Battersea Arts Centre’s Pay What You Can model could continue indefinitely

Battersea Arts Centre’s (BAC) new Pay What You Can model, could be around for the long haul.

The venue announced the scheme last year ahead of releasing a new schedule of ticketed events and activities, allowing punters to pay as little as £1 for performances on the billing.

The initiative aims to increase accessibility to the arts as it works by removing the financial barrier. 

Tarek Iskander, Artistic Director and CEO of BAC admitted they could look to make the scheme a permanent fixture if possible. 

He said: “Wonderful arts and culture should be accessible and available for everyone, regardless of their personal circumstances and background. 

“Especially after such a challenging year, we want to encourage our local community in particular to feel Battersea Arts Centre is for them, and can be a part of these experiences.

“Financial barriers can be challenging for some, so this is an important step in creating public spaces where everyone feels welcome and included.

“It’s definitely for the next few seasons, and if it’s successful there’s no reason why we wouldn’t continue this indefinitely.”

The centre uses recommended pricing for individual events to give those purchasing tickets guidance on much they might want to pay.

It comes ahead of an exciting run of activities and performances which will take place this year.

One such is the Free Up Festival on 3rd July, an initiative set up to try and connect the community back together after the coronavirus pandemic and help tackle crime. 

Founded by five local members of Winstanley and York Road Estate, the event will provide free activities whilst celebrating the talent in the area.

Sydney Sylvah, one of BAC’s alumni agents spoke about her role in the Inside-Out Collective, who are producing Free Up.

FREE UP FESTIVAL: Sydney Sylvah is one of the producers of this summer’s upcoming event (Credit: Christian Gordon)

One highlight is the launch of a new life-size outdoor version of the crime-prevention board game created by another of BAC’s agents.

The event producer explained how vital the event could be to help reconnect the community, particularly in the York Road and Winstanley Estates.

She noted how those estates – which are currently undergoing regeneration – see a lot of crime. 

Sylvah added: “Obviously with the lockdown, I think it’s especially important that something is offered on the basis of paying what you can to attend something in your local community.

“You’re not actually having to come out of where you live to attend this thing, this thing is situated on your estate. It’s been programmed, and has just the feel of like an investment in your community. 

“So I think it’s incredibly important for people as well as local residents to see other young people that live in this area programming something for them. 

“It’s almost like that feeling of, ‘Oh, I can do that as well’.”

Other activities include the screening of films shot in the community, as well as performances from some talented young musicians and stalls from local enterprises.

The producer went on to highlight how putting together events such as the Free Up Festival can go a long way  towards ensuring a wider uptake from those in the area.

This has been done by seeking detailed input from those they are trying to encourage to attend beforehand and researching exactly what they want to see.

Sylvah reiterated how important the arts can be from a mental health perspective.

She said: “That’s what the arts are for many people. They’re an outlet, something to take their mind off things, a way to express themselves creatively.

“I think when people are doing that, it automatically makes them feel better. It’s a mood boost.”

Sylvah also touched on how BAC’s new Pay What You Can initiative will hopefully allow for increasing accessibility. 

“A typical paint and sip would be, let’s say, 35 pounds, but literally for as little as a pound you can take part and have an easel and paints, or other activities at your fingertips to take part in – I think it’s it’s really needed,” she added.

BAC are asking those who are able to pay above the advised price to do so, to make place for the model to continue.

Featured image provided by Battersea Arts Centre, taken by Morley von Sternberg

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