‘Wandsworth must reverse cuts threat to Battersea Arts Centre’

Mayor Livingstone states his case against the cut of funding for Battersea Arts Centre

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Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, today joined with local MP Martin Linton, local trade unionists and leading figures from the arts world in calling on Wandsworth council to reverse its decision to cut all funding from Battersea Arts Centre.

On 10th January 2007 Wandsworth Council decided to cut 100% of its funding for the Battersea Arts Centre (£100,000) and impose charges of £270,000 a year for rent and running costs for the centre.

Battersea Arts Centre has earned an international reputation for excellence in the arts and is one of the country’s leading arts organisations. The centre is also a highly valued resource for Wandsworth residents. The centre invests £300,000 in local schools and involves thousands of children in the borough in arts programmes. BAC recieves approximately 220,000 visitors every year, 100,000 of which are local residents. The centre brings in £2 million worth of vital investment in Wandsworth’s cultural sector.

Ken Livingstone said:

‘Wandsworth council must immediately reverse its decision to cut all funding from Battersea Arts Centre. If it carries out its threat, the major cultural, social and economic benefits which the Battersea Arts Centre delivers so successfully may be lost forever.

‘Wandsworth council recently recognised how valuable the Battersea Arts Centre is when it said in a report, 'Battersea Arts Centre provides a range of benefits to local residents, workers and students, and attracts visitors to the Borough.’ That is precisely why so many supporters of Battersea Arts Centre, in Wandsworth and around the country, have expressed their opposition to the threat of a massive cut.

‘The threat to Battersea Arts Centre goes hand in hand with the announcement of cuts to Wandsworth Museum. The museum is and highly valued and popular local resource for the community. The attack on Battersea Arts Centre appears to be part of a wider cuts agenda being carried out by Wandsworth council, which threatens to cause real damage to the borough.’

Battersea MP, Martin Linton pictured left said:
‘This was a very precipitous and ill-thought action by Wandsworth Council and I hope they are beginning to have second thoughts and are beginning to see the enormous damage their cuts would have. Battersea Arts Centre has built up a fantastic reputation over the last thirty years and it would be appalling if it was forced to close.’

Julia Brandreth, Battersea and Wandsworth Trade Union Council (BWTUC) organiser said: ‘Edward Lister has referred to Wandsworth museum ‘as a non-essential service’ and presumably thinks the same about the arts centre. We think it is wholly unacceptable that the arts are seen in this way. Battersea arts centre is an institution in the area and its closure is not something the community will accept. The Trade Union movement will work with all interested parties to fight this closure. BWTUC represent thousands of trade unionists in Wandsworth. We are concerned about the impact on local jobs if BAC closes. We are also concerned that thousands of Wandsworth school children will lose educational services.’

Dominic Cooke, Artistic Director, Royal Court Theatre, said:
‘BAC plays a unique role in the cultural life of the borough of Wandsworth and London as a whole. I worked there in the early stages of my career and, like many other directors, writers, actors and designers, I learned a huge amount from being given the platform and support that BAC provided. The developmental work at BAC feeds the whole theatre industry and it simply cannot be allowed to close.’

Tom Morris, Associate Director National Theatre, former director of BAC, said:
‘Battersea Arts Centre is both a venue of national significance and a vital resource for the people of Wandsworth. If we want cultural activities to have the artistic value and social impact which together make them worthy of funding, they must be jointly resourced by national and local authorities. It is vital that everything possible is done to maintain the local community's stake in BAC and pioneering arts organisations all over the country.’


January 25, 2007