Battersea Arts Centre celebrates 50 years with set of special events

Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) has committed to even more diversity and accessibility on the occasion of its golden anniversary.

Alongside a diverse range of artists, the performance space, located near Clapham Junction railway station in Wandsworth, is offering an interactive exhibition, Time Quest, from this month, and more events are to come.

CEO Tarek Iskander said: “2024 will be a very special year for BAC, as we celebrate 50 years of being a home for extraordinary artists, young people, and communities.”

The upcoming spring season features a list of independent artists such as Figs in Wigs (March 14-27), Emma Rice’s Wise Children (April 23 – May 18), and Katy Baird (May 8-25).

In April, BAC’s Young Producers will return with another Homegrown Festival, consisting of various events and exhibitions.

As part of the 50th celebrations, BAC will also host a series of panel talks discussing issues impacting the arts in 2024.

Iskander said: “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the incredible people who’ve enabled BAC to thrive for the past 50 years, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone to join our celebrations in our beautiful building in this anniversary year.”

Figs in Wigs performance company
Figs in Wigs are a UK-based, female-led performance company focusing on art, music, theatre, comedy, and dance. Credit: Kate Bones


Battersea Town Hall opened in 1893 as the administrative headquarters of the former Battersea borough.

But after the creation of the London Borough of Wandsworth in 1965, the building was abandoned.

Amy Vaughan, Executive Director at BAC explained that in the early 1970s, the local community came together and wanted to make a use of the historic building.

“Its connection to its community and its importance to its community really sits at the heart of it, and long may that be the case,” said Vaughan.

Battersea Arts Centre first opened its doors in 1974 as a community arts centre managed by Wandsworth council.

Following threats of closure due to public spending cuts, it became an independent charity in 1980.

Wading through the centre’s history, Vaughan remembered the fire in 2015, which resulted in severe structural damages to the building.

She said: “Its recovery was remarkable, in the way that all of those people from all those layers of interaction over the years rallied around it to get it back on its feet again.”

A team of 80 firefighters manged to save the front of the building, which re-opened 26 hours after the fire.

Thanks to a fundraising campaign, led by then CEO David Jubb, all repairs were completed within three years.

Yet another challenge came with the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when all artistic performances had to be cancelled.

As an unused building with a lot of space, BAC then became a vaccination centre to help ease local hospitals.

Battersea Arts Centre building from the outside
The historical, Grate II listed, building was designed by an English architect E. W. Mountford in 1891. Credit: Daniel Tison

Current issues

According to Vaughan, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is “by far the greatest challenge” for the centre.

She said: “We talk about salaried staff, but actually, artists aren’t on salaries, and to make art is costing much, much more.

“The money has continually gone down in terms of public funding, and the people in the arts have been talking about that for a long time.“

In order to cope with the rising costs, BAC has been offering its attractive space for hire, which allows them additional income.

Despite being tight on budget, Vaughan said that BAC would not increase the ticket price.

BAC continues its pay-what-you-can ticket scheme, with only recommended prices.

A group of young people visiting BAC
For its pay-what-you-can ticket scheme, Battersea Arts Centre is popular among students and young people. Credit: Cameron Slater

Future plans

In the coming years, BAC is planning to open up to more international artists.

As part of this commitment, pioneering Polish company TR Warszawa will come for two nights at the end of May with its award-winning 2020 drama Pieces of a Woman, exploring themes of grief and loss.

“Our ability to talk globally through art is a really important one, especially post-Brexit, with the very negative language about migration,” said Vaughan.

A picture from the movie Pieces of Woman
Pieces of Woman, directed by Kornél Mundruczó, is partly based on a play of the same name which he co-wrote. Credit: Natalia Kabanow

Another goal is to focus more on health and wellbeing, in cooperation with NHS partners.

Vaughan said that BAC is currently exploring options for how to reach out to those who are socially isolated or suffering with anxiety, so they can also benefit from the therapeutic impact of arts.

“Arts can have such a positive impact on health and wellbeing, and be a prevention measure for keeping people happier and healthier for longer,” she said.

As the world’s first ‘Relaxed Venue’, working to identify and dismantle the barriers faced by disabled people, BAC is committed to becoming accessible to everyone and creating equal experiences for all people.

As part of this initiative, at least 90% of events in this season will be accessible for people with audio-visual impairments through BSL interpreters, audio description, and multi-language captions.

Reporter & Social Media Editor at Kingston Courier | + posts

Junior journalist and PR freelancer, with more than three years of experience in the media industry. Combining my creative spirit and analytical thinking, I aspire to spread accurate, unbiased, and valuable information, in a simple and attractive way.

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