At around 4pm on Friday afternoon a major fire broke out at the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) in London. There were no casualties, but the damage to the grade II listed building – which was undergoing major refurbishment – is extensive.
The Battersea Arts Centre, a hub for theatre and other arts events, is housed in the former Battersea Town Hall, which was built in 1893. Since 2007 the BAC has been engaged in an ambitious, experimental development programme intended to ‘create a building that is truly responsive to the people it is designed for: our artists, our staff and our audiences’. It had recently begun a major phase of building works as part of its renovation plans.
It’s not yet clear what caused the blaze, but it is believed to have started in the roof of the Grand Hall. Photographs from the afternoon show flames taking hold towards the north side of the building, and the central tower collapsing some time later. By evening, the blaze had been brought under control and all but the nearest roads reopened, but fire fighters were still working to put out the last of the flames and damp down the wreckage in the worst affected areas. Police at the scene confirmed that most of the north side of the building has been destroyed, and the structural damage is such that there are fears for the adjoining sections of the building. The south side of the building, however, which opens on to Lavender Hill, was undamaged.
On Friday evening the BAC posted a statement on its website thanking ‘the London Fire Brigade and other emergency services on the scene for the extraordinary work done in incredibly difficult circumstances, preventing the fire from spreading to the front half of the building.’ Investigations into the cause of the fire, and the extent of the damage, will begin as soon as it is safe to do so.
Hundreds of people have already contributed to a fund set up in response to the fire. To donate via the National Fundraising Scheme, click here.