The Activities and Events Officer offers a uniquely thespian insight into the Bloomsbury Theatre’s closure and reassures UCLU Arts Societies that all is not lost.
Earlier this year saw the just uproar among the student body as the Bloomsbury Theatre, home of UCLU arts productions, birthplace of many a budding UCL dramatic, staging place for the world-renowned UCL Opera, closed its doors. Amidst the chaos there were cries of backstabbing, howls of deception, and echoes of deceit, the nature of which perhaps more suited to the Shakespearean antics hosted within the theatre (I’m looking at you, Macbeth..).
Having re-read that opening paragraph, perhaps I’m getting carried away by all this talk of plays. Possibly the fact that my education at the same school as the bard himself means that I’ve had his plays drilled into me since I was a young’un. But in any case, I shall set out here to provide some clarity on what’s really going on with the Bloomsbury Theatre. But to lighten the mood a little, I shall tell this story through a string of quotes from none other than Shakespeare himself*.
“All the world’s a stage…” – As You Like It, Act II
Unfortunately however, in this case, not all the world is a stage. More specifically, behind those disturbingly closed doors into the old foyer, does not lie a ready-to-go theatre. Indeed there have been rumours of the sort. This is not some bizarre spin-off of Romeo and Juliet. The Bloomsbury Theatre did not take a dodgy apothecary’s potion that would make it appear dead, with arts students, then discovering its deadly appearance, expected to die off. No, what The Bloomsbury Theatre did take was a massive overdose of asbestos, which was disturbed during routine renovations. As a result of this there was a health and safety need to strip the auditorium of as much asbestos as possible. What this has unfortunately left behind is merely a shell of a theatre. Walls and a floor and not an awful lot else is the current situation.
He carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears.
Death, that dark spirit, in’s nervy arm doth lie,
Which being advanc’d, declines, and then men die.” – Coriolanus, Act II
Hang on, hang on, hang on! I know what you’re thinking…. and no! I am not about to launch into an ad hominem attack on a member of UCL Senior Management… But that is precisely the view I want to challenge briefly. The closure of the theatre was less an evil ploy than some rumours have suggested. In fact, thanks in part to the tireless work of members of CSC staff (if only they could be awarded some kind of personality of the year award… *cough* arts panel *cough*), UCL SMT have actually agreed to a substantial sum of money to be paid to the union to cover the costs of us hiring out external venues for the period while the Bloomsbury Theatre is shut.
Not performing in the Bloomsbury is deeply saddening, but UCLU will not let the arts die. That is why there are agreements in place with Theatres such as The Shaw, The Adelphi and so on, so that we can continue to support our performing societies as best we can. Further to this, thanks in no small part to the great work of members of the UCLU Arts scene, past and present, UCL have stated their desire to the reopen the Bloomsbury Theatre in 2018: a new, refurbished theatre, better equipped for the needs of its students. And this project has support right through senior staff at the university.
“it is the disease of not listening, the malady
of not marking, that I am troubled withal.” – Henry IV pt. 2, Act I
Thankfully in the break between Shakespeare’s time and ours, we have found a remedy for such malaise. At least, the problem here described is not present in our current situation. Since the Bring Back The Bloomsbury campaign quite rightly kicked off about the closure, UCL have begun to heed the student voice. Before and over summer members of that campaign and the arts community sat around the table with UCL and had their opinions on the theatre taken. Since then I, as AEO, have been appointed to the project group, to represent your views – something I am doing with the help of Matt, our Arts Officer, and the Activities Network. I can also confirm that what was said before the summer has not been forgotten. All of the suggestions from students about the space are being considered. As was promised earlier this year, UCL have agreed to provide further consultation with larger groups of students throughout the project, when there are decisions to be made which will readily affect them.
Anyway, before I start getting carried away and contort any more treasured quotations away from their original meanings, I shall stop here. The theatre will reopen: UCL has committed to that. Students have been, are being, and will continue to be consulted throughout the project; that is something for which I will fight tooth and nail if I must, but given that so far we have been listened to, I doubt it will come to that. There is now a project group set up to ensure the Bloomsbury is brought back, and I will continue to stress the importance of meeting the 2018 date. For now, its over to that group, to myself and the other members of the board. As Volumnia put it in my favourite Shakespeare play, Coriolanus (yeah, I’m a classicist, okay?) “Action is eloquence”. Let us cease talking, and remember that our actions speak louder than words.
*if you want to put on a tin foil hat and believe that Shakespeare didn’t really write his own plays then please feel free, you are entitled to your own opinion. I however remain loyal to my fellow alumnus.