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Nov 12 2014

Guest Post: Saving Harrow Arts Centre

guest_postGuest post, from one of our readers. I’ve not included his/her name, as I don’t have permission to do so, but I’d be happy to add that if he/she wants. It’s a good read.

One of the cost saving measures being considered by the Council is the closure of the Harrow Arts Centre. As the person who Chaired the Trust that ran the building some years ago, I can certainly confirm that it is very well used, by a reasonable, although not very representative, cross section of Harrow people. The rooms are relatively cheap to hire, and can accommodate groups of various sizes. A large car park, and easy access are a benefit.

However, there are many down sides. It is in a remote spot in the borough. It is inescapably an school building, dating back over 100 years. The layout is extremely impractical, with warrens of corridors and stairs. The theatre element is no more than a box, with no permanent stage, or audience seating, and dreadful acoustics. It is a nightmare to run, and expensive to heat, light, and maintain. It has suffered from massive under investment for decades, and additional revenue streams have not been explored enough.

In today’s age, it does not fit into the category of “Arts Centre” but more a series of meeting rooms. There is no pleasant gallery space etc. etc..

The decision is a tough one, and personally, I cannot think that any council would close it, unless it had alternative plans for a modern, hi-tech, bright, airy community facility, where people can display their Art forms, experiment, socialise and be creative. There lies the nub.

The council owns the land, and it is a large site. A Planning development gain to include the construction of a purpose built centre is one option. A sell off, with a development gain more centrally located an alternative. Yes, times are hard – but the Royal Festival Hall was planned and construction commenced, at the height of the Second World War. Wood Green’s Central Library was the result of such a scheme.

If closure is seriously being considered, (and I very much doubt that it is) then get the planners, architects, Arts activists and politicians together and give Harrow a landmark Cultural Centre, open and relevant to its very diverse population. When I was Head of Arts and Leisure at Haringey in 1974, Harrow Arts Council invited me to speak about the prospect of a brand new Arts Centre for Harrow – attached to the Civic Centre, I recall. 40 years on……

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1 comment

  1. sonoo malkani

    The above comments tempt me to say that it might be well worth getting the Council to have a chat with this person who certainly seems to have some insights into the Harrow Arts Centre and plans considering its future.

    Perhaps other wise folk may have ideas which they might also wish to share and make constructive comments rather than political points,resulting in some positive steps.

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