Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Spaces

I spent yesterday morning at the new Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham. Actually, it's not even new yet - it opens in September, and is currently a building site. Gaylene Gould, the programmer, and I walk around in yellow anoraks, wellies and hard hats, imaging where the stage will be. It's a space full of potential - a cross between the larger space at Riverside and the Tricycle. About 300 seats. And there will be creative businesses on site, a rehearsal /workshop space and so on. All rather lovely.

Gaylene is keen to bring Dilemma here, and it's easy to see why. As I walk from the tube, I spot at least three shops advertising the facility to send money home to Ghana. We're right in the heart of London's Ghanaian community here, and that's the audience this centre has to reach if it's to make any sense at all as a focus for black arts. Not that this is an easy job. Gaylene seems very aware of the size of the task ahead - lots of her community contacts have involved people not really even knowing what a theatre is (they tend to think it's a cinema or a music venue). It could so easily go the way of so many of those Lottery-funded white elephants that now populate the country..... But somehow I suspect it won't. There seems to be a huge momentum behind this place, both from the management, the community and politically. It should be very exciting to be in there at the start.

In the evening I meet up with Elsie at the South Bank. It now looks as if our London run will be split between the Bernie Grant Centre and the new space here, known as the Front Room. Both managements seem happy about there: there's not likely to be any real overlap of audiences. The Front Room is a stage in the foyer - a rather odd idea as a theatre venue. I had been rather worried about this, but as we talk I start to see possibilities. After all, I've been saying all along that this production will need to feel as if it could happen in an African village clearing (indeed - all being well, it WILL happen there), so a space which has the same informality is actually rather appropriate. We find ourselves talking animatedly about ways of integrating the audience into the piece - as if they are surrounded by the ghosts of slavery (which, of course, they are).

Anti-Slavery International agree to collaborate on the production. This is all very good!

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