Watermans arts centre in Brentford closes

Riverside arts venue closes after 40 years

Hounslow Arts Trust Ltd, the charity that operates Watermans arts centre, has announced it will close in in mid-April.

The riverside venue in Brentford has served the population of west London for decades with live theatre, dance and music, a cinema and restaurant, and a gallery for contemporary art shows. The Trust has put on school holiday programmes for children in everything from Manga, the Japanese style of cartoon drawing, to Capoeira, the Brazilian dance martial art and game that includes elements of dance, acrobatics and music.

Watermans has been known for its programme of high quality theatre productions for children and its diverse programme of content, making sure Hounslow’s multicultural population was served and included. In recent years it has also developed a programme of cabaret performances.

The existing centre has been on notice ever since plans were brought forward for the redevelopment of Brentford.The Trust still has plans to reopen in a new building in Brentford as part of the regeneration programme for the town centre.

In a statement put out by the Trust, they say:

‘The charity has taken the difficult decision to close Watermans as the best possible way of protecting both the interests of Hounslow residents and the organisation’s financial viability ahead of its relocation to the site of the old police station building in Brentford.

‘In the context of a challenging recovery period following the pandemic, the impact of energy price rises and the on-going costs of maintenance for the current venue, it makes operational and financial sense to focus on the delivery of outdoor events at Bell Square, Creative People and Places Hounslow activities and other community-based programmes which do not require use of the current building.’

All programmed events and activities at the Watermans building will stop. Hounslow Arts Trust Ltd. will continue to exist but with a focus on delivering a programme outside Watermans during the transition period.

The viability of the arts centre was badly affected by the pandemic, as were many other organisations forced to close during that period.

‘Hounslow Arts Trust is extremely proud of the programmes that have been delivered with communities at Watermans for nearly forty years and would like to thank its incredible team of current and past staff at Watermans who made the venue such a welcoming community space for so many people, as well as the audiences, funders and artists who supported it over those years.’

We visited the centre in the summer of 2016 and made a video about the summer programme for children ‘Urban Ambush’.

Ruth Cadbury MP posted on X that she was:

‘Shocked to get an email tonight to say Brentford @WatermansArts is to close its doors on 11 April after 40 years They say they will continue doing the community outdoor events in Bell Sq etc and move to a new building “in due course”. I’m going to meet the Director asap.

“The council and the trust have been working very hard with the owner of the old police station to bring forward a viable scheme” – Cllr Tom Bruce

Cllr Tom, Bruce, LB Hounslow’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“It is obviously disappointing that Watermans have had to close their building but I am pleased that their outreach work will continue.

“Since the initial plans were agreed, the economic situation has changed drastically: increases in material and labour costs, and rises in inflation, interest rates and land values have made delivery much harder.

“Arts and culture are incredibly important to me personally, and as lead member I am clear with council officers that my aspirations for the area remain unchanged.

“The council and the trust have been working very hard with the owner of the old police station to bring forward a viable scheme, and while I cannot give a time frame, our aim is still to have a new arts centre building delivered in conjunction with new homes. I remain optimistic that this will happen.”

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