The Independent London Newspaper

 

Plan to transform Archway Methodist hall into a community arts hub

Methodist hall

Artist’s drawing of how Archway Central Hall building could look

Published: 18 November, 2016
by JOE COOPER

AMBITIOUS plans to turn Archway Methodist Hall into an arts centre have been revealed.

The Better Archway Forum (BAF) is in talks with a “major local arts organisation” to transform the 1930s building, built by Methodist and British film legend J Arthur Rank, into a hub for the arts in Archway.

The building has been empty since 1989 and plans for student accommodation and shops flats have fallen through since the building was in 2001. The Methodist church next door is still in operation.

“There is a lot of support for bringing this back into use for the community,” said Adrian Betham, a BAF member and architect. “This would help raise the perception of Archway as somewhere to go, rather than a place you pass through.”

The space would include a theatre which would seat around 400 people and provide a home for other professional and amateur arts organisations – including dance, drama, art groups and choirs. 

BAF have a list of 20 organisations that have an interest in the project.

“Archway’s strength is in its diversity,” said Mr Betham. “This would be a place where lots of different community groups can get access for their own interests while also being a chance for the different groups to interact.”

He likened the project to The Sage in Gateshead, which hosts a wide range of concerts and events, while retaining a community feel.

Under the proposal, the theatre group would put on shows at the weekend, while the space would be open for exhibitions, film screenings and rehearsal space during the week, with room for a café.

A plan to turn the hall into a shops and 18 flats was rejected by Islington Council in February due to lack of affordable housing, among other issues.

Mr Betham aims to submit the application before Christmas and said he felt “strongly” that the it would be successful.

He estimates the building would need around £4m to make it suitable. It is hoped that  the money would come from the organisations involved, but could also require a fundraising campaign.

Junction ward councillor Kaya Comer-Schwartz said BAF’s plans were an “exciting prospect”. She added: “I’ve lived in Archway almost all my life and I can’t remember a time when it was open. It’s such a shame that such a beautiful building has been closed for such a long time. An arts venue would be wonderful.”

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