Community arts charity faces closure after eviction from premises

Community Focus in north London has been given three months' notice to leave artsdepot; it is a 'bolt out of the blue', says chair Tudor Spencer (left of picture)

Tudor Spencer (left)
Tudor Spencer (left)

A community arts charity in north London says it faces closure when it is evicted from the premises it rents from another charity.

Community Focus, which provides courses and projects in music, drama and visual arts, has been given three months' notice to leave artsdepot, a professional arts venue in Barnet that is rented from Barnet Council.

Artsdepot is the trading subsidiary of the Arts Depot Trust, which provides access to arts and related activities.

Community Focus said it pays annual rent and service charges of about £50,000, despite artsdepot paying nominal rent of only £1 to Barnet Council for the use of the building.

Managers at Community Focus said they first learned of the order to vacate the premises, which the charity has inhabited since 2005, in a letter from artsdepot last week. The charity has been given until 5 June to leave.

Tudor Spencer, chair of trustees at Community Focus, said the news was "a bolt out of the blue". A statement from the charity said disabled people who were long-term beneficiaries of the charity were "devastated" that it might close.

"We are the last founding partners of the building and have not only risen to the challenge of paying a large rental rate, but have also expanded our delivery to target even more members of our community in Barnet and beyond," said Spencer.

Tracy Cooper, chief executive of artsdepot, said in a statement that its partnership with London Studio Centre would allow artsdepot to survive.

"In order to facilitate our new partnership with London Studio Centre, we have had to make the difficult decision of serving notice to Community Focus to terminate its tenancy," she said.

"The space within artsdepot is limited and sadly it is not possible to accommodate both London Studio Centre and Community Focus. This is no reflection on the value of Community Focus’s work."

She said artsdepot was built as part of a planning agreement that included a peppercorn rent, but the charity still needed to raise £1.4m a year in order to run its activities.

Its original business model included two tenants paying rent – but one, Barnet College, moved out last year and in 2011 Barnet Council removed the £200,000 a year core funding it was providing.

"We’ve given Community Focus as much notice as we are able to and have said that we’ll do all we reasonably can to make this process as straightforward as possible for them," said Cooper.

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