Battersea Arts Centre (BAC)

Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) is a community arts centre in Battersea, London. Residents use the centre to be creative, explore local heritage and enjoy various shows, exhibitions and relax. The BAC believes that art should be “with” people not “for” people, and this is where the future of a community arts centre lies.

Bottom line

BAC invites everyone to play a role, and inspire them to take creative risks in inventing the future of a community arts centre. BAC postulates that the envisaged future role of a community arts centre is a centre for social change. It brings everyone’s creativity to tackle the various challenges faced by a community and a society. BAC also produces local and nationwide programmes that lead artists together with families, young people, third sector professionals and entrepreneurs.

For these centres to continue to exist, they need to be places that have a strong connection to their local community, and places that demonstrate that art and culture is accessible to all. The UK has an odd relationship to culture, arts and creativity. Art is often put on a pedestal, which can result in it feeling irrelevant and alienating from people’s lives.  The role of cultural centres is to break down exclusive institutional barriers- a task which Battersea Arts Centre is attempting to undertake.

Why it matters?

‘It’s not what you do, it’s the way you do it’

As arts budgets are slashed around the UK, Battersea Arts Centre are working practically to helping their local community take creative risks. Creativity is a force that helps one see things differently, as well as important force that brings people together.

The way that art is taught in formal education institutions often suffocate and kill people’s creativity at a young age. In the same way that muscles grow with constant use and exercise, BAC supports people to grow and develop their creative potential, collaborating with them to tackle social issues collectively. BAC is like a gym where people build and flex their muscles of creativity.

In an increasingly complex world, these skills are necessary and this creativity is needed to approach challenges differently. Art offers people not on the opportunity to enjoy aesthetics, but also develop creative skills that can be used to address unprecedented challenges.

  • BAC achieve this through programmes such as ‘SCRATCH’
  • SCRATCH is the iterative process between the public and the BAC’s artists, and one that leads to the playful co-creation of results that are more line with what people actually want and thus consequently offers a more resilient model
  • The flexibility and pragmatism of BAC as an organisation is also key. Without rigid departmental models that can adapt easily to new circumstances. Battersea Arts Centre was ravaged by fire in 2015, but due to the operational model of the organisation, they were able to change and adapt quickly to their new circumstances.

Go deeper

  • BAC’s approach to bring out people’s buried creativity – SCRATCH
  • How to put people at the centre in creating and running local museums – creative museums
  • Support young people developing their own entrepreneurial ideas through creative workshops – Agency