Popular community arts hub in Croydon avoids permanent closure

Outside Matthew’s Yard North End Road Venue Pic: Morgan Ofori

A much loved independent arts hub in Croydon which was set to close this weekend due to “inflation and rising energy bills” has avoided closure after public outrage.

Matthew’s Yard, based in West Croydon, said it was closing its doors due to mounting rent arrears and an inability of its landlord, The Arch Company, to give them a “timescale they can work with” in which to pay the outstanding debt.

The community space was founded by couple Leoni Descartes and Saif Bonar in the wake of the devastating Croydon riots in 2011. Matthews Yard operates a 12,000 sq. ft hub for creatives, which includes a combination of coworking space, theatre, live music room, rehearsal space and a selection of studios for artists and creative professionals. These are complemented by a café and bar.

Leoni Descartes (left) and Saif Bonar (right), owners of Matthew’s Yard. Pic: Matthew’s Yard

It has hosted a diverse range of arts, cultural and community events including film festivals, political meetings, activist meetings, charity fundraisers, music gigs, and comedy nights. It has hosted private events ranging from baby showers and birthday parties to weddings and wakes. Chief executive, Bonar estimates that over 50,000 people have used the space.

Bonar said the closure has been avoided after constructive talks with the Arch Company: “On Saturday evening we announced that Matthews Yard would be closing its doors for good due to accruing rent arrears and not being in a position to pay them off quickly enough.”

“Today we have had a very encouraging and positive dialogue with our landlord, The Arch Company and have agreed to a flexible time frame for repayment of our rent arrears in return for us meeting our ongoing rental obligations.”

“We are grateful to everyone for their support and encouragement and we are grateful to The Arch Company who have been willing to engage in dialogue and reach a mutually beneficial resolution. We will not be closing on Saturday.”

“We will be open for our New Year’s Eve party as planned and we will still need your love and support to transition to a registered charity and get through 2023.”

Matthew’s Yard tweeted:

Matthew’s Yard had previously said they accrued over three months of rent arrears since the pandemic and cost of living crisis struck. They claimed the landlord did not care about their “history, recovery plans or community spirit.” The landlord had instructed bailiffs to give the business seven days to pay.

Matthew’s yard had posted a call to action talking of the need to protect local spaces, their importance to local talent, and for the community to support it with all their means.

The closure warning was met with an outpouring of support from local businesses and residents, asking questions of the landlord and the council:

This is not the first time that Matthews Yard has battled financial doom. In 2018, they were forced to create a Crowdfunder after a potential housing development in their space brought forward the threat of closure. After several enforced closures during the Covid-19 pandemic left the business vulnerable, they were able to stay afloat and move to the current West Croydon premises in January 2021.

A brand new crowd-funder has been created to help Matthew’s Yard stay afloat, it is available here.

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