The Grand Hall at Battersea Arts Centre, destroyed by fire. (c) London Fire Brigade

Community rallies round Battersea Arts Centre following fire

Nicola Sullivan, 17.03.2015
Grand Hall destroyed, but front section has reopened
Support is flooding in for Battersea Arts Centre, which was partly destroyed by a fire that broke out on Friday afternoon.

The Battersea Power Station has pledged £100,000 towards the restoration of the Lavender Hill site. Meanwhile, an online donations page created by the National Funding Scheme has pulled in more than £50,000.

Assistance has been given by Wandsworth Borough Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the centre’s architectural partner Haworth Tompkins. Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for culture media and sport, visited the site on Monday.

Messages of support and offers of help have also poured in via social media, email and text message, said David Jubb, the artistic director of Battersea Arts Centre.

“It has been amazing how people have responded. I think it shows what these cultural buildings mean to people," said Jubb.

“Whether it is a theatre, a museum, a concert hall or a village hall, these public spaces count for a lot in people’s lives.”

As well as trying to find new venues for the theatre performances due to take place in the Grand Hall, which was destroyed in the fire, the centre is having to draw up a new 12-month financial plan to tackle the challenges ahead. Jubb said 6,000 people were expected to attend the shows during the year, bringing is an estimated revenue of £600,000.

Around £800,000 was spent on refurbishing and restoring the Grand Hall in 2008-09. The work was part of a £13.3m renovation project, the final phase of which is under way in the middle third of the building, which was saved by firefighters. The historical octagonal dome roof was also rescued.

Jubb, who is liaising with insurers over the damage, confirmed that building work on the final renovation phase would resume within a week.

Most of the staff offices have been destroyed, including those being used by Wandsworth Museum, which is in the process of merging with the centre.

However, the artefacts from the museum are safe as they are being stored off-site.

Sue Walker, the director of Wandsworth Museum, said that some staff were working out of cafes on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Battersea Arts Centre said a makeshift office had been set up in a performance space at the front of the building, which was undamaged by the fire and is open to the public. This means the Scratch Bar and Scratch exhibition are running as normal.

“Amazingly, the front section of the centre remains intact, and both foyer, cafe and performance space were open and buzzing on Saturday evening," said Walker.

"The back of the building, which housed operational headquarters, has been destroyed.

Twelve fire engines and around 80 firefighters were called to the fire at about 4.15pm on Friday. The cause of the blaze, thought to have started in the Grand Hall, is still unknown.

Intricate plasterwork, the console of a historic theatre organ and the set for the show Missing Gecko were all lost in the blaze.

The Cuming Museum in Southwark suffered from extensive fire damage in 2013. A report into the incident revealed that investigators believed that the fire was caused by building work being carried out on the roof.

Links

Donate online to the Battersea Arts Centre restoration


Museum Practice: Emergency planning

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