Where Culture is Cool

Battersea Arts Centre

Photo by Lei Yang — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

The new year has brought new stories of woe or wanton behavior in culture. How nice, then, to report on a great story about culture: the new life of a cultural center.

A year ago, the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) was in desperate need of new funding, and new energy.

Surely, you know many people who shy away from cultural centers. They are too afraid that the institution puts culture on a high and mighty pedestal. They approach a program as though it should only be consumed on a school curriculum. They wait to go until it might be a nice treat for grandma’s birthday.

There certainly can be something about a country’s cultural center that is too much a part of accepted (i.e. elite) wisdom, too official, and too nationalistic in tone if not content.

David Jubb, artistic director of BAC, leads the way on how to center culture.

Now, BAC is one of the hottest places for creative work. Last fall, BAC produced The Masque of the Red Death created by Punchdrunk theatricals, which took over the center’s spaces and brought life to all the nooks and crannies of a building and an art form. Soon, the audience numbers will top over 40,000.

Red Death is one of Jubb’s “playground projects” — bring in the artists, make sure they have keys to all the rooms and cupboards, and let them play. Who would have thought that our new model of a cultural center should be a sandbox?

Future plans include providing a place for artists to eat and sleep there while they create and share work with public. Coming up is the BAC festival, Burst.

In the story from the Telegraph posted on Fest News, Judd said: “The biggest truth about theatre is that it’s fake. Only when artists make work with authenticity and integrity does it feel real.”

A cultural center is the cool place to be: thanks to BAC, that’s real.

- Bill Reichblum

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