Arts centre set to open on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue

Shaftesbury Avenue in London's West End. Photo: Alex Brenner
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A disused former chapel in the heart of London’s West End is to reopen as a temporary performance space next month, with plans being developed to turn the iconic building into a permanent “experimental” arts venue for the capital.

Newly created arts organisation Stone Nest has submitted plans to turn the property, located opposite the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue and once home to the famous Limelight Club, into a permanent performance venue that could host dance, theatre, music, video and performance art.

The charity, which has been charged with running the building by an unnamed philanthropist who purchased the site in 2011, has said it wants to produce “highly visual work” that will “resonate with this unique space in spirit and form”.

Although a planning application has only just been submitted to Westminster City Council for the long-term future of the building, Stone Nest is to open the space temporarily next month to host a performance from dance group New Movement Collective. It is hoped this will demonstrate its suitability as a performance venue and pave the way for further productions.

Hannah Myers, a producer for Stone Nest, told The Stage: “The building was bought by a philanth­ropist with the vision that it might be developed into an arts space. We have established a charity, Stone Nest, to work towards that vision.”

She added: “If it all goes to plan, then maybe in a couple of years we will open a performance space here. One thing we know about this space, the Welsh chapel, is that any artistic work that comes in needs to be really sensitive to it, and resonate with it in some way.”

Myers explained that NMC – which last year performed a piece called Casting Traces in a former dairy – has been commissioned to produce a piece for the Shaftesbury Avenue venue because the group has “an extraordinary appreciation for architecture”.

Entitled Nest, NMC’s piece will feature ten dancers, including former Rambert members Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon. Nest is designed as a promenade performance in which audience members will be able to discover the “hidden corners” of the grade II-listed building. The show will mark the end of a period of inactivity for the space, which has not been used since 2010.

It was built in 1888 by James Cubitt, who also designed the Union Chapel in Islington, north London. In the 1980s, the building hosted the Limelight Club, which was attended by the likes of Boy George and Duran Duran, before it became part of the pub chain Walkabout in the 1990s. The bar closed in 2010, with a private investor buying the space in 2011.

Nest will run at the venue from July 15 to 24.