Victoria Hall Sale ‘Means No Government Cash for the Arts in Ealing’

Chair of Ealing Arts & Leisure calls for it to remain a performance venue

Victoria Hall. Picture: Friends of Victoria Hall

The chair of a charity that represents 80 local organisations participating in the arts in Ealing says that council policy means the borough will receive none of the recently announced government support for the sector.

Gill Rowley of Ealing Arts & Leisure (EA&L) has welcomed the government’s move to give financial backing to the performing arts, which are struggling to survive as a result of the pandemic.

However she adds, “Unfortunately we will not benefit from any of this help locally, because the Council is determined to press ahead with disposal of the only public facilities available in central Ealing for organisations to hire for performance.

“The Victoria Hall and its related spaces, built by public donation in the 1890s for the benefit of the people of Ealing, went dark even before the virus struck. This is because the Council, as Trustee of the charity which owns the building, wants to include it in the sale of the Town Hall to a hotel developer.

“The Charity Commission, which has to give permission for any disposal of charity property, has set stringent conditions that must be met before the deal to go ahead. Nevertheless, the puppet Council committee which acts as Trustee last week (29 June) nodded through a proposal to make only minimal changes to the scheme, in order to resubmit it for approval.”

EA&L is strongly of the view that a key building which was erected specifically for use by local people should be retained for that purpose, and not given to a commercial hotel.

Gill Rowley adds, “If Ealing really wants to be a 'Borough of Culture', as the Council claims, it should immediately abandon its present plan and release the charity to be free to fulfil its original purpose. It could then make a bid for a share of the money to be made available to support this vital sector of the arts."

EA&L was founded over 50 years ago and supports and promotes artistic activity throughout the borough of Ealing.. It was founded with the Council as the Arts Council of Ealing but when Council involvement ceased it became a registered charity.

“A council spokesperson said, “Ealing Town Hall remains the civic heart of the borough. The deal that leases the town hall to Mastcraft secures the future of Victorial Hall as a community asset, available to the community at discounted rates.

“The council welcomes the government announcement of a new £1.57 billion government relief package for arts, culture and heritage in the UK, but currently there is no detail around the timelines, allocation process and criteria for this new package. We hope, once the criteria is announced, that there will be a range of organisations in Ealing that will be eligible to apply.”

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July 13, 2020