Monday began with a full-staff meeting in the Scratch Bar. We work in projects at Battersea Arts Centre, so we’ve created a new one: Team Phoenix will work on the recovery; while the role of every other project is to take us forwards and lift us out of managing a crisis towards the future. So if you’re working on a partnership project with us, then expect this to continue.
I take my hat off to the fortitude, the inventiveness and the kindness of my team. They are above and beyond. They are, quite simply, inspirational.
Team Phoenix had several challenges for a Monday morning: to get some computers, some wifi and some office space. To recreate our software for booking spaces with sheets of A3 paper on the wall, to contact audiences with updates, to start seeking alternative spaces for the future Grand Hall programme. Gecko has also been on the phones, calling their audiences for Missing…our relationship with that extraordinary theatre company just became even stronger and deeper. We also started thinking about an event to celebrate the history of the Grand Hall, explored first thoughts on our rebuilding plan, did more work on our fundraising plan, met again with our insurance company and brokers, and explored a series of moving and heartfelt offers for support.
I am really conscious that these daily updates are only scratching the surface in terms of the offers of support we have received. It’s impossible not to well-up when thinking about the emails, texts and calls we are receiving. I am so deeply grateful. I am also really sorry that we are not getting back to everyone immediately. But we will, I promise. It will just take time. For now, thank you so much, your support means the world. Your thoughtfulness, your love for the building and the organisation, it lifts us up and makes us strong.
As ever, the building draws support from both sides of the political spectrum. On Friday night, as the fire raged, the local Labour Party opened up their Lavender Hill headquarters. My team were able to take shelter, deal with the incident and the immediate aftermath. We were given the keys to the building and asked them to post them through the letterbox whenever we finished up. I’d like to thank Will Martindale and his team; this was great support at an incredibly stressful time. Over the weekend, our local conservative MP, Jane Ellison, has been brilliant with on-site support, press interviews and inviting the Secretary of State for Culture, Sajid Javid MP, to visit yesterday morning. Thanks to Sajid and to DCMS for their concern and support. The Chair and CEO of Arts Council also attended and offered great advice, as did our lead officer from Wandsworth Borough Council. Harriet Harman MP has been on the phone to see if she can help. Whilst Battersea’s former Town Hall has always been a politicised space, it is also, crucially, a space, that doesn’t judge your politics, it invites you to express yourself, freely, a space for everyone, regardless of your background or beliefs. It just asks one thing of you… Not For Me, Not For You, But For Us.
Thank you to our good neighbours, Café Parisienne, Currells Estate Agents, thank you Joan and Pete for your donation, to the shops making collections, to the local resident who has offered to run a marathon, to the pack leader who wants the rest of her Brownie’s to do a fundraiser, to Battersea Power Station for stepping in, to all the film-makers who have offered to make films, to the offer of a rehearsal space in France, all the offers of cleaning, painting and bricklaying. Thank you to Kneehigh for their music that has made my heart soar (and sore) remembering their breath-taking shows in the Grand Hall. To all the cultural organisations who have offered kit, space, moral support. To the Arts Council for being like a rock in this situation, to Heritage Lottery, ditto, Wandsworth Council, ditto. Thank you to Steve, Imogen, Toby and the Haworth Tompkins team who have offered incredible friendship and strength. To the Leader of Wandsworth Borough Council for his email with the subject line A Big Hug. To the Foundations that have got in touch. To my Chair who has offered his expert salvage team, and to all our Trustees who are going above and beyond.
I almost don’t want to press send on this because I have failed to thank 1,000s of people and organisations who have stepped forward to offer help, to donate, and to say “we will do anything we can”. You should all be celebrated. I propose that when we rebuild we find a way of representing this incredible love, this remarkable moment in a building’s history, this chapter in a community’s story… a time when people came together for a cause that we all believe in. We must capture this moment in the fabric of the building, when we all worked together to ensure that Battersea’s former Town Hall lives on, as a public, cultural space for everyone to come together.
Links to press pieces and blogs: Lyn Gardner blog; Evening Standard article; Independent article; and if you are not on Daniel Kitson’s mailing list then ask someone who is to forward you his email from yesterday, he is a legend.