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Southwark council approves £3.75m loan to Old Vic for education and community hub

The Old Vic aims to boost its community and education output with a five-storey annexe. Photo: Bennetts Associates
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Southwark council has approved a £3.75 million loan to the Old Vic to deliver a “bold plan” for a new education and community hub at the theatre.

The agreement comes as further details of the hub are revealed at the theatre, including arts on prescription initiatives, a young people’s crime reduction programme, new apprenticeship, work experience and careers schemes and plans to enhance its community touring work.

The London theatre has hailed the development, called the Annex, as the start of a “new chapter” in its history and a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to enhance its social mission.

It is hoped the £12 million project will be part-funded through an arrangement between the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, which will each give loans of £3.75 million on 10-year repayment plans.

In a council meeting on July 16, Southwark’s cabinet agreed its side of the deal. Lambeth will consider its own plans on July 22.

Councillors also agreed to a further recommendation seeking to appoint a representative from the council to the Old Vic’s board of trustees in order to “protect and oversee” its financial investment. The local authority has nominated its member for culture, leisure, equalities and communities, Rebecca Lury.

The council said its loan would help the Old Vic achieve its vision and support the authority’s ambitions for its residents and “[open] the door to new and exciting opportunities”.

The annexe is part of a wider regeneration plan for the Old Vic, which includes current works to enhance its front-of-house facilities.

The five-storey hub will provide a physical space for the theatre’s outreach programmes for the first time, the lack of which has so far proved a “major barrier”, it said.

It will include a Clore Learning Centre for schools and colleges, a studio performance space, a free playtext library for schools and office space for the theatre’s education team.

The report considered by Southwark council also revealed several of the new programmes that will be implemented at the annexe.

These include a series of initiatives around training and mentoring, such as drop-in sessions, work-experience weeks, paid front-of-house placements and apprenticeships in the technical, creative, operations and events departments. Some of these will be ring-fenced for Southwark residents.

The Old Vic will use the Annex to develop and rehearse new community productions to provide a “free, accessible and unintimidating first experience of theatre” for local residents. Plans include an annual two-week tour of Southwark, visiting up to two venues a day including libraries, youth centres, parks or hospital wards.

The theatre also plans to partner with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust on a social prescribing scheme that would see it become home to two singing groups for out patients, social workers and local charities.

Other projects include piloting a crime-reduction programme aimed at tackling violence among young people and its root causes, and partnerships with hip-hop dance company Zoo Nation – to be the south London home of its open access workshops – and Wise Children, with which the Old Vic would work on a series of holiday workshops.

Work is due to start on site in September 2020, with plans to have the Annex fully operational by December 2022.

Old Vic unveils ‘new chapter’ with £12m plan for on-site education hub

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