Blackheath’s Conservatoire seeks funds to stay open

Pic: Zhora Quareshi

Pic: Zhora Qureshi

After 132 years of service, the Conservatoire community arts centre is facing closure due to lack of funding.

The multi-arts complex, in Blackheath, has been struggling to stay open since the recession hit in 2008.

Founded in 1881 by William Webster, who also founded the Blackheath Halls, the Conservatoire was one of the first music schools in the country. The centre has served the community for generations. It is one of the oldest surviving institutions of its type in London.

Sydney Thornbury, chief executive of the Conservatoire, said that closing the centre would be a huge loss to the community: “Each week over 1,200 people take classes.  Generations of locals have studied here, including luminaries like Gary Oldman and Kate Bush.”

The centre is currently trying to raise £175,000 by the end of February 2013, to avoid closing in August. In addition to raising funds, it needs to provide a business plan to refinance their existing debt and support the facility in the long run.

”With no reserves to call upon, the needs of two aging buildings, the lack of modern systems as well as infrastructure and a need to refresh the business model, it has been difficult to weather the downturn,”  Thornbury said.

She explained that a new CEO and team of trustees, chaired by Lord Andrew Mawson, one of the country’s leading social entrepreneurs, has been brought in to address the problem.

Emphasising the urgency of the situation she said: “Our existing loans expire at the end of February and we must refinance them or face foreclosure.  Based on the strength of the new business model and the strategic partner, we are confident of being able to refinance these loans.”

“However, if we are unable to also have enough funds at that time to operate and provide the working capital we need for the rest of the academic year, then we will have to close regardless.”

The Conservatoire has so far raised £132,000 and they have until the end of February to raise the remaining £43,000.

They are currently running a series of benefit events with artists and musicians, with the money from ticket sales going to support the fund.

Events include a jazz concert, a Motown concert, a candlelight drawing salon, a family Sunday event and a professors at play concert.

People can buy tickets and donate online by going to the website,

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