On loving BAC back :
I think I first did a show at BAC in 1989, maybe ’90. For quite a while in the 90s, with Spontaneous Combustion, I improvised a play there every single Sunday night. I have acted there with a (live) chicken, washed half-naked in a pool built onstage while eye-balling Derek Jarman, scratched pieces when Scratch was BAC’s brand-new idea (and is now a term many people think has always existed), I had my 30th birthday there in an eternal day of a never-ending tech, I’ve taught impro and writing to youth and adult groups, made a solo show in the attic and shown in the studio, told stories, done readings with Apples & Snakes, devised new work, staged an exhibition of amazing photos of young women with breast cancer, I’ve been part of LifeGame and Animo with Improbable at BAC, I’ve been to weddings and parties and loads of shows and have never once walked into the building without seeing someone I know, more often than not, someone I love.
I’m not alone. Thousands of us feel the same, have experienced the same, as artists, as audience, as participants, as someone popping in for a coffee or a wine because the cafe is accessible and friendly. BAC isn’t just a building, it’s an idea. From Jude Kelly through Paul Blackman, Tom Morris, Davids Jubb and Micklem, and David Jubb’s brilliant team now, the building IS important, always has been, but the spirit is enormous. A spirit of openness, of engagement, of honestly looking at how the building is run and how to run it FOR and WITH the people – both the people of the area and the people who make the work there – often those people are the same. It has a true relationship with the local community and with the community of artists. It’s no surprise that David Jubb was one of the first supporters of Fun Palaces, nor that BAC’s Fun Palace plans are far-reaching and enormously political, working with the Katherine Low Settlement to make a difference, a political difference, in true engagement, right where they are. BAC is radical as hell and bloody welcoming at the same time.
Friday’s fire is heartbreaking, and the work to rebuild and – no doubt – build better, has already begun. Of course it has.
Lyn Gardner has written a lovely, moving piece on BAC.
You can donate here to make a difference. Even if you have never been to BAC or never known someone who has, if you work in theatre or the wider arts in the UK, then the chances are that something of BAC’s spirit has touched you. It’s time to give back.