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London theatre Ovalhouse receives major funding for Brixton move


The legendary London arts centre Ovalhouse received a major boost today in its bid to relocate to a new purpose built home in the heart of Brixton. Arts Council England has announced an initial grant of £130,600 as the first stage of an overall £3 million large capital grant proposal to help facilitate the move. This comes hot on the heels of Lambeth Council’s unanimous decision at the end of last year to grant planning permission for the project and the announcement in September of Ovalhouse alumnus and former 007, Pierce Brosnan’s support of a fundraising campaign that will enable the move.

The development has been made possible by a partnership with the London Borough of Lambeth who have provided a prime site as part of a significant regeneration scheme. 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, a successful Arts Council Award of £3 million would leave a further £2 million to be raised to see the project through to opening.

Joyce Wilson, London Area Director, Arts Council England says: “Ovalhouse has grand but achievable aims for their new home. The relocation will allow a more accessible building in a growing and vibrant part of Brixton. It will help cement Ovalhouse’s role as a developer of diverse artists and experts of inclusion. We look forward to seeing the second stage of its application so that we can help get this exciting project off the ground, and see its benefits across London.

Robin Priest, Development Board Chair, Ovalhouse says: “We are delighted that our long standing partnership with the Arts Council has been expanded (and cemented!) with this capital grant. It will enable us to repay this generosity and faith through an enhanced contribution by Ovalhouse to the Arts Council’s priorities for this country’s artists and audiences.”

He continued: “The Arts Council could not support us without itself being underpinned by the Government’s recognition of the importance of the arts in the most recent Spending Review – we are therefore equally grateful for that. The capital grant is a vital ingredient in our commitment to our strong partnership with Lambeth Council – which together form the foundations for an exciting and sustainable future both for Ovalhouse and for an important part of the centre of Brixton.

Councillor Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth Council says: “What a wonderful start to the new year and I’m absolutely delighted for Deborah and the Ovalhouse team whose determination and hard work has secured this investment, against stiff competition around the country. This is well deserved and a huge vote of confidence in the new theatre and in Lambeth.

Deborah Bestwick MBE, Director of Ovalhouse says: “The vision for a new Ovalhouse in Brixton is built on the aspirations of artists, young people, community members and the council. You spend exciting years dreaming of the space and facilities that will make it all possible. 17 years of testing and re-testing our needs, our budgets, and what it takes to create a sustainable theatre for the needs of artists and audiences now and in the future, for the modern financial climate. Now we can get on and actually do it!

Pierce Brosnan, Patron, says: “2016 has started where 2015 left off, with great news for Ovalhouse. This, combined with the approval of planning permission, means that we are in a really strong position to make this vital move happen. I feel that we are casting a line into the future that will enable Ovalhouse to continue to have the same kind of profound positive influence on the lives of young people as it had on mine.


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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