Stratford Circus Arts Centre in east London is being threatened with closure as a result of council plans to repurpose its home as a youth hub.
The arts organisation, which acts as a multi-arts venue as well as hosting classes and community work, claimed attempts to engage with Newham Council about accommodating the desired youth provision alongside its own work had been ignored.
Under plans to expand its Youth Zone scheme, the council has announced that the Stratford Circus building will become one of four new facilities across the borough.
According to the Stratford Arts Trust, which runs the building, Newham’s mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has said she will serve the charity its notice to quit the building by early next month in order for it to become a “flagship arts youth hub”, at which young people would have access to a range of cultural activities.
If the organisation were to leave the venue, it would be forced to close entirely, The Stage understands.
Discussing her intention at a meeting last week, Fiaz said Stratford Circus “clearly do not have the same appetite and vision and ambition for our young people that we have”, and that she had “made it clear to them, despite their protestations and acts of denial, that we will be reclaiming that space for our young people”.
A statement from the venue argued that its own engagement with 10,000 young people should be taken into consideration, and that should Stratford Circus be closed, Newham will see “the loss of a successful and financially sound cultural and community organisation”.
In the year ending March 2019, the charity registered an income of £1.6 million and expenditure of £1.5 million.
Stratford Circus’ outgoing chief executive Tania Wilmer said: “We’re dismayed at the decision to close Stratford Circus, which is a nationally recognised cultural organisation with deep roots in the community.
“Delivering high-quality arts provision is not cheap. Through the dedication of our staff we have been able to create a year-round programme that engages people at all stages of life.
“We are particularly proud of our youth work and had hoped to continue our dialogue with the council on expanding this. It provides something irreplaceable and does so sustainably, and we invite the people of Newham to share what Stratford Circus means to them.”
The venue claimed it had engaged in early discussions with Newham about accommodating the new Youth Zone within the building and alongside its own work, but said these conversations were “shut down” by the council in the autumn of last year.
“All efforts to restart discussions were ignored,” it claimed. “Stratford Circus still believes that the mayor could best achieve her ambitions for youth services in the borough, and in a way that is financially sustainable, by working with the charity,” it added.
The venue has started a petition calling on Fiaz to secure the long-term future of the venue, and is asking members of the public to write to their local councillors and the mayor’s office directly to fight for its continuation.
Newham Council has been contacted for comment.