Arcola Theatre: fundraising shortfall

The Colourworks building. Photo: Future_Arcola

A high-profile fundraising appeal to relocate the Arcola Theatre in Hackney has fallen significantly short of its £150,000 aim, with the target date just days away.

After ten years on Arcola St, the theatre is moving to the Colourworks premises on Ashwin St. Launching a fundraising drive in September, it was hoped the funds necessary for the move would be secured by the middle of next week. Despite support from high profile names (including artist Antony Gormley and fashion deisgner Katharine Hamnett), the appeal has raised only £40,000 so far, prompting the theatre to scale back their plans for the move.

With the conversion of the new premises still underway, Arcola’s Head of Marketing Barry Wilson insists that the move will go ahead, albeit at a different pace. “We have had to rethink how we’re going to progress,” he said, “but studio one and the foyer will be ready for January. It’ll just take us a little longer to get to the level at which Arcola currently stands.”

Arcola have extensive links in the Dalston community, working heavily in youth training and sustainability. In line with their dedication to carbon neutral production, the refit is to be conducted “in a radical, DIY and sustainable way”. Arcola are asking for volunteers to help refit the new premises, from general physical labour, to specialist tradesworkers. 

The theatre are moving due to plans by their landlord to install luxury aprtments on the top floor of their building. The planned refurbishment of the upper levels requires structural changes which would dramatically impinge on the performance space of the theatre below. Arcola’s lease runs out next month, at which point they hoped to have raised the funds needed to convert the Colourworks premises.

Despite the shortfall, Wilson remains optimistic, reassuring patrons: “We were never in danger of closing, we want people to understand that.” He added that the conversion is well under way, funded by bridging loans, but that they have had to be “very resourceful.” On the weekend they secured the old clothes factory, Artistic Director  Mehmet Ergen invited staff and friends around for a wall painting party.

The timing of the move comes as arts groups around the country have their funding slashed, with Wilson agreeing that the financial crisis has affected the appeal. Arcola is to lose £10862 (almost 7%) of their Arts Council endowment next year, though Wilson isn’t overly concerned. “Very little [of our capital] has ever come from public money, we’re just not that heavily reliant on it.” That said, he admitted that “we’ve never had to ask for money like this before, it’s been an organic process for us, and a real eye-opener.”

The fundraising drive has now been extended, and will remain “ongoing, with smaller appeals launched for specific needs.” Gala performances of Arcola’s swansong production of “The Cradle Will Rock” have also been scheduled, offering patrons a chance to experience first hand the work that their donations will support.

For our pick of this week’s best gigs, exhibitions, club nights and events along the East London Line, check out our “Pick of the Line” here.