Row over Stratford Circus Arts future

Newham Council serves arts trust notice to quit

Newham Council and Stratford Circus Arts Centre are embroiled in a row over the future of the arts centre’s building in the heart of Stratford.

The Stratford Arts Trust, which runs the circus arts centre, has been asked to quit the council-owned venue in Theatre Square to make way for a new ‘youth zone’.

Lawyers served the notice to vacate after months of discussions between the trust and council over the trust renting out space to other arts groups and businesses.

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, said “For far too long Newham Council has been pumping in money to prop up the occupants, Stratford Arts Trust, who have a business model where their income is generated by renting out rooms in a building that the council actually owns.”

Fiaz added: “We’ve been asking them to regularise their occupancy and they’ve refused to do so. It’s our building.

“It’s an important community asset and we should use it the best we can. We’re reclaiming it for our young people.”

But the trust says it own engages with 10,000 young people every year and that quiiting the building will mean the end of the centre’s activities. Outgoing chief executive Tania Wilmer said 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. About 145,000 people per year visit the centre which employs 19 permanent staff. It has commissioned artists including choreographer Akram Khan MBE.

“We’re dismayed at the decision to close Stratford Circus, which is a nationally recognised cultural organisation with deep roots in the community,” said Wilmer.

But Fiaz accused the trust of ‘self interest’ and said that the repurposed Stratford Circus will continue to offer a programme of cultural activities, including theatre.

She added: “A repurposed Stratford Circus creative youth arts centre will offer our young people creative experiences and opportunities and the best of training, mentoring and development in one of the fastest growing sectors in London.”


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