Battersea Arts Centre today announces a partnership with the NHS to become the community Vaccination Centre for Wandsworth. From Monday 8 March 2021 residents from the borough will be welcomed into the Lavender Hill venue. They will receive vaccines, administered by trained NHS staff. Residents will be contacted by the NHS and asked to book an appointment. This marks the next step in the cultural hub’s COVID response, as it continues to inspire hope by working to support the community.
The front part of the building will be exclusively for Wandsworth residents receiving the vaccine. The Council Chamber room, where the vaccinations will take place, is being trans-formed by the NHS into a clinical and contained area.
Battersea Arts Centre is the only arts venue in South London to host large scale vaccinations. As part of the initiative, it is commissioning installations which inspire hope, curiosity and encourage visitors to imagine a better future for their community. Some of this work will be made available to experience online via bac.org.uk/discover
Artists making creative contributions include poet and playwright Inua Ellams, activists and performance artists Scottee & Friends, comedian Rosie Jones, Brazilian student collective coletivA ocupação, learning disabled theatre company Access All Areas, artist activist the vacuum cleaner, artist Richard DeDomenici, artist and gardener Jo Fong with contributing artist Sonia Hughes, experimental performance duo She Goat, performance makers Bert & Nasi, visual artist Dan Tombs, with a welcoming installation in Battersea Arts Centre’s foyer by production designer Rajha Shakiry.
The other side of the building, including the flagship Grand Hall auditorium, will remain available for artist residencies, local community groups and venue hires. They will continue to develop innovative new work, run social enterprises and take part in creative activities, when it is safe to do so and following health and safety guidelines from the government and Public Health England.
Tarek Iskander, Artistic Director and CEO of Battersea Arts Centre, says:
“Throughout its radical history our Town Hall building has always been a potent example of hope and refuge at times of crises. The next few months will be no different. Everyone at Battersea Arts Centre is delighted to be collaborating with the NHS, Wandsworth Council and our brilliant local partners to be part of the response to these impossibly difficult times.
“As well as supporting our collective public health efforts, we will continue to commission remarkable new creative projects from professional artists, young people and our communities. It’s these shared collective experiences that make our lives worth fighting for. Batter-sea’s old motto is ‘Not for Me, Not for You, But for Us’. That’s been our guiding principle throughout this pandemic, and feels as relevant now as it did in 1893 when the Town Hall first opened. Hopefully a better future for all of us is just round the corner, and by working together we can achieve that goal.”
Dr Nicola Jones, Wandsworth GP and lead GP for the vaccination programme across South West London, says:
“Battersea’s former Town Hall has been at the centre of the local community since it was built and we are immensely grateful for the support of Battersea Arts Centre as we continue to expand the vaccination programme.
“Vaccinating as many people as possible will help to bring Covid-19 under control – offering us a realistic hope of a route out of the pandemic. Vaccinations are taking place in locations across south west London, they are safe and effective and I would encourage anyone who is unsure about being vaccinated to talk to your GP or look on NHS.uk for the facts on the vaccines.”
The Grade II* listed building was renovated recently, part of an experimental 12-year capital project with architects Haworth Tompkins to honour its Victorian heritage while creating more vibrant and inclusive spaces. Using innovative design methods and feedback from theatre artists, audience members and the community, the building is now one of the UK’s most flexible venues for performance. This allows Battersea Arts Centre to respond creatively when faced with new challenges, to better serve the community and collaborating artists.
Since the start of the pandemic, Battersea Arts Centre has worked to support to the community. It teamed up with schools when they closed in March 2020 and partnered with local artists, organisations and volunteers to commission and deliver 5,800 Create & Learn PlayKits, ensuring that all children across South West London still had access to creative materials regardless of economic circumstances. In the autumn it paired up local food sharing charity Waste Not Want Not Battersea with theatre artists Hunt & Darton for a live-reality experiment to inspire collaboration and tackle food waste in the community.
Further activity to entertain audiences and support freelance creative artists included two-way live streamed shows, where audiences tuning in from home were beamed in real-time into the Grand Hall to interact with the performers. The Grand Hall was transformed into a concert hall to host the Philharmonia’s critically acclaimed series of live streamed classical music concerts. In the summer, there were sold out socially distanced comedy gigs in the building’s open-air Courtyard.
Battersea’s former Town Hall has been at the centre of Battersea’s social, political and cultural life since it first opened in 1893. Throughout its rich history it has been guided by its wider purpose of providing a safe and inspiring space for the local community. As it transforms into a Vaccine Centre, Wandsworth residents will follow in the footsteps of those who celebrated the historic inauguration of John Archer as London’s first Black mayor in 1913; who came to collect their gas mask and ration book during the Second World War; and who attended rallies for equality when Battersea Arts Centre hosted suffragists like Charlotte Despard.
Looking forwards, the aim is to continue to remove barriers for anyone working with or visit-ing the cultural hub, which has received several awards for its community and inclusive focus. In February 2020, Battersea Arts Centre launched as the world’s first Relaxed Venue, using a methodology developed by Touretteshero in partnership with Battersea Arts Centre, following the principles of Relaxed Performances. For the venue, this means aiming for access, inclusion and empowering positive social change to be at the heart of every decision.