I was reminded by a friend of the present crisis facing the African Centre in London’s Covent Garden. The following article, written by Jonathan Prynne is taken from London’s Evening Standard Newspaper. It would be extremely disappointing to see the centre close.
‘ Archbishop Desmond Tutu and London Mayor Boris Johnson today issued a plea to stop the closure of Britain’s leading African cultural centre in Covent Garden. The Africa Centre, the focal point for arts and politics for almost half a century, is due to be sold by its trustees in a “secret” deal. The Mayor and the South African human rights campaigner and other prominent figures with African connections said they were “deeply dismayed” to hear of the decision. In a joint letter they said: “This building – now worth millions of pounds – was originally a gift from the Catholic Church: there could not be a worse time to risk losing it. “Africa is coming into its own as one of the fastest developing parts of the world. Those of us who care about the continent want to be able to say: ‘The Africa Centre was there when we were down – it must be there as we soar to the heights’.”
The centre was opened at 38 King Street in 1964 and became the focus for independence movements and the anti-apartheid campaigns. Prominent Africans who have performed or taught there include Nigerinan novelist Ben Okri and South African playwright AtholFugard. A statement from the trustees said the Grade II listed building, which was once a tomato warehouse for the Covent Garden market, was no longer a viable home as it was too costly to maintain. “Too much of the funds we were raising were going into maintenance of the building and not enough on events and promotion of Africa.” As a result they had “reluctantly” decided to move to “an alternative location but remaining in the centre of London “