Katie Riley reports on the latest measure by UCLU Arts to stop the extended closure of the Bloomsbury Theatre
On Wednesday afternoon, members of UCLU arts societies staged a protest in reaction to the recent announcement the Bloomsbury Theatre will be closed until 2018. It started in the Clubs and Societies Common Room (CSC) and ended outside of Provost Michael Arthur’s office.
Although the protest was small – at its height around 20 people – the point was not to attract a large crowd. According to Rebecca Pinnington, a member of the UCLU Musical Theatre Society, the goal was to catch high-ranking university officials like Michael Arthur, Vice-Provost (Operations) Rex Knight, and Director of UCL Estates Andrew Grainger as they entered a meeting in the Provost’s office to discuss the plans for the theatre, and give them an open letter about the Bloomsbury with testimonials from past and present members of UCLU arts societies.
“In the space of under 24 hours, just by contacting friends and alumni, we’ve had 40 statements from people saying what the Bloomsbury meant to them – what it meant for their career development, their personal development, and their time at university,” says Pinnington, “So regardless of how many people turn up, we know we’re supported.”
The group of protesters, which included Activities and Events Officer Asad Khan, Women’s Officer Natalie James, and prolific student activist David Dahlborn, began by making signs (the most pointed of which simply said “Art is dead”) in the CSC, then grabbed the megaphone and headed through campus, down Foster Court, to Torrington Place, to Gower Street, to the Main Quad, where they remained for about 30 minutes.
Saying the protest attracted a crowd may be an overstatement, but multiple passers-by did stop and ask questions, seemingly confused by the small but irate group of mostly women, chanting: “Theatre cuts, arts losses, money for the bosses”. Many of the onlookers commented on the size of the protest, with one saying: “They have enough signs. It’s the people that’s the problem.”
The group then made its way to the entrance to Arthur’s office, where security was already waiting for them.
Eventually they achieved their goal, when they were able to hand copies of the open letter to both Grainger and Knight, who were on their way into the provost’s office for the planned meeting to discuss the closing of the theatre.
The protesters told both Grainger and Knight they were simply looking for an answer as to why the Bloomsbury was being closed for two more years. Grainger said they’d have answers by the next day (Thursday), while Knight refused to even engage with the question.
“Part of the reason I came to UCL was it had a professional, working theatre,” says Mabel Moll, a first year involved in UCLU Musical Theatre Society, “To take that away, especially without an explanation, I think is false advertising.”
Featured image credit: UCL