Goodness Gracious Me star Sanjeev Bhaskar today launched a major fundraising initiative to help enable the relocation of legendary South London arts centre Ovalhouse to a brand new theatre in Brixton. Carrying a hod of bricks, the Ovalhouse alumini posed for cameras outside the venue’s current Kennington home. The Ovalhouse Buy A Brick Campaign calls on supporters of the move to get involved by sponsoring a brick to help fund the construction of a new accessible modern building for artists, young people and the community in the heart of Brixton.
The Buy A Brick Campaign is launched following the news at the end of last year of Lambeth Council’s unanimous decision to grant planning permission for the project as part of a significant regeneration scheme, the Arts Council of England’s announcement of an initial grant of £130,600 as the first stage of an overall £3 million large capital grant proposal for the move and former 007, Pierce Brosnan’s support of the fundraising drive necessary to facilitate it.
Bhaskar’s experience at Ovalhouse was life changing. His show, The Secret Asians, with composer Nitin Sawhney was discovered by the BBC at the South London venue Iin 1995 and as a result it evolved into the seminal radio and TV comedy series Goodness Gracious Me and he became a household name. He says: “Ovalhouse holds a special place in my heart. It is a hotbed of creativity and opportunity, which is vital to both its local community and the wider cultural environment of the city. I was enormously privileged to have worked there when I did and That experience changed my life in more ways than I could’ve ever imagined. I know I am not alone in that and the move to Brixton will ensure that Ovalhouse will continue to provide such opportunities and being a place such of vibrance and excitement way into the future. Let’s make it happen. BUY A BRICK!!!”
The new building will be a fully accessible, fit for purpose and sustainable modern theatre. These new premises will enable Ovalhouse to develop quality arts provision in a vibrant and richly diverse community.
Building work for the new home, which is part of a new development on Somerleyton Road and Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, will begin in 2016 with completion in the Spring of 2018. The new venue will offer two theatre spaces plus seven multi-use accessible studios – for rehearsal, participatory work and community activities – and will comprise a significant suite of cultural workspace, bringing jobs and opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises and supporting the already strong cultural sector in Brixton. The flexible theatre spaces will have the facilities needed for artists to make innovative new work and there will also be an increased range of training within the youth leadership programmes, ensuring professional opportunities and cross-transferable skills for local young people. The needs of vulnerable young people will be met in terms of access, safe spaces and purpose-built space, while the building will generate an income stream that will make Ovalhouse resilient and safer from financial shock.
With £6.5 million already raised and an Arts Council Award of £3 million, a further £2 million needs to be raised to see the project through to opening. The Buy A Brick Campaign is the first in a series of fundraising inititatives which will take place over the next two years
Deborah Bestwick MBE, Director of Ovalhouse says: “I remember the buzz when Sanjeev and Nitin Sawhney brought The Secret Asians to Ovalhouse – and over the years there have been many more new artists who have launched themselves from our theatre. The Buy A Brick campaign will help us support the ‘yet to be discovered ‘ talent – artists, young artists and audiences are the building blocks of the future of a thriving theatre. Everyone who sponsors a brick can be proud to support that future, and we’d love to have your name in our foyer”
Full details of the Buy A Brick Campaign and details of how to become involved can be found at http://www.ovalhouse.com