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“Because President Trump is coming on the same day we re-open the Grand Hall”

BLOG – about the picture we took outside Battersea Arts Centre

Photograph by Manuel Vason

On Friday 13th March 2015, the Grand Hall of Battersea’s former Town Hall, home to Battersea Arts Centre, was destroyed by fire. In the days, weeks and months which followed, 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. On Friday 13th July 2018 we will invite people back in to the renewed Grand Hall – for an early glimpse of the restoration.

We will also 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 for Friday 13th July we decided to take a commemorative 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 UK on the same day 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 on this occasion. 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.

We are inspired today by those who have gone before us in Battersea. The house which stood on Lavender Hill, prior to the construction of Battersea’s Town Hall, was called Elm House. A woman called Jeanie Nassau Senior lived in Elm House.

She was the country’s first female civil servant, she developed the idea of foster care and her motto at Elm House was “come to us”. What would Jeanie have to say to us today in 2018?

We think she would be filled with hope in terms of the way people have responded to the fire at Battersea Arts Centre. And we want to carry her productive legacy forwards.

We are excited that on Friday 13th July we will offer a first glimpse of the renewed Grand Hall rebuilt by the strength of people coming together, built on the land on which Elm House once stood.

This first event is just one small part of a wider plan to say thank you to members of the public for their incredible support, their generosity and love, in helping the arts centre get back on its feet.

There are 10 free “Phoenix Events” over the coming months and over 2,000 x £1 tickets for our local community. We hope you will join us: to find out more visit

Full resolution image can be downloaded here

13 Mar 2018

Categories: Culture, POLITICS and the everyday FIRE in Battersea's Grand Hall

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