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Local theatre group hits out at Bernie Grant Arts Centre over rent hike as eviction looms

Black Arts Production Theatre was handed a 42% rent hike with one month’s notice, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Bernie Grant Arts Centre and (inset) Black Arts Productions
Bernie Grant Arts Centre and (inset) Black Arts Production Theatre

Bernie Grant Arts Centre (BGAC) has come under fire from a local theatre group after it was hit with a 42% rent increase for using the Tottenham venue – and now faces eviction.

One of the founders of Black Arts Production Theatre Ltd (BAP), which operates out of a studio space it rents from BGAC, said they only received a month’s notice about the increase.

Andrew Reid, BAP Theatre’s co-founder along with his brother Richard Reid, said BGAC had increased the studio’s rent in March from £420 per month to £600. Unable to pay this amount, he said the group was now set to be evicted on Friday, 7th June, and had set up a petition to help gain support.

BGAC argues that the rate is still below market value and that it had previously not increased the rent for seven years.

However, Andrew said: “One month’s notice I don’t think is adequate to ask for an extra £180.”

BAP Theatre was founded in 1992, due to a lack of opportunity for black and ethnic minorities performing on TV and in theatre. But Andrew believes BGAC’s aim has shifted from investing in local talent to engaging outside talent.

Since October, when BAP Theatre held its last show Welcome to England which Andrew said sold out, the group hasn’t put on another show at BGAC.

He said: “We were involved in the centre from the beginning, the ethos of the centre is it’s meant to be for local people and employ local people.

“The centre is meant to be reducing crime rates and diverting people away from crime and creating artists.”

The group has enlisted the help of Pauline Campbell, a lawyer working on the Justice4Windrush Campaign, to ensure the Windrush generation and their descendants are supported and have a voice.

According to Pauline’s statement the group had offered to pay £450 per month, which it paid in April, but could not afford more.

Andrew said currently the centre had lost two businesses due to rent increases. He added: “They [BGAC] received Arts Council funding to give to outside organisations to come do things in the theatres, but with local people nothing is happening.”

In response Azieb Pool, BGAC artistic director and chief executive, said: “We fully appreciate how tough things are for black arts organisations in the current climate; the increased financial pressures, the tough funding climate, and the constant diminishing of arts provision makes it harder than ever for brilliant organisations to do great work.

“In a bid to support the organisations within our Enterprise Studio, we have not increased our rents for over seven years, unfortunately, we are also severely affected by the changing arts sector and reluctantly have to raise the rents to ensure our own financial viability.

“Market rates for studio spaces of similar sizes in the area are over £800, and with this in mind our rent has gone up from £420/480 to £600 – which still represents a considerably discounted rate. 

“Even with the new rent BGAC would be subsidising BAP and other tenants approximately £2,400 each per year – which currently represents in excess of £48,000 per year from BGAC to our studio tenants. In addition we offer studio tenants a 20% discount on theatre hires, and last year gave BAP a reduction of 35% on theatre hire.”


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