Friday, 12 November 2010

Bush Theatre opens new era for Shepherd's Bush

"A huge moment in the life of the Bush" was how Josie Rourke, Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre described their new home in the old Shepherd's Bush Library building, just off the Green. And though she meant the Bush Theatre when she said "the Bush" I think its a pretty momentous moment for our area too.

And before I go any further, having bashed our Council over numerous things in recent weeks, Josie was also fullsome in her praise of Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh, without whom she said none of this would have been possible. Since the opening of the new library on the Westfield complex, the building has stood largely empty. Our Council have worked hard with the Bush Theatre to ensure a smooth transition which will see them occupy and transform that landmark building into a hub for new artists to perform and also reach out much more effectively to the rest of us - taking their art into the community. With ownership of a 125 year lease they will do so from a position of stability and be able to plan much more effectively and therefore make a real contribution to our area. It's worth bearing in mind that just a couple of years ago they faced the prospect of closure altogether.

After Josie's speech, in which she described this being "an incredibly exciting moment in the life of Bush Theatre", we were treated to a tour of the building, which is yet to be fully converted. Much work clearly remains to be done inside, and there are even books still on shelves where the dressing room areas will be placed by the time they open properly in 2011. A three story building siding onto the market and facing Uxbridge Road is an incredibly valuable asset. The theatre space itself is light, airy and already has the feel of a local institution of which we can all be proud.

With its own bar, cafe, performance areas and office space upstairs for writers from across the country and beyond to hone their talents and material I'm personally more interested in the connections they will be able to make with local schools and youth groups as a means of opening up the arts to new generations.

Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh said: "This really is great news for Shepherds Bush. The area now has a brand new, state-of-the-art library at Westfield and a new home for the much-loved Bush Theatre."

And Josie concluded: "we've been such a big part of Shepherd's Bush for so long", now that "we'll be able to open our doors during the day and work with the local community, changing the life and what it means to live in this part of Shepherd's Bush."

"We are thrilled that The Bush has finally found a wonderful new home in the heart of Shepherds Bush after eighteen months of working closely with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to relocate the theatre.

"Our current space above the pub has seen some extraordinary productions, but after thirty-eight years it is time for the Bush to find a new home. The old library is a perfect fit for The Bush at the right time in the company's history. This beautiful building, just around the corner, will vastly improve the Bush experience for writers, artists and for our audiences

As a community we've just gained a great asset - and credit where it's due - to the people of the Theatre itself who have clearly put in a hige amount of work but also to our Council, who have clearly done the right thing here.

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