Following a blazing fire at Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) on 13 March 2015, locals, shop owners and lovers of the centre have rallied to show their support for the BAC and its staff
On Friday 13 March, a major fire broke out in Battersea Arts Centre, believed to have started in the roof. The fire severely damaged the first and second floors, including the Grand Hall and Lower Hall, of the BAC but luckily no-one was injured. The BAC is a stalwart in the local community, loved by many. As fire-fighters tackled the roaring flames, residents on the street were seen crying as the grand dame burnt.
The 1893 building was formerly Battersea Town Hall. Its grand hall has hosted events, including a memorial service for those who died in the Titanic disaster in 1912. Since 1974, it has been used as a community art centre, hosting exhibitions, plays and, last month, Labour leader Ed Miliband and deputy Harriet Harman used the venue to launch their party’s arts policies ahead of the general election.
Just 24 hours after the BAC fire, two performances went ahead in the venue on Saturday night. Productions of Lorraine & Alan and Fiction went ahead despite the fire damage, the centre said. Artistic director and CEO David Jubb said ahead of the performances: “Today we start the next chapter. We want to get the shows back on and rebuild the building brick by brick.”
He also paid tribute to the fire brigade who tackled the fire.
“Huge thanks are owed to all the emergency services, who literally saved the front half of the building, to staff, artists and volunteers at Battersea Arts Centre, and to everyone who has shown their overwhelming support online over the last 24 hours.
“The passion for the building and the organisation is extraordinary. Thank you all for being part of this. We really need you at this time.”
Battersea’s local community and fans of the BAC have rallied around to show their support.
Marketing manager of the BAC Katie Elston has written on the art centre’s blog: “The way people have responded to this event is quite extraordinary. I’d like to thank everyone for their incredible support for Battersea Arts Centre and Battersea’s beautiful former Town Hall. The Battersea spirit, encapsulated in its mid-19th Century motto – Not For Me, Not For You, But For Us – is all around. And all those who are directly involved have been lifted up by this support. Thank you.
I am in awe of my team, the artists and fire brigade, who only 24 hours after the fire, helped to re-open the building, last night, and put on two sold out shows. It was great to have people back in the building. Whilst we have lost the Grand Hall, more than two thirds of the building is saved. It has been picked up by news reporters all over the UK, and almost all of them, have been amazing, in the way they have dealt with us.”
While the front of the building is open, the BAC has lost its staff offices, equipment and the Grand Hall theatre. The National Funding Scheme has already taken over £50,000 in donations for the BAC to help rebuild the centre following the fire, showing how the significance of the building goes far beyond just the residents of Lavender Hill.
Tributes have been pouring in all over the web, with The Guardian’s theatre critic Lyn Gardner saying poignantly on its blog: “A theatre is not just a building. It is all the people who pass through it, and who – for however brief a time, a few days or weeks or years – call it home. The people may move on, but the ghosts linger; theatre may be ephemeral but all shows leave their traces in every brick.”
Battersea Arts Centre staff (past and present) – all safe, all well. Thanks again for all your kind wishes! pic.twitter.com/ui6bCV94AM
— BatterseaArtsCentre (@battersea_arts) March 13, 2015
— Will Martindale (@WillJMartindale) March 13, 2015
Terrible to see photos of Battersea Arts Centre engulfed in flames. I was there in February. Thanks to the firefighters fighting the blaze.
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) March 13, 2015