Battersea Arts Centre fire: Venue partly reopens

Flames Image copyright @misterspidergod/PA
Image caption The 1893 building was formerly Battersea Town Hall

Two performances went ahead on Saturday night at Battersea Arts Centre, only a day after a fire ripped through the south London venue.

About 30% of the first and second floors of the property were destroyed in the blaze, including the Grand Hall and Lower Hall.

The front half of the Grade II-listed building was left untouched.

The centre said on Twitter that it was "wonderful to see the building buzzing with people".

Image copyright LFB
Image caption Firefighters were able to save the art centre's "priceless" glass dome

Productions of Lorraine & Alan and Fiction went ahead despite the fire damage, the centre said.

Artistic director and CEO David Jubb said ahead of the performances: "Today we start the next chapter. We want to get the shows back on and rebuild the building brick by brick."

He paid tribute to the firefighters who tackled the blaze, which broke out at about 16:20 GMT on Friday.

"Huge thanks are owed to all the emergency services, who literally saved the front half of the building, to staff, artists and volunteers at Battersea Arts Centre, and to everyone who has shown their overwhelming support online over the last 24 hours.

Image copyright LFB
Image caption About 30% of the first and second floors were destroyed and the roof collapsed during the fire

"The passion for the building and the organisation is extraordinary. Thank you all for being part of this. We really need you at this time."

By the early hours of Sunday more than 1,200 people had given money to an appeal set up by the charity National Funding Scheme, which has raised more than £38,000.

Jane Ellison, the Conservative Party MP for Battersea, told BBC London 94.9: "The grand hall is a huge part of the centre not just physically but also it is the biggest theatre space.

"Therefore one of the headaches of the arts centre is to sit down and look at their financial plans and look at it afresh in the light of the fact they don't have access to the biggest theatre space."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Crowds watched the burning building from surrounding streets on Friday

The 1893 building was formerly Battersea Town Hall but was turned into an arts centre in 1974.

London Fire Brigade station manager Matt Burrows, who visited the scene on Saturday, said: "Firefighters did a great job to save large parts of the building including the octagonal dome, which I'm told is priceless, and salvaged valuable artwork.

"We'll continue to damp down and our fire investigators are inspecting the building to find the cause."

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