the Grand Hall by Norman & Beard.[citation needed] This was an unusual instrument designed by Robert Hope-Jones, a pioneering organ builder who invented many aspects of the modern pipe organ. His ideas went on to form the basis of the Wurlitzer theatre organ in the 1920s and 30s. It was said to be the largest Hope-Jones organ to survive, and was partially restored in 2008–2009. In the 2015 fire, although much of the organ was destroyed, including the console, bellows, wiring and architectural cases, the soundboards and much of the pipework survived as they were off site undergoing restoration. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.[5]

Arts centre[edit]

Battersea Arts Centre
William Calder MarshallZephyr and Aurora

The building became a community arts centre in 1974. BAC currently[when?] receives grants towards the building's operating costs from Arts Council England and the London Borough of Wandsworth, among others. The centre is a registered charity.[6] The theatre was founded in 1981.[7]

Following the departure of Tom Morris in 2003, David Jubb became Battersea Arts Centre's Artistic Director in 2004, serving as Joint Artistic Director with David Micklem between 2007 and 2012.[8][9] In October 2018, David Jubb announced that he would step down from his role in April 2019.[10] Tarek Iskander is Battersea Arts Centre's current Artistic Director and CEO, appointed in December 2018.[11]

BAC operates a "scratch" methodology as part of its "ladder of development" for new work. Performances are shown at various stages of development to an outside audience, whose input and criticism guides the further evolution of the work.

Past productions[edit]

Use in film and TV[edit]

The old Town Hall was used as a location in the 1975 film Slade In Flame featuring rock band Slade. The Town Hall was the location for the 21st birthday party of the character played by Dave Hill.[18]

On 8 and 9 October 2012, the pop band McFly used the location to film a video for their single Love Is Easy.[12]

The Sky Arts TV series Portrait Artist of the Year is filmed at BAC.[19]

Beer festival[edit]

Battersea Beer Festival in the Great Hall, before the 2015 fire destroyed the vaulted roof and wall decorations.

Every February since 1991, the BAC has hosted the three-day-long Battersea Beer Festival.[20]


On 31 January 1998,, the Annual Rockers Reunion was held at the centre.[21] Members of the Outcasts Motorcycle Club served as the security at the reunion.[21] In a coordinated attack via microphone headsets, about 40 members of the Hells Angels from various chapters all over England arrived uninvited at the reunion armed with baseball bats, knives, iron bars and machetes.[21] The Hells Angels proceeded to attack and beat various Outcasts.[21] Two of the Outcasts, David Armstrong and Malcolm St. Clair, were killed during the melee.[21] Only one Hells Angel was convicted of charges relating to the incident. Ronald "Gut" Wait, the vice president of the Angels Essex chapter, was convicted of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm.[22]


On 13 March 2015, during a major renovation programme, a fire broke out in the roof, and engulfed the building, causing severe structural damage, including the collapse of the tower. The Grand Hall and Lower Hall were destroyed.[23] No injuries were reported.[24]

The fire was tackled by about 80 London Fire Brigade firefighters and 12 fire engines.[25] Firefighters were able to save a large part of the building including several of the smaller theatre spaces. Two shows went ahead as planned one day after the fire,[26] and BAC has maintained much of its artistic programme, despite losing the ability to hire out the larger venues (a significant source of income).

Jubb launched a fundraising campaign to help the centre soon afterwards.,[23] and in May announced that during the rebuilding of the Grand Hall, BAC would also create a large off-site theatre from mid-2016 to end of 2017 "for the presentation of visionary and exciting new theatre while we rebuild the Grand Hall".[27]

In 2018, the rebuilding of the Grand Hall was completed, overseen by architects Haworth Tompkins, who had been working with BAC on a phased transformation of the centre for over a decade. The vaulted plaster ceiling of the Grand Hall was replaced with a similar design in three layers of CNC-cut plywood; adjacent corridors were left scorched and bare of plaster. The mosaic floor, manufactured by Jess Rust in the eighteen hundreds, survived the fire.[28]


  1. ^ a b c Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1184293)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  2. ^ Saint 2013, p. 13.
  3. ^ Thom 2013, p. 22.
  4. ^ Victorian Society Annual Report 1967-68, London 1968 p.10-11
  5. ^ "NPOR [N17247]". National Pipe Organ Register. British Institute of Organ Studies. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Battersea Arts Centre, registered charity no. 282857". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  7. ^ Jubb, David (8 March 2011). "Turning BAC the clock: Battersea Arts Centre hits 30 – in pictures". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  8. ^ " report of Micklem's departure".
  9. ^ "Playground Projects".
  10. ^ a b Wiegand, Chris (12 October 2018). "Battersea Arts Centre seeks new artistic director after David Jubb stands down". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  11. ^ "New artistic director of Battersea Arts Centre is Tarek Iskander". The Guardian. 21 December 2018. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  12. ^ a b "10 things you didn't know about Battersea Arts Centre". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  13. ^ "Jerry Springer the Opera/Kombat Opera, Battersea Arts". The Independent. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Richard Thomas". Music Theatre International. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Review: Jackson's Way, Battersea Arts Centre - A Younger Theatre". A Younger Theatre. 4 December 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  16. ^ "The Edinburgh festival 2004 -- Perrier Awards 2004". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  17. ^ "The rapid rise of Perrier winner". 29 August 2004. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  18. ^ Monkey, Silver. "Reelstreets | Slade in Flame (aka Flame)". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Battersea Arts Centre invite you to the filming of Sky Arts' Portrait Artist of the Year". Wandsworth Times. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  20. ^ "24th Battersea Beer Festival". Battersea Beer Festival. CAMRAswl. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  21. ^ a b c d e Sher & Marsden 2006, p. 291.
  22. ^ Sher & Marsden 2006, p. 292.
  23. ^ a b Jubb, David (14 March 2015). "Save Battersea Arts Centre". National Funding Scheme. Archived from the original on 15 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  24. ^ "Bystanders watch in horror as huge fire breaks out at Battersea Arts Centre". London Evening Standard. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  25. ^ Walker, Peter; Quinn, Ben; Rawlinson, Kevin (13 March 2015). "Fire severely damages Battersea Arts Centre in London". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  26. ^ "Battersea Arts Centre fire: Venue partly reopens". 15 March 2015 – via
  27. ^ "A new mission for Battersea Arts Centre and our next steps". Battersea Arts Centre: Blog. 25 May 2015.
  28. ^ Thorpe, Harriet (13 December 2019). "Battersea Arts Centre culminates a 12-year redesign in style". Wallpaper. Retrieved 23 July 2020.


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