I want to say a few words about Sarah Quelch (for some of you) and Sarah Golding (for others).
Sarah left her role yesterday as Battersea Arts Centre’s Associate Artistic Director.
I first met her back in – 1999 – this was when I became a producer for Battersea Arts Centre.
Sarah had already been working here for about twenty-five years -though she tells me she only started a few months before me -I’m not so sure.
For me, it turned out to be a meeting that set a path for my 21st century.
Sarah was BAC’s Participate Producer. I was BAC’s Development Producer.
We were both bright eyed and bushy tailed. Not quite sure what happened there.
And right from the start – we were allies.
Sarah believed in participation. And I believed in Sarah.
I even believed her anecdotes.
In those early days, I remember Sarah was always full of a tale or two.
There was the one about her time on television’s The Big Breakfast.
Oh yes, and then there was that that thing that happened, oh that was on the The Big Breakfast too.
And wait, I am remembering another story, about, er yes, it was about Gaby Roslin on the Big Breakfast.
We joined the organisation at a time when the previous artistic director used to send messages around the building by memo.
Literally printing out messages and sending them round to different departments in different rooms.
Battersea Arts Centre was the creative centre of British theatre. It was also where pigeons came to die in the courtyard.
These pigeons were probably previously employed carrying messages around the building – until the advent of memos.
Sarah and I sat next to each other in half of the New Committee room which was the producing and production office.
Later it would be occupied by such producing luminaries as Louise Blackwell, Kate McGrath, even our own Richard Dufty.
As we moved from memos to the early days of personal computers – this was when personal computers were a new phenomenon – like in the world – Battersea Arts Centre still managed to have got hold of some old shit ones. I mean how is that even possible?
In those early days of our relationship, I looked up to Sarah.
And 20 years later – I still do.
Of course there will be people who have been driven mad by Sarah.
There will also be people who have had their lives changed for the better by Sarah.
The remarkable thing is that they will probably be – in most cases – the same people.
This is because Sarah connects with people’s core.
She is one of those rare people who genuinely finds out what makes people tick.
Who genuinely cares enough to find out about someone’s inner sanctum.
And then she fucks with it!
She often helps people to see another way. A more equitable, interesting and creative way.
She has provided a springboard for so many artists, families and producers.
– From running Arts Express programmes on Saturdays
– to BAC’s youth theatre
– to BAC’s development theatre
– to BAC’s school programme
– to shaping the organisation’s entire participation strategy
– to conceiving a building wide strategy for telling the story of the building’s history
– to directing hugely innovative and successful productions
– to more recently leading the merger of Battersea Arts Centre and Wandsworth Museum and leading the creation and strategy for the BAC Moving Museum
– to being there on the night of the fire and buying every staff member a drink and being our leader in our hour of need
Her theatre shows – including The Good Neighbour, Town Hall Cherubs, and Return to Elm House – have all been as formally innovative as they have been bloody good fun.
When I was watching Sarah Golding’s final show as Associate Artistic Director which was about unsung Jeannie Nassau Senior, I sat here in the Council Chamber noting some of the comparisons with Sarah’s own journey.
– someone who seems to have lived here forever
– someone who has NOT been fully recognised for their massive contribution – in Sarah’s case to arts and culture in Battersea and the UK
– someone who changes people’s lives for the better and who makes a positive difference
I wonder if in 50 year’s time someone at BAC will be making a show called Return to Golding Towers?
I won’t say I’m going to miss you Sarah. Because I’m buggering off soon too. And I know we’ll stay well connected as pals outside of these four walls.
But I would like to truly thank you Sarah for being a friend, a collaborator, a change maker and someone who leaves their mark and their values on this building and this organisation.
You leave it and us in better shape than you found us.
And when you think about – that’s not something you can say about a lot of leaders in this world.
Sarah you are amazing.
I know of no other human being who has taken over their own leaving party, buddied up with the Beatbox Academy and smashed out an awe-inspiring rendition of Madness’s OUR HOUSE – adapted to “Elm House” of course.
Sarah you are a very special phenomenon and I am so, so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you.