Secure a replacement venue for UCLU Bloomsbury Theatre productions

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Secure a replacement venue for UCLU Bloomsbury Theatre productions

This petition had 1,230 supporters

UCLU Culture Club started this petition to University College London

UCL has closed the Bloomsbury Theatre for a further two years, following a year-long closure due to construction work and uncovered asbestos. UCLU arts societies allow hundreds of students the opportunity to perform in this venue, and can offer nothing else on the same scale.

So we need them to secure us a replacement venue in the interim and guarantee that the theatre will be reopened, so that we can continue to offer students the same important opportunities for professional experience and personal growth.

Please sign the petition and let us know about your personal experiences with the Bloomsbury Theatre (if you have any). If you're a UCL student or alumnus, what did it mean to you?

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Our principal demands:

  1. That UCL maintains dialogue with UCLU; we demand an explanation for the theatre closure, and regular updates on progress.
  2. That UCL publicly promises that the Bloomsbury Theatre will be reopened to student productions in 2018 in the same capacity as before.
  3. That in the meantime, a replacement venue of the same standard as the Bloomsbury should be provided at UCL’s financial expense, in time for the next Bloomsbury season in 2016-17.
  4. That UCL demonstrates an active commitment to the arts, recognising the importance of students’ extracurricular arts and how they contribute to UCL’s legacy and reputation.

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Since it first opened as The Collegiate Theatre in 1968, The Bloomsbury Theatre has been home to student productions from UCLU. The theatre has been closed throughout the current academic year due to uncovered asbestos and construction work in the auditorium. This has naturally been unfortunate for arts societies, but manageable in the short-term. However the unexpected announcement of continuing closure until 2018 deals a blow to UCL’s arts community from which it may not be able to recover, and which will certainly change it entirely.

We are writing to Michael Arthur, Rex Knight, Andrew Grainger, and the entirety of UCL management, to voice our concerns, to draw attention to the multitude of ways in which the use of the Bloomsbury Theatre positively impacts the University and the wider community, and above all to ensure an equal and necessary substitute venue while the theatre closure continues.

UCL is a world-renowned institution not only for its academic excellence, but also for its alumni contributions to cultural practices such as music, theatre, film, and art. Prominent entertainers and artists such as Ricky Gervais, Coldplay, Keane, and Christopher Nolan graduated from UCL, and no doubt found that the encouraging environment of UCL’s arts community spurred them on in their artistic careers. However, the next generation of influential alumni are being starved of the same opportunities that were on offer for these people. Whereas the Garage Theatre and the Bloomsbury were once staples of UCL life, a struggling arts community must explain to first year students what these venues are and what they meant to them, as they now perform in stuffy classrooms bartered for with UCL Estates.

Recent graduates are overwhelmingly appalled at the closure of the Bloomsbury, and the treatment of UCL’s arts community in the last year more generally. In the last 24 hours alone, a large number of graduates have got in touch with us to express their dismay, stating that their experience in the Bloomsbury Theatre enabled them to have a head start in otherwise extremely competitive industries; from theatre, to television, to management consultancy. This new set of alumni will never donate to a university that doesn’t value students like them, and could never produce their like in future. In short, if UCL is to continue contributing to the global community as it currently is, the arts cannot be ignored.

Many students who spoke to us and submitted their experiences of the Bloomsbury told us they had been swayed to join UCL when comparing its arts facilities to other universities. If UCL is to continue expanding its student body, there will be more and more talented performers, directors, theatre marketers and producers in search of artistic projects. Rather than limiting opportunities, UCL should be growing the arts and ensuring these students are valued. Ultimately, the university will only stand out positively if it commits to fostering arts development.

While we accept UCL may have good reasons for extending the theatre closure to 2018, these have not been explained. Furthermore we are concerned at the prospect of not having access to a large professional-standard venue for such a long time. The Bloomsbury is unlike any other West End venue in that it books performances for short-term engagements, rather than block bookings taking up months and months. Other London theatres take bookings up to years in advance; time UCLU arts societies do not have in this case. Nor do we have the financial resources, even when pooled, to purchase theatre space.

Following the closure of the Garage Theatre in 2014, UCL Estates promised arts societies they would replace the black box space in the former Bartlett building with an equally good facility elsewhere on campus. This has not yet materialised and we have see no concerted effort from UCL to provide us with a permanent space on campus, leading to a decline in the quality of live performance, and a marked decrease in the membership of UCLU Stage Crew, who have struggled to sufficiently train new recruits without a dedicated space. This is particularly damaging in the context of decreased rehearsal space on campus, and the limited availability of the little space there is.

We have no desire to witness a similar chain of broken promises and disappointments for the arts community at UCL in this case. UCL Estates policy dictates that they should replace spaces closed or lost at the expense of the student community with an equal facility, and we expect that this will be the case here. We ask that UCL management communicates with students and with UCLU to ensure a replacement venue is found.

Petition Closed

This petition had 1,230 supporters