A tale of two buildings: Brixton House theatre and the Hondo Tower

Brixton House, London SW9 The reincarnation of an old Brixton theatre aims to enrich the local community, while proposals for a flashier 20-storey tower up the road seem less benign “People ask what it is,” says Gbolahan Obisesan, artistic director of Brixton House theatre, “and then they’re pleased that it’s not an office block.” A passerby does just that, as I stand outside the building’s dark metallic exterior. Such reactions are symptomatic of the current politics of development in Brixton, where some residents see new buildings as the means by which new money pushes out uses essential to established communities. The theatre, though, offers a way round such issues – it proposes a way of investing in the area that, in theory, could benefit everyone. Brixton House is the reincarnation of an old south London theatrical institution, Ovalhouse, known for its pioneering fringe productions since the 1960s; a place that nurtured talents including Tamsin Greig, Pierce Brosnan, David Hare and Salman Rushdie, and an early supporter of gay, lesbian and women’s theatre. Ovalhouse strove to connect community, politics and art, helping the first pride festivals in neighbouring Kennington Park and giving space to groups such as the British Black Panther party. Now, by moving a couple of miles from its old location by the Oval cricket ground, it is inserting itself in the charged and fertile territory of central Brixton. Continue reading...

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