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10 things you didn't know about Battersea Arts Centre

As the theatre offers a sneak preview of the rebuilt Grand Hall, we pick out some fun facts which you probably never knew about the space

The photo message released recently by Battersea Arts Centre
© Manuel Vason

It was on the 13 March 2015 that Battersea Arts Centre's Grand Hall burnt down. Today, the theatre offers a sneak preview of the renewed Grand Hall to supporters, while BAC regulars Little Bulb will perform. The space officially opens in September with Gecko's Missing, which is returning to complete its 2015 run that was interrupted by the fire. The Phoenix Season includes by world premieres by Bryony Kimmings and Lekan Lawal, and shows National Theatre of Scotland, BAC Beatbox Academy, Touretteshero, Dead Centre, Little Bulb, The Paper Cinema and others.




Rockers Fleetwood Mac cut their teeth there

The original poster

One of the earliest incarnations of legendary rockers Fleetwood mac performed in the Lower Hall on 22 Oct 1968, before they became huge.



It's hidden famous people

The Masque of the Red Death
(© Stephen Dobbie)

In 2007, Punchdrunk took over every available space of Battersea Arts Centre to create immersive epic The Masque of the Red Death. Famous faces came in their droves to experience it as, crucially, all audience members had to wear a mask remaining anonymous for the performance. On one night Jeff Goldblum, Joanna Lumley and several other screen luminaries were there, and no one else was any the wiser.



Pluto is not the theatre's cat's original name

Pluto!

Battersea Arts Centre's beloved cat, Pluto, came to the building as a performer in The Masque of the Red Death, and never left! His original name was Hilton.



London's first black mayor was elected there

John Archer

Battersea Arts Centre is based in Battersea's Old Town Hall building, which celebrates its 125th birthday this year. It's always been a home to radical thought – suffragettes Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst held meetings here and in 1913 the building played host to the election of John Archer, London's first black mayor.



It's been a hub for the arts for a very long time

Jane 'Jeanie' Elizabeth Hughes, Mrs Nassau Senior (1828-77) by George Frederick Watts
© George Frederick Watts

Elm House stood on the building's site before the Town Hall, and was a hub for artists and people interested in social change during the mid 19th century, thanks to Jeanie Nassau Senior who lived there. Jeanie was a campaigner for welfare rights, a co-founder of the British Red Cross and the visionary originator of modern British foster care. Her history is explored in family show Return to Elm House this Christmas.



It started an early form of NT Live

Theatrephone

Decades before Battersea Arts Centre's existence, Theatrephones installed in the building relayed West End shows live, allowing local residents to listen in.



It has a connection with Shakespeare (sorta)

Battersea Arts Centre Octagonal Hall
(© Morley Von Sternberg)

When the Grand Hall reopens the beautiful octagonal glass dome in the Octagonal Hall will be accessible again. The quotation at the base of the Octagonal dome is taken from Richard II and used lines spoken by the Earl of Mowbray in defence against accusations of treason by the Earl of Bolingbroke. The Bolingbrokes were the aristocratic family of Battersea.



They have some rather progressive cherubs

One of the pierced cherubs at the theatre

One of the cherubs above the dramatic marble stairs in the middle of the foyer…has a nipple ring. It was put there by a cheeky builder in the '90s and has remained ever since.



It's good for pop stars too

Mcfly during their shoot

McFly shot their video for "Love Is Easy" there in 2012.



The original Grand Hall is still there in spirit

The new Grand Hall, complete with scorch marks
© David Jubb

After the fire in 2015, Artistic Director David Jubb said we would "rebuild, brick by brick" and 10,000 bricks from the original building have been used in the Grand Hall's renewal.

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