It is an exciting time for the Bush Theatre: the renowned home of new writing has recently announced its move to the Shepherds Bush Old Library building on Uxbridge Road. In a deal agreed with Hammersmith and Fulham Council, involving the signing of a 125-year lease requiring only nominal rent payments, the theatre will make its full transition to the venue in late 2011.
Currently located above a nearby west London pub, the relocation marks the continuation of the Bush’s association with the Old Library and the development of its relationship with the local community. Described by Artistic Director Josie Rourke as “a tremendously exciting moment in the life of the Bush,” the takeover of the building which currently houses the theatre’s donated script library will allow for greater visibility and ease of access. Not only this, it will also play a key part in the planned regeneration of the neighbouring area and market.
Ed Vaizey, current Minister for Culture and former member of the theatre’s board, issued a statement of his support:
“This is brilliant news, I’m over the moon that the Bush Theatre has a new home, and most importantly that it will remain right in the heart of the local community. This decision marks the end of years of hard work by all the team at the Bush who have campaigned so determinedly to secure a bright future for the theatre they love.”
Plans for the renovation are ambitious. For the first time, the theatre’s offices will be centralised and the building will house its own rehearsal space, sizeable dressing rooms and cafe/bar. The performance area will see an increase in the Bush’s audience capacity, from around 80 to 140, with flexible seating used to develop an adaptable playing space. To support the project, designed by Steve Tompkins, the Bush will soon launch a fundraising campaign.
In the interim, the Bush continues to stage works in its current residence. The Schools Season begins in January with two plays investigating the matter of present-day education in Britain. The Knowledge by John Donnelly takes a darkly humorous look at a failing school; whilst Steve Waters’ Little Platoons examines the formation of a free school in response to the early decisions of the coalition government. The performances will be accompanied by a series of debates and will run alongside the What do you want? campaign, in which 1000 young people from the locality will be asked what they desire from the education system.
The Bush Theatre has big plans for its own future and features strongly in that of its community. The support of a not-so-short-sighted council is promising in the current economic climes, and one can only hope that this is the first of many positive announcements for the arts.