Two years ago today, the Grand Hall was burning down.
One year ago today, my wife was in a long labour.
Today, I shall be keeping a low profile!
There have been times when the re-opening of the Grand Hall has felt a long way off…but it is SO AMAZING to be able to say THE GRAND HALL WILL RE-OPEN NEXT YEAR!
It is only because of the generosity of so many people that this is the case.
Battersea Arts Centre can now look to the future.
But I don’t want to forget all the heroes without whom we would not be saying WE ARE GOING TO RE-OPEN THE GRAND HALL NEXT YEAR!…WHOOP BLOODY WHOOP!…
So on the 2nd anniversary of the fire, my heart goes out to the people who have made every miracle happen over the last two years…
• our building manager Tim Hopkins who dashed back in to the building (when he certainly should not have) to get the building plans for the fire brigade
• the fire crews who pinpointed the blaze and did an incredible job to stop it spreading
• Stella Duffy who coined the hashtag #BACPhoenix to give us all hope and to all the other amazing Twitter and Facebook responses that showed that social media can be an amazing force for good
• Steve Tompkins and his team of architects, designers and conservation specialists who were onsite by 5pm and who don’t seem to have ever left!
• the local emergency services who made sure we could re-open 26 hours after the fire and have been open every day since
• the local cafes and companies who let us camp out in the weeks after the fire
• our local council who gave us practical support in the immediate aftermath and continue to support our activities for local people
• artist Jake Tilson who became like a resident coal-miner in the weeks after the fire, salvaging thousands of precious pieces of Grand Hall history and documenting them in a beautiful book
• the guy who lives a couple of streets over who walked in the front doors of the building two weeks after the fire, just at the point when we could not find a dangerous structures company to stabilise the ruins, and who offered us the services of, you guessed it, his dangerous structures company, Deconstruct, for no profit
• all the venues who hosted the artists and shows that’d been made homeless
• all the local organisations who backed us every step of the way
• all the arts organisations who leaned in and protected us
• all our local and national politicians who stepped up and supported the organisation
• all the funders who have been flexible, creative and who’ve enabled us to survive, including Arts Council, HLF, Paul Hamlyn, Esmée Fairbairn and Mayor of London
• the team at Battersea Power Station kick started our fighting fund with £100k after seeing the flames across the rooftops in Battersea
• the 1000s of people who have donated, written to us and offered moral support at all times of the day and night
• the thoughtful and enlightened conservation experts who have enabled us to shape an exciting rebuild plan for the Grand Hall
• the imaginative and supportive crew at our insurers, Aviva, who are covering the costs of the rebuild and who have recognised that it’s better for everyone if we update the Grand Hall as we rebuild
• Pluto the cat for his miraculous survival instincts and helping us all keep a sense of perspective at all times
• all the people who have responded resolutely
• all the people who have responded creatively
• all the people who have responded emotionally
• all our neighbours who have put up with a three-year extension to building works on Lavender Hill
• all the amazing staff and volunteers and trustees who have had faith and who have worked their socks off to get us to this point
• to Noah, age 8, from John Burns Primary School, who reminded us recently that “In a special space you can think in a big way and show you really care” a terrific guiding thought for the past and future of the Grand Hall
• and last bit not least to the great old Grand Hall herself, who absorbed the heat of the fire, and who sacrificed herself to save the rest of the building
To all of you I dedicate the fact that today we can say…
WE WILL RE-OPEN THE GRAND HALL NEXT YEAR AND IT WILL BE A TOTALLY BLOODY GORGEOUS THING!
In a climate of Brexit division and Trump isolationism we need public gathering spaces more than ever. To celebrate, reflect, rally and imagine the future together.
Over the coming year and a bit major strides in the rebuild of the Grand Hall will take place and brick by brick she will come back to us. I would love your help to think about how we might honour her return.
I want us to host half a dozen events in the first “Phoenix Season” in autumn 2018, to pour memories back in to the space and also to look to the future.
What should those events be?
For example, I thought it could be be fun to invite everyone who ever got married in the Grand Hall to join together in a mass vow-renewing-ceremony!
What events could we hold to celebrate the Grand Hall’s history and to look to our collective future?
Visit bac.org.uk/phoenixrising if you have ideas and want to find out more.