On Wednesday Pluto, Battersea Arts Centre’s proud theatre cat, emerged unscathed. That was definitely one of his lives used up. I have never actually seen him admit that he is pleased to see us – this event is truly bringing us all together! Strangely, and rather unfortunately, he doesn’t look like he’s lost any weight in the intervening period.
I went down to the edge of the fire site and had a proper look for the first time. Until now, I have been keeping myself focussed on the task in hand, opening the front of the building, supporting my team, getting the shows on, shaping the phoenix plan. To be honest, I have also not dared to deal with my feelings, to see the fire-site close-up. But the task-in-hand is as much about the site as anything else, so I needed to see it. As I put my boots and hard hat on, I pinched myself hard. It didn’t work.
It is an extraordinary sight. It is like the Hall has held the fire, almost protecting the rest of the building from damage. A new wave of gratitude for the fire fighters swept over me. Every time I look up to see the sun sparkling through the octagonal dome, I will think of them. I won’t say much more at this stage, other than if you, like me, have deep feelings for that space, then know this, we will breathe life in to her again, she will live to tell the story of the last week, for at least another 120 years.
In the morning, there was a great meeting with Haworth Tompkins, and terrific support from Wandsworth Borough Council and their safety team on site, and also from the Historic Royal Palaces salvage team. The team grappling with the issues on the site of the fire are working superbly. I have regular flashes of them on horseback, knights in shining armour.
We have loved the shows in this building this week. Caroline Horton and Derby Playhouse have been here as part of A Nation’s Theatre, as is Verity Standen who wrote a lovely blog in Guardian about making work in Bristol. The sold-out run of Fiction continues, Daniel Kitson is doing three shows a day of his new show. Gecko’s unplugged Missing went on sale at the Southbank Centre for Friday night and the free ticket were gone by the end of the day, see you there if you’re going. Next week’s comedy, including Josie Long has switched venue to the Four Thieves across the road.
On Tuesday we had the Mayor and Mayoress of Wandsworth come to see us, on their way to attend an event with the Queen. It was good of them to make time to stop off and see us. One of the best ways to support the organisation right now is to come to the building, enjoy the Scratch Bar, day or night, buy tickets for shows, use The Bee’s Knees. The building has been buzzing, and this makes a massive difference to all of us.
A clear Phoenix plan is beginning to emerge as to what happens next – and tonight we will take that to our Board. I plan to share it tomorrow on this blog. The plan involves a number of ways in which people can get involved, whether to support the organisation’s next steps, donate, or come to a number of events, including one to celebrate the history of the Grand Hall. More tomorrow. Thanks for reading these missives.