On Friday 13 March 2015, Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall burnt down. On Friday 13 July 2018, Battersea Arts Centre offered a sneak preview of the renewed Grand Hall, and published a celebratory photo, together with an explanation of how the picture came to be.
In the days, weeks and months which followed the fire the public’s response was nothing short of awe-inspiring. People were thoughtful and generous, both with their resources and their imaginations. People came together to selflessly help out a group of people, a building and an organisation in need.
The rebuild and renovation, brick by brick, has taken over three years. Now it is time to invite the first people back in to the renewed Grand Hall – for an early glimpse of the restoration – as we launch a countdown to the official re-opening in September – and our five month long Phoenix Season. We are so thankful to thousands and thousands of people and organisations who have supported this story of rising from the ashes.
When we were planning a celebratory event, we decided to take a photo at the front of the building – with members of our community. We wanted to champion the principles which have enabled the organisation to get back on its feet. So we devised a photograph of our friends coming together, pictured with our collective values.
When we heard that President Trump was also visiting the UK on 13th July, we looked at the values we were seeking to celebrate – which have characterised the 125 year history of Battersea’s former Town Hall. We felt that they were in contrast with some of the values which President Trump’s leadership has come to represent.
‘Not for me, Not for you, But for Us’ is Battersea’s mid-19th century motto and is one of Battersea Arts Centre’s core values. We think it captures a spirit of generosity and shared endeavour. We believe in building connections across communities to bring people together. We believe in the power of love and unity to make positive change. We believe in the central and powerful role of women to make the world a better place. We believe that art is a force for good and that everyone is creative.
Because President Trump is coming to the UK on the same day as we re-open the Grand Hall, we thought we would address our optimistic set of messages to one of the world’s most important leaders. When our community assembled for the photograph, including members of our social dance class, our beatbox academy, young creative entrepreneurs, volunteers, artists and staff, there was a palpable and positive sense of a community coming together. Not to protest or to be angry. But to champion the things which we care deeply about.
We offer our collective photograph as a positive and inclusive message. We welcome everyone to Battersea Arts Centre who shares our optimism about what we can achieve when we work together.”