A south London ribbon of theatrical gems

I saw my first show at the Clapham Omnibus this evening – a first chance to see the Dorset based company Angel Exit who explored The Ballad of Martha Brown with all the joy and gallows humour I remember from Shockheaded Peter.  I would hope this is exactly the kind of company that Marie McCarthy, artistic director of this mini-BAC will be bringing to London to delight intelligent theatregoers.

OK I will express an interest – well two interests – it’s a new theatre space close to our Clapham rented room, and so my local theatre, and somewhere I’ve had the pleasure of using for the early Japan/UK collaborative workshops for DxL Creations. And I have been asked whether I’d be up for joining the Board (if they’ll have me when they’ve met me.)

My reason for this blog is two fold – to cheer this new venue and suggest the 3 minute walk from Clapham South tube is easy. And to remind you Clapham South is no more than 10 minutes from the South Bank on the Northern Line (that’s the black line) for those who have problems with their southerly compass.  But also to ruminate on the “south London ribbon of theatrical gems”

We are blessed with a vibrant Fringe or off-West End and there is a gentle line that can be drawn between Tara Arts (preparing for its wonderful new building), BAC (the grand-daddy of creative hubs), Theatre 503 (a drama house that punches above its tiny girth), up to Clapham Omnibus, along the High Street to Studio Voltaire Gallery, onward to the Landor Theatre (which is a veritable Broadway above a pub) and on to the Oval House (another grand-dame in creative nurture).

This ribbon of venues all sparkle in different ways. I have probably missed off some,  but they are all within a few stops on the tube, or a gentle bus-pass away. They each serve a community of residents but also seek to move artforms forward by the offer they make to creative artists, visiting companies, and those emerging artists who  need a space to play.

If there’s a venue in my list you haven’t visited – make a trip (or at least google them and find the programme that they are championing).

If you want to look for projects and companies to cheer and maybe even £upport on the next stage of their creative journey – then check the shows and companies that these organisations champion.

If you believe that the arts or creativity are important to you, or could be valuable to your school, your business, your health or social sector – then check in with these unsung heroes and see how you can make the gems sparkle for your students, staff, customers, patients and more

And if you have a spare evening once a week, fortnight, month and you’d like to help make a venue even more welcoming – why not volunteer.

My first encounter with BAC was back in 1974 when I travelled up to London  from school to be an usher a few times, as part of my experience of theatre. I loved it.

Like all venues in the off-West End circuit – outside Zone 1 inside the M25 – they need arts professionals, creative beings, business leaders, and champions.

Thank you to Tamsin Fessey, Lynne Forbes, William Wolfe Hogan, Simon Carroll Jones and Morag Cross for tonights telling of the tale of the last woman publicly hanged in Dorset.  Your programme celebrates the collaborative artform that is theatre – keep making the art and getting it on the road.