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Former Tricycle bosses join campaign against London theatre’s new name Kiln

An artist's impression of the view from the auditorium in the redesigned Tricycle Theatre. Photo: ChampanWaterworth An artist's impression of the view from the auditorium in the redesigned Kiln Theatre. Photo: ChampanWaterworth
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Former artistic directors and chairs of London’s Kiln Theatre have called for its name to be reverted to the Tricycle, the title it held for 38 years before being renamed in April.

Ken Chubb, who co-founded the theatre as the Wakefield Tricycle Company in 1980, and Nicolas Kent, its artistic director between 1984 and 2012, have signed a letter expressing “dismay” at the change in name. The signatories also include Nicholas Allott, managing director of Cameron Mackintosh Ltd.

It was renamed Kiln Theatre earlier this year to coincide with the conclusion of a £5.5 million redevelopment. The theatre will stage its first season of work in two years when it reopens later this month.

When the new name was unveiled in April, local residents complained at the loss of the Tricycle branding, which they said disconnected the venue with its past.

More than 450 people call for Kiln Theatre to revert to Tricycle

Now, Chubb and Kent are among 15 people that have signed a letter in the Observer criticising the decision.

The list includes all three previous chairs of the board – Patricia Macnaughton, Andree Molyneux and Stephen Phillips – as well as past board members including the theatre’s original architect Tim Foster, and actor Hugh Quarshie.

In the letter, they say: “The Tricycle was a landmark in London, and a brand locally, nationally and internationally. In our view this change of name throws away a valuable legacy and history.

“We wish the reopened theatre well, but – if it is to prosper in the community, the profession and among audiences for whom it has strived to please for the last 38 years – this is the time to rethink and retain its much-loved name.”

Responding to the letter, a spokeswoman for Kiln said the theatre and its team were “incredibly proud” of its history, but argued that “theatre is not, and never has been, primarily about preserving a legacy”.

“We are representing the theatre for today as we embark on the next stage of the company’s story in the newly refurbished building we have worked incredibly hard to deliver over the past five years, and one that we are futureproofing for the next generation.”

The statement added: “The new name Kiln Theatre represents the next chapter in this remarkable building’s history – proudly locating us in Kilburn and reflecting a space of creativity, transformation and energy – one we would love those, who claim to wish us well, would celebrate with us.”

Read the letter and Kiln’s response in full below.

The letter

“As both the former artistic directors and all three previous chairs of the board, as well as 12 past board members of London’s Tricycle Theatre, we are writing to express our dismay about the change of the theatre’s name.

“The name change has provoked anger in the local community, a widely signed petition and demonstrations. The Tricycle was a landmark in London, and a brand locally, nationally and internationally.

“In our view this change of name throws away a valuable legacy and history. We wish the reopened theatre well, but – if it is to prosper in the community, the profession and among audiences for whom it has strived to please for the last 38 years – this is the time to rethink and retain its much-loved name.”

Ken Chubb
Nicolas Kent
Patricia Macnaughton
Andree Molyneux
Stephen Phillips
Nicholas Allott
Mark Cummins
Martin Dives
Tim Foster
Rosalie Horner
Pam Jordan
Hilary Kirkham
Errol Lloyd
Mustapha Matura
Janet Mokades
Hugh Quarshie
James Shillingford

Kiln’s response

“Theatre is not, and never has been, primarily about preserving a legacy. Theatre by its nature is ephemeral and impermanent, it’s about reflecting the world around us, provocation, and ultimately change. We are representing the theatre for today as we embark on the next stage of the company’s story in the newly refurbished building we have worked incredibly hard to deliver over the past five years, and one that we are futureproofing for the next generation.

“As we have said from the outset, we are incredibly proud of the history of the theatre and are committed to protecting its legacy – this is represented in everything we do, including on the theatre’s exterior signage, on the website, and through an exhibition in the refurbished building. We are in fact honouring our history more comprehensively than has ever been done before. That said, theatre is not here to fossilise culture, but to invigorate it. It needs to reflect the changing dynamic nature of both London and Kilburn.

“We have a brand new building, updated facilities and an extensive programme of premieres, as well as a wide-reaching creative learning programme, which will result in a large community play on our stage celebrating and reflecting the history of care in Brent.

“The new name Kiln Theatre represents the next chapter in this remarkable building’s history – proudly locating us in Kilburn and reflecting a space of creativity, transformation and energy – one we would love those, who claim to wish us well, would celebrate with us.”

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