Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has today issued a response to misleading claims of closure of the Stratford Circus building being made by Stratford Arts Trust and reported by some media. This is a building which is owned by the Council and currently occupied by the Trust.
Mayor Fiaz said: “The Stratford Circus building is not closing. It’s regretful that an organisation which has benefited considerably from the Council’s generosity over the years, is circulating misleading information about the Council’s intentions which isn’t fair to the young people of Newham whom will benefit from future plans.
“For too long, the Council has been pumping in money to prop up the Stratford Arts Trust. They’ve been occupying the building for nine years without a formal agreement or paying any rent to the Council for a considerable period of time. A significant amount of money has been provided by the Council over the years to maintain and upkeep the building, alongside commissioning the Trust to continue with specific programmes of work to keep it going while it tried to keep itself sustainable.
“Presently, the Trust is generating income to keep it solvent by commercially renting out rooms to a range of art organisations in Newham. They even wanted the Council to give them £250,000 a year to use a small space in the Stratford Circus building that we own, for youth service provision. I find that deeply insulting to the young people of Newham, especially as that amount of money could fund around five youth workers.
“We’ve been asking them to regularise their occupancy since last year, which they’ve refused to do, compromising the good governance agenda we are implementing in the Council. On top of that, the Council-owned building in Stratford is an important community asset and we want to use it to benefit more and more young people in Newham. That’s why despite 18 months of discussions with the Trust to reach a positive solution to use the building for enhanced youth provision; and their refusal to regularise their occupancy of the building, Council lawyers have served a legal notice on the Trust to vacate it.
“But that doesn’t mean the Stratford Circus building is closing – far from it. When I was elected in 2018, I promised to double the number of Youth Zones in Newham from four to eight. A repurposed Stratford Circus will be the home of our flagship art-based Youth Zone, providing an exciting programme of arts and cultural-based activities, including theatre.
“We’ll be starting the Youth Zone in April during a transitional period when we’ll be working with art and cultural partners to develop a full programme of exciting arts-based youth provision that will start in August. We haven’t asked the Stratford Arts Trust to conclude their current programme of events or activities immediately; nor have we asked any organisation that currently delivers provision from the building to stop immediately either.
“It is so important that our young people have a safe space to use in one of the busiest parts of the borough at a time when we are all concerned about youth safety. I am absolutely committed to making Newham a safe place for our young people to grow up and ensuring that they are offered a wide-ranging programme of enrichment activities and opportunities. The planned flagship arts-based Youth Zone at Stratford Circus will build on a whole range of enrichment and cultural work that we are unleashing across the borough, and that’s very exciting.
“We have some amazing arts and cultural opportunities being planned and are fully embracing the creativity that exists in Newham. We plan to support that further with a new cultural strategy for the borough that will be launched later this year, and a new summer festival programme that will reach all parts of our diverse borough.
“I’ve already met many of the arts and academic organisations in Newham or emerging in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park through the East Bank project. These include Rosetta Arts, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Sadler’s Wells, BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Victoria & Albert, the Smithsonian Institution, English National Ballet, London Film School, East London Dance, the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone, Future Foundation for London plus many more.
“A repurposed Stratford Circus creative youth arts centre will offer our young people creative experiences and opportunities and the best of training, mentoring, and development in one of the fastest growing sectors in London. It’s also important to note our commitment to equalities and inclusion, and all our Youth Zones will offer an enhanced provision for those young people with special educational needs and disabilities.”