The Road to Brixton! Ovalhouse on the move…

We’ve received a major boost in our bid to relocate to a new purpose built home in the heart of Brixton. This comes hot on the heels of Lambeth Council’s unanimous decision at the end of last year to grant planning permission for the project and the announcement in September of Ovalhouse alumnus and former 007, Pierce Brosnan’s support of a fundraising campaign that will enable the move.

The development has been made possible by a partnership with the London Borough of Lambeth who have provided a prime site as part of a significant regeneration scheme. The new building will be a fully accessible, fit for purpose and sustainable modern theatre. Read more here! 

Our building on Kennington Oval is steeped in history and resonates with the lives and stories of so many people.

But we are planning to leave it...

In 2018 Ovalhouse will be moving to its new home in Brixton as part of the Somerleyton Road Project, an exciting community partnership that will see new homes, our theatre and more in the heart of Brixton.

There are many reasons why we've decided to do this. Our buildings were not purpose-built and include odd shaped spaces, a low grid, no wing space and challenging acoustics. Competition for space is increasing, between artists rehearsing and undertaking R&D, the needs of a busy participation department and a need to generate income from office rents. Despite our best efforts, we cannot offer access to our upstairs theatre to wheelchair users. And although we are lucky to be a minute’s walk from the tube we are not in a natural centre.

Brixton, a mile and a half down the road, feels like the spiritual home for Ovalhouse. Like us, it has a history as home to radical artists and activists, and a hugely diverse population. It has a great town centre, and many of our current artists, young people and audiences come from Brixton and its surrounding areas.

There is another factor leading to our plan of re-location. Theatre at Ovalhouse has always been closely linked to social and political initiatives, a forum to talk about change at the fault lines of society, a place for young people to recognise and challenge the constraints in their lives. Building roots and relationships in Brixton has been a long and natural journey, and Ovalhouse could be part of its genuine social and economic regeneration.

In 2012 Lambeth Council revived the Future Brixton plan and undertook public consultation, including specific questions about the possibility of a theatre and cultural facility on the corner of Coldharbour Lane and Somerleyton Rd. This site had long been a possibility in our minds, and was also the focus of a community organisation – Brixton Green, which has a vision for a community -led mixed-use housing development.

Working with Ovalhouse and Brixton Green, Lambeth Council is now supporting the development – almost 300 homes, community and health facilities, a shop, social enterprise and training opportunities for young people – and right on the street front opposite Brixton Village, a new Ovalhouse. 

Our new building will have seven multi-use accessible studios – for rehearsal, participatory work and community activities. We will offer and manage a significant suite of cultural workspace, bringing jobs and opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises and supporting the already strong cultural sector. We will be able to offer an increased range of training within our youth leadership programmes, ensuring professional opportunities and cross transferable skills for local young people. The needs of our most vulnerable young people will be met in terms of access, safe spaces and purpose-built space, while the building will generate an income stream that will make Ovalhouse resilient and safer from financial shock.

The plans will be developed in partnership with not only our users, artists and young people, but also the communities we are coming to know in terms of residential housing. We have spent interesting days in a tent on the estate across the road, sharing ideas with residents and listening to their uniquely informed views. We have a youth ambassadors group, who visit other theatres and learn about how a space affects a production, and what their ideas are.

Crucially, we will work with local people to create a building which is inspiring and enables the highest aspirations for artistic excellence.

Deborah Bestwick, Director of Ovalhouse