Battersea Arts Centre

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Battersea Arts Centre
Battersea Arts Centre 09.JPG
Battersea Arts Centre
Address Lavender Hill
London, SW11
United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°27′53″N0°09′39″W / 51.4648°N 0.1607°W / 51.4648; -0.1607 Coordinates: 51°27′53″N0°09′39″W / 51.4648°N 0.1607°W / 51.4648; -0.1607
Public transit National Rail logo.svg Overground roundel (no text).svg Clapham Junction
OwnerBAC Trust
Designation Grade II* listed
Type Producing house
Capacity 640 (500 Grand Hall; 140 Lower Hall)
Opened1980;41 years ago (1980)
Architect E. W. Mountford

The Battersea Arts Centre ("BAC") is a performance space specialising in theatre productions. Located near Clapham Junction railway station in Battersea, in the London Borough of Wandsworth, it was formerly Battersea Town Hall. It is a Grade II* listed building.


In March 2015, while a major programme of renovation works were underway, the Grand Hall was severely damaged by fire. Approximately 70% of the theatre, including the 200-capacity Council Chamber, the Scratch Bar and the Members Library, was saved from the fire and remains open.


Battersea Town Hall in 1893 Battersea Town Hall.jpg
Battersea Town Hall in 1893

The building, designed in 1891 by E. W. Mountford, [1] opened in 1893 as Battersea Town Hall, the administrative headquarters of the Borough of Battersea, shortly after the borough was transferred from the county of Surrey to the newly formed County of London. It is built from Suffolk red brick and Bath stone. [1]

Bertrand Russell's essay Why I Am Not a Christian was originally given as a talk in the hall, on 6 March 1927, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society.[ citation needed ]

Following proposals by London Borough of Wandsworth to demolish large parts of the building, a vociferous and ultimately successful campaign to save it was fought by the Victorian Society and Battersea Society [2] it was given Grade II* listed protected status in February 1970. [1]


In 1901, a large pipe organ was installed in the Grand Hall by Norman & Beard.[ citation needed ] This was an unusual instrument designed by Robert Hope-Jones, a pioneering organ builder who invented many aspects of the modern pipe organ. His ideas went on to form the basis of the Wurlitzer theatre organ in the 1920s and 30s. It was said to be the largest Hope-Jones organ to survive, and was partially restored in 2008–2009. In the 2015 fire, although much of the organ was destroyed, including the console, bellows, wiring and architectural cases, the soundboards and much of the pipework survived as they were off site undergoing restoration. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register. [3]

Arts centre

Battersea Arts Centre Battersea Arts Centre 05.JPG
Battersea Arts Centre
Interior Battersea Arts Centre 18.JPG
William Calder Marshall - Zephyr and Aurora Battersea Arts Centre 24.JPG
William Calder MarshallZephyr and Aurora

The building became a community arts centre in 1974. BAC currently[ when? ] receives grants towards the building's operating costs from Arts Council England and the London Borough of Wandsworth, among others. The centre is a registered charity. [4] The theatre was founded in 1981. [5]

Following the departure of Tom Morris in 2003, David Jubb became Battersea Arts Centre's Artistic Director in 2004, serving as Joint Artistic Director with David Micklem between 2007 and 2012. [6] [7] In October 2018, David Jubb announced that he would step down from his role in April 2019. [8] Tarek Iskander is Battersea Arts Centre's current Artistic Director and CEO, appointed in December 2018. [9]

BAC operates a "scratch" methodology as part of its "ladder of development" for new work. Performances are shown at various stages of development to an outside audience, whose input and criticism guides the further evolution of the work.

Past productions

  • Punchdrunk Theatre Company's promenade performance of "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe ran through most of the building from September 2007 to April 2008. The performance was interactive, and was seen by over 400,000 people over its seven-month sellout run. [8] Since audience members were required to wear masks throughout the performance, a number of famous actors attended the play anonymously, including Jeff Goldblum and Joanna Lumley. [10]
  • Richard Thomas's early work as Kombat Opera, including Tourette's Diva, leading to the development of Jerry Springer - The Opera, which premièred at BAC in 2002, before transferring to the Royal National Theatre. [11] [12]
  • Jackson's Way, the winner of the 2004 Perrier Award in Edinburgh. A one-man show which mocks the world of motivational speaking and embraces it through encouraging 'pointless actions'. [13] [14] [15]

Use in film

The old Town Hall was used as a location in the 1975 film Slade In Flame featuring rock band Slade. The Town Hall was the location for the 21st birthday party of the character played by Dave Hill. [16] On 8 and 9 October 2012, the pop band McFly used the location to film a video for their single "Love Is Easy". [10]

Beer festival

Battersea Beer Festival in the Great Hall Battersea Arts Centre 31.JPG
Battersea Beer Festival in the Great Hall

Every February since 1991, the BAC has hosted the three-day-long Battersea Beer Festival. [17]


On 13 March 2015, during a major renovation programme, a fire broke out in the roof, and engulfed the building, causing severe structural damage, including the collapse of the tower. The Grand Hall and Lower Hall were destroyed. [18] No injuries were reported. [19]

The fire was tackled by about 80 London Fire Brigade firefighters and 12 fire engines. [20] Firefighters were able to save a large part of the building including several of the smaller theatre spaces. Two shows went ahead as planned one day after the fire, [21] and BAC has maintained much of its artistic programme, despite losing the ability to hire out the larger venues (a significant source of income).

Jubb launched a fundraising campaign to help the centre soon afterwards., [18] and in May announced that during the rebuilding of the Grand Hall, BAC would also create a large off-site theatre from mid-2016 to end of 2017 "for the presentation of visionary and exciting new theatre while we rebuild the Grand Hall". [22]

In 2018, the rebuilding of the Grand Hall was completed, overseen by architects Haworth Tompkins, who had been working with BAC on a phased transformation of the centre for over a decade. [23]

Related Research Articles

Balham Human settlement in England

Balham is a neighbourhood in south London, England, mostly in the London Borough of Wandsworth with small parts in the neighbouring Borough of Lambeth. The area has been settled since Saxon times and appears in the Domesday Book as Belgeham.

Battersea Human settlement in England

Battersea is a large district of South West London, England and in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is centred 3.5 miles (5.6 km) southwest of Charing Cross and extends along a curve that includes a west bank, on the south bank of London's reaches of the Thames. It includes Battersea Park, a 200-acre (0.81 km2) northern rectangle by the Thames.

London Borough of Wandsworth Place in United Kingdom

Wandsworth is a London borough in southwest London; it forms part of Inner London and has an estimated population of 329,677 inhabitants. Its main settlements are Battersea, Putney, Tooting and Wandsworth Town. The borough borders the London Borough of Lambeth to the east, the London Borough of Merton and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames to the south, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames to the west and to the north three boroughs, namely the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster. The local authority is Wandsworth London Borough Council.

Metropolitan Borough of Battersea

Battersea was a civil parish and metropolitan borough in the County of London, England. In 1965, the borough was abolished and its area combined with parts of the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth to form the London Borough of Wandsworth. The borough was administered from Battersea Town Hall on Lavender Hill. That building is now Battersea Arts Centre.

Battersea (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom

Battersea is a constituency in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It has been represented since 2017 by Marsha de Cordova, who currently serves as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities.

Nine Elms Human settlement in England

Nine Elms is an area of south-west London, England, within the London Borough of Wandsworth. It lies on the River Thames, with Battersea to the west, South Lambeth to the south and Vauxhall to the east.

Graveney School is a secondary school and sixth form with academy status in the Furzedown area of Tooting, southwest London, England. The school has a partially selective admissions policy. At the beginning of 2015 Graveney was assessed in an Ofsted inspection report as outstanding.

Lavender Hill

Lavender Hill is a hill, and a shopping and residential street, near Clapham Junction in Battersea, south London. Lavender Hill forms the section of the A3036 as it rises eastwards out of the Falconbrook valley at Clapham Junction, and retains that name for approximately 1.3 km to the corner of Queenstown Road in Battersea, beyond which it is called Wandsworth Road towards Vauxhall.

Northern line extension to Battersea Public rapid transport construction project

The Northern line extension to Battersea is an extension of the London Underground Northern line currently under construction from Kennington to Battersea in South West London, terminating at the redeveloped Battersea Power Station. The extension will form a continuation of the Charing Cross branch of the line.

Nine Elms tube station

Nine Elms is a London Underground station under construction in Nine Elms, London, as part of the Northern line extension to Battersea. The station is due to open in Autumn 2021. When open, it will serve the rapidly growing area, New Covent Garden Market and the Embassy of the United States.

Battersea Power Station tube station

Battersea Power Station is a London Underground station under construction in Battersea, London, as part of the Northern line extension to Battersea (NLE).

Wandsworth Museum

Wandsworth Museum is a local museum in the London Borough of Wandsworth, southwest London, England. This community museum covers the cultural and social history of Wandsworth, especially artifacts and artworks that show contemporary and traditional skills of local people.

Tom Morris, OBE is an English theatre director, writer and producer. He was the Artistic Director at BAC from 1995-2004, he has been Associate Director at the National Theatre since 2004 and Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic since 2009.

<i>The Masque of the Red Death</i> (play)

The Masque of the Red Death was an original theatre production by British theatre company Punchdrunk, in collaboration with the Battersea Arts Centre that ran from September 2007 to April 2008

David Jubb is a theatre producer and the current Artistic Director and CEO of Battersea Arts Centre. He has been BAC's Artistic Director since 2004, sharing the Joint Artistic Directorship with David Micklem from 2008-2012, and CEO since 2008. He also worked as a Development Producer at Battersea Arts Centre (1999-2001), working with Artistic Director Tom Morris to develop Scratch and BAC’s Ladder of Development.

Riverside Radio is a local radio station based in Battersea, London, which broadcasts local news, sports, music and specialist shows. Its main audience is based in South West London.

Battersea Town Hall

Battersea Town Hall, originally the New Parochial Offices, Battersea, is a Grade II* listed municipal building in Battersea, south London, designed by Edward Mountford and erected between 1891 and 1893 by the Battersea vestry to provide public halls and office space for its staff. The building served for 72 years as the hub of municipal Battersea until the centre of local government was moved to neighbouring Wandsworth in 1965, after which it transitioned to use as a community and arts centre, latterly known as the Battersea Arts Centre.

Andrew Pearson is a British filmmaker, actor, and producer based in the North of England. He was a member of the National Youth Music Theatre before training at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Currently, Andrew Pearson is the artistic director of the Ensemble 52 Theatre Company (E52) based in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire England.

The Offies were launched in 2010 to recognise and celebrate the excellence, innovation and ingenuity of independent Off West End theatres across London.


  1. 1 2 3 Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1184293)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  2. Victorian Society Annual Report 1967-68, London 1968 p.10-11
  3. "NPOR N17247". National Pipe Organ Register . British Institute of Organ Studies . Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  4. "Battersea Arts Centre, registered charity no. 282857". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  5. Jubb, David (8 March 2011). "Turning BAC the clock: Battersea Arts Centre hits 30 – in pictures". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  6. " report of Micklem's departure".
  7. "Playground Projects".
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  13. "Review: Jackson's Way, Battersea Arts Centre - A Younger Theatre". A Younger Theatre. 4 December 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  14. "The Edinburgh festival 2004 -- Perrier Awards 2004". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  15. "The rapid rise of Perrier winner". 29 August 2004. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  16. Monkey, Silver. "Reelstreets | Slade in Flame (aka Flame)". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  17. "24th Battersea Beer Festival". Battersea Beer Festival. CAMRAswl. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  18. 1 2 Jubb, David (14 March 2015). "Save Battersea Arts Centre". National Funding Scheme . Archived from the original on 15 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  19. "Bystanders watch in horror as huge fire breaks out at Battersea Arts Centre". London Evening Standard . 13 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  20. Walker, Peter; Quinn, Ben; Rawlinson, Kevin (13 March 2015). "Fire severely damages Battersea Arts Centre in London". The Guardian . Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  21. "Battersea Arts Centre fire: Venue partly reopens". 15 March 2015 via
  22. "A new mission for Battersea Arts Centre and our next steps". Battersea Arts Centre: Blog. 25 May 2015.
  23. Thorpe, Harriet (13 December 2019). "Battersea Arts Centre culminates a 12-year redesign in style". Wallpaper. Retrieved 23 July 2020.