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Livingstone Joins Campaign to Save Battersea Arts Centre
- 'Cultural benefits may be lost forever,' says Mayor

Livingstone Joins Campaign to Save Battersea Arts CentreKEN LIVINGSTONE has joined the campaign to save Battersea Arts Centre, the south London venue threatened with closure.

Responding to news that Wandsworth local council is seeking a UKP370,000 a year increase in charges to the award-winning arts centre, Livingstone said: "The cultural, social and economic benefits which the BAC delivers so successfully may be lost forever."

The London Mayor is the latest high-profile politician to voice his support. Last week in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Tony Blair said that, "they should do everything they can to keep it open. It should be kept open."

The UKP370,000 which breaks down as UKP270,000 in rent and UKP100,000 in the removal of Wandsworth's annual grant could be seen as the opening shot in negotiations, but for the fact talks between the two parties started a year ago. The BAC has offered to pay UKP10,000 a year.

Given the size of the negotiating gap, there are real fears the BAC will face imminent closure unless the campaign to keep it open gathers substantial support, hence the political input. The current lease runs out in May.

Tory-run Wandsworth Council blames Blair's Labour party for the cost impasse, saying its own grant from central government has been slashed.

"There is no quick fix for the arts centre," said council leader Edward Lister. "It is caught in a financial squeeze. By taking tough decisions on spending today, the council has the best chance of protecting its most vital services tomorrow."

Stars who developed their early careers at the BAC include Paul Merton, French and Saunders and Harry Hill.

Battersea Arts Centre

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