REBECCA PINNINGTON reports on what may be the resolution to the ongoing problem of student theatre space.
Good news for the UCL Arts community: it was confirmed this morning that plans to replace the UCLU Garage Theatre Workshop on campus have been approved.
Following the announcement of the Garage’s closure in early February 2014, Arts Societies were outraged. At the time, no alternative had yet been negotiated to replace the venue, and the future of student-led theatre at UCL looked uncertain, especially for societies whose only performance opportunities were in the Garage. Led by UCLU Stage Crew, Societies launched an online petition to acquire a new space, which has 1221 signatures at the time of writing. This was coupled with a Revue performance of some of the Garage’s best works, which was performed last weekend (22nd February).
Negotiations with UCL Estates and UCL Provost Michael Arthur have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, and the Garage has been under threat since 2010 according to ex-Provost Malcolm Grant’s “Bloomsbury Masterplan”. Now, having met with the Provost and Vice-Provost this morning, UCLUAEO Doris Chen has successfully secured the Harrie Massey lecture as an alternative venue, now that the Garage closure has been finalised. The refurbishment will cost around £2million and will be paid for by the College. It is set to be completed over the summer as part of the Reception Refurbishment in the Lewis Building, and should be finished in time for autumn term 2014.
The theatre will have all the same facilities as the Garage Theatre Workshop, with a larger performance space and more seating. Whereas the current Garage has a 90m2 capacity and seats a maximum of 70, the new space may be able to seat as many as 123 people, with a larger performance space. Currently the only gripe Arts Societies may have with the new space is the size of its dressing room – whereas the Garage currently has a dressing room of 24m2, the proposed replacement is a mere 7m2, unlikely to be large enough for the larger casts often hosted by the venue. However a resolution to this is also in the works.
Although these plans are not yet finalised, the Provost’s stamp of approval has been cause for celebration in the Arts community. Musical Theatre Society Treasurer and Stage Crew member Rose Davis told Pi, “An alternative venue for the Garage Theatre Workshop being successfully secured shows that students have a real voice and impact on shaping the decisions of those higher up, and that there is a strong and determined Arts community at UCL. To me, the Garage represents a place where I can feel at home away from home: I’m sure I speak for everyone in Stage Crew when I say that in that little black box theatre I’ve made lifelong friendships, and learnt way more about myself and theatre than the degrees we study would ever teach.”
If these plans are definitely to go ahead, this will be finalised in the coming weeks.
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