Battersea Arts Centre
|Public transit||Clapham Junction|
|Designation||Grade II* listed|
|Capacity||640 (500 Grand Hall; 140 Lower Hall)|
|Architect||E. W. Mountford|
The Battersea Arts Centre ("BAC") is a Grade II* listed building near Clapham Junction in Battersea, in the London Borough of Wandsworth that operates as a performance space specialising in theatre productions. It was formerly Battersea Town Hall. 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, designed in 1891 by E. W. Mountford, 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.
In 1901 a large pipe organ was installed in the Grand Hall by Norman & Beard. 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.
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.
The theatre was founded in 1980.
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.
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- Punchdrunk Theatre Company's promenade performance of "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe ran through most of the building from September 2007 to April 2008
- Richard Thomas's early work as Kombat Opera, including Tourette's Diva, leading to the development of Jerry Springer - The Opera, which premièred at BAC in 2002, before transferring to the Royal National Theatre
- Jackson's Way, the winner of the 2004 Perrier Award in Edinburgh. A one-man show which mocks the world of motivational speaking and embraces it through encouraging 'pointless actions'.
Use in film
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. On 8 and 9 October 2012, the pop band McFly used the location to film a video for their single "Love Is Easy".
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. No injuries were reported.
The fire was tackled by about 80 London Fire Brigade firefighters and 12 fire engines. 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, and BAC has maintained much of its artistic programme, despite losing the ability to hire the larger venues (a significant source of income).
Jubb launched a fundraising campaign to help the centre soon afterwards., 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".
- Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1184293)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- "NPOR N17247". National Pipe Organ Register. British Institute of Organ Studies. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- Charity Commission. Battersea Arts Centre, registered charity no. 282857.
- Whatsonstage.com report of Micklem's departure.
- Reference to David Micklem's tenure and achievements
- "24th Battersea Beer Festival". Battersea Beer Festival. CAMRAswl. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
- Jubb, David (14 March 2015). "Save Battersea Arts Centre". National Funding Scheme. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- "Bystanders watch in horror as huge fire breaks out at Battersea Arts Centre". London Evening Standard. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- Walker, Peter; Quinn, Ben; Rawlinson, Kevin (13 March 2015). "Fire severely damages Battersea Arts Centre in London". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- BBC News – Battersea Arts Centre fire: Venue partly reopens
- Article by David Jubb, Battersea Arts Centre Blog, 25th May 2015
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