Shock Over Closure of Watermans Arts Centre

Venue shut without warning with no set plan for replacement

Watermans Arts Centre. Picture: Watermans

March 20, 2024

The Watermans Arts Centre in Brentford is to close next month following a shock announcement by the charity which runs it.

The Hounslow Arts Trust Ltd has said that the venue will close on 11 April as part of the transition period ahead of its planned move to a new building. However, there is no timetable for the replacement centre that has planning permission at the former police station site at Half Acre in the basement of a block of flats. It is understood that there have been disagreements over the mix of the housing units in the development.

The Trust says the ‘difficult decision’ was the best possible way of protecting both the interests of Hounslow residents and the organisation’s financial viability ahead of its relocation. In the meantime, the Trust says it will focus on the delivery of outdoor events at Bell Square as well as Creative People and Places Hounslow activities and other community-based programmes which do not require use of the current building.

Watermans had been experiencing financial difficulties and had raised funds from the public to cover the shortfall built up during the pandemic. However, higher energy prices and ongoing maintenance made it increasingly expensive to run requiring it to limit the number of days each week that it opened last April.

All programmed events and activities at the Watermans building will stop. Hounslow Arts Trust Ltd will continue to exist but with a focus on delivering a programme outside Watermans during the transition period.

No indication has been given at this stage how or if people who have purchased annual memberships with Watermans will be compensated.

Hounslow Arts Trust expressed gratitude to staff, past and present, the artists and funders including Hounslow Council and Arts Council England who have helped keep the centre running for four decades.

Director of Watermans, Jan Lennox adds, “Watermans has been home to the very best cinema, theatre, music, dance and performance for nearly forty years and it is heart-breaking that the venue is closing before the new building is ready. However, we are working hard to continue to deliver our exciting programmes outside of the current building and to continue to plan for when the new building is ready. A new building that will be more sustainable operationally and able to present an even stronger mix of high-quality dance, theatre, music, film and exhibitions.”

A Hounslow Council spokesperson said, “As a council we’re committed to supporting a rich cultural offer for the borough, recognising the many benefits arts and culture provide for our diverse communities. Watermans plays an important role in delivering our ambitions for culture and we’re pleased it will remain able to offer the community-based programmes residents really value. The cost-of-living crisis is putting enormous pressure on cultural venues across the country, and we support Hounslow Arts Trust taking the steps necessary to become sustainable.”

The site of the centre was due to be redeveloped into the Albany Riverside scheme on the understanding that it was a linked development with the Half Acre development which would have seen the existing Watermans only closed when the new purpose-built replacement was ready to open.

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