The outside of Battersea Arts Centre building

Battersea Arts Centre birthday present helps Wandsworth secure London Borough of Culture crown

Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) has been gifted free rent for ten years as Wandsworth celebrates being named the London Borough of Culture 2025.

The centre continues to thrive after being granted a rent-free lease until 2035 on Lavender Hill from Wandsworth Council for its 50th birthday this year.

Since its inception in 1974, Battersea Arts Centre has been lucky enough to receive a series of rent-free periods, allowing it to waive concerns about being converted into another commercial enterprise.

BAC’s artistic director and CEO, Tarek Iskander, said: “It’s really brilliant at this particular moment, especially with the cost of living crisis.

“It’s so difficult for art organisations and you’re hearing about council cuts everywhere – for Wandsworth to be supporting BAC in this way is fantastic.”

Wandsworth Council was crowned the London Borough of Culture 2025 on March 11, a scheme launched to illuminate the importance of culture and arts throughout London.

Waiving the rent wasn’t just about supporting BAC – it also contributed to the effort to take home the cultural crown, which seems to have paid off.

Giving the borough a cash injection of up to £1.35million from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Wandsworth now has even more freedom to invest in cultural projects and art initiatives.

With areas like Havering Council proposing the dimming of street lights to save money, and Southwark residents crowdfunding for school upgrades, having a well-funded arts centre is a rare and fortunate addition to any area.

Priding itself on its accessibility, BAC offers a ‘Pay What You Can’ ticket model, providing services to disadvantaged areas, and free venue space to voluntary groups – all of which would be nonviable without the support from Wandsworth Council.

The centre attempts to cater to different community demands, so much so that one of their beatboxers thought BAC stood for Beatboxers Academy Centre.

Providing services for five decades, standing as Wandsworth’s main vaccine venue throughout the pandemic, and being the home of various community youth groups, BAC has established itself as a cornerstone of the district.

Benefits of the creative world have not gone unnoticed by Iskander who has been with BAC for five years and is seeking to measure its significance on the local community.

Discussing dealing with the pandemic, Iskander said it was a real baptism of fire but a great way to realise how brilliant the organisation is.

He said: “That intangible experience is really unique and isn’t easy to measure, but is incredibly valuable.

“You see that by the way people talk about their memories and experiences of BAC and how they keep coming back and participating.”

By monitoring responses pre- and post-engaging with different activities, Iskander explained that the team at BAC are looking to demonstrate the social and personal impact of arts centres.

He said the team is great at adapting to whatever the world throws at them and this year they will be hosting a variety of events, from stakeholder parties to controversial debates.

Right now, BAC is offering performances from the female-led dramatics company, Figs in Wigs, who are performing their show Big Finish until March 27.

Featured Image: BAC External. Credit Morley Von Sternberg

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