The newly refurbished Grand Hall at Battersea Arts Centre wears its scars with pride.
The Victorian former town hall, which came to prominence after the election of London’s first black mayor, John Spencer, in 1913, was left blackened and charred by a fire which ripped through its roof on March 13, 2015.
Now it has been lovingly restored with its scarred murals and stucco still bearing the marks of the blaze where the 80 brave firefighters of South London – and some from across the river – tried to save the building from the flames and smoke which could be seen across the whole of London.
What’s new, though, is an ingenious barrel vault over the hall, which half hides banners within the V-shaped ceiling, which can be adjusted to alter the acoustics of the building for everything from a single speaker, to DJs, to a full orchestra.
The decor brings the aesthetic of shabby chic into a performance venue for the first time – The Roundhouse in Camden is only like that because of the rock fans banging their heads against the walls all the time.
Everyone but the insurers is probably almost glad the fire happened.
They will all be looking forward to the official re-opening on September 6, when the theatre company whose set was destroyed in the fire, Geko, resumes the nine performances which were scrapped as a result in 2015.
The Phoenix Season, which continues after this, celebrates Battersea Arts Centre’s role as a developer of inventive artists and as a centre for the entire community.
It’s building-wide and offers a platform to artists and leaders of the future, inspiring people to take creative risks to shape the future.
There are over 2,000 tickets for Grand Hall shows and the Christmas show, Return to Elm House, available for £1 for specific groups.
Battersea Arts Centre is also launching a new Phoenix Award to offer talented artists the opportunity to develop their work and present it to larger audiences – an opportunity afforded by the re-opening of the Grand Hall. David Jubb, artistic director and chief executive, said: “We are so grateful to everyone who has offered their time, advice and support over the last three years.
“Without it, we could not have kept going. It has been a privilege to work with so many inspiring people who have super-charged our mission to take creative risks to shape the future.”
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