Battersea Arts Centre – keep dancing

This week I have returned from an inspiring weekend exploring a couple of artistic projects whilst walking the quiet back streets of Venice, jumping straight into coaching a mix of theatre directors and medical professionals, made a visit to Hull to do some presentation training with 17 estate management junior managers and apprentices, and then held my first CGO Coaching Breakfast at Clapham Omnibus. The common theme of this work and so many emails this week has been the value that can be offered by listening, encouraging, giving space to experiment, tools to develop craft, and then time to cheer the first steps to success.

Then on Friday night the UK arts community were rocked by the fire at Battersea Arts Centre.   I first visited as a volunteer usher back in 1974/5 from school [I guess I must have even been there in uniform which will have surprised the natives with my yellow stockings and breeches]. Onward to seeing the work of so many companies who were given space and opportunity by the early pioneers of BAC. Then booking companies into Buxton Opera House 950 seat theatre that were mainly playing the small arts centres, and had been nurtured by BAC [In those days we didn’t have access to the studio spaces that Buxton now boasts]. Through to being there to see so many of Kath’s Authentic Artists scratching their work, appearing in pieces, and celebrating the new and unexpected.

The common themes of all that I have seen BAC doing has been the value that can be offered by listening, encouraging, giving space to experiment, tools to develop craft, and then time to cheer the first steps to success.

David Glass wrote powerfully about his meeting with Amit Lehav minutes before the fire in a café nearby, just before Amit’s Gecko company lost every scrap of the physical materials of their piece Missing playing in the now devastated Grand Hall.   Facebook has been full of reflections and a sense of horror at what the fire has done. But Amit issued the following statement today “We met last night to formulate a plan, and as you can probably imagine it is ludicrously ambitious”. You would expect no less from a company with so much raw energy and creativity.

David Jubb and his team at BAC may have had a massive fire on Friday – but they managed to have two shows playing in the front part of the building by Saturday night. The need for BAC and all those organisations that offer encouragement, space and energy for new work has never been greater. A mere fire would not stop them.

David Glass quotes Peggy Lee about her childhood when her family’s house burnt down.  “Is that all there is?, If thats all there is too life, Then lets keep dancing, Lets break out the booze, And have a ball, If thats all there is.” So my colleagues, my friends: lets keep dancing.”

The bricks may have fallen, and vast swathes of physical stuff destroyed, but the art is still alive and ready to be shared.

What remains needed is someone to listen, encourage, cheer the first steps…and maybe at this time raise some money to help put some of those bricks back, and re-fashion a Missing set. In the meantime Dance Amit, Dance Mr Jubb, Dance in celebration of BAC all those who have ever benefited from her encouragement. Donate if you can to the fundraising appeals.

I can’t wait to be back there seeing more Scratches and more unexpected shows.




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