College rescue for Stratford Circus

Ruth Gillespie

Troubled east London performing arts centre Stratford Circus has confirmed that its future has been secured following an agreement that Newham Sixth Form College is to take over management of the venue.

The Stage reported in December that a deal was being brokered between the two organisations and now operational responsibilities for the theatre have been formally transferred from the London Borough of Newham to New VIc. Further discussions are currently taking place with the University of East London about a possible partnership.

Sid Hughes, principal of New VIc, said: “We are developing a new kind of arts venue that will be influenced by youth culture and the diversity of east London. It combines professional performance with opportunities for participation, lifelong learning and access to professional artist development, all within an inclusive framework.”

Each of the organisations based at the venue – East London Dance, Theatre Venture, Urban Development and Newham Community Education and Youth Service – has made a substantial commitment to the venture. In addition to developing a varied professional arts programme, a range of community activities, including showcases for local schools and accredited training and education programmes, will be provided.

Uncertainty has surrounded the future of the east London theatre since its board decided to seek voluntary liquidation in August 2003 following loss of funding from Arts Council England and Newham council. Staff at the venue were subsequently made redundant and an interim manager was installed by the local authority to keep the building open for its tenants. The venue was believed to have accrued debts of just under half a million pounds in the six months before it closed.

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