Chelsea Theatre is part of the World’s End Estate, built between the King’s Road and the river. Victorian workers housing was demolished in the 1960s and replaced with a utopian vision for how a community should be – an estate of towers with 750 homes and facilities for the community. There’s a school, a youth club, a church, a piazza and a purpose-built theatre. But it is also one of the 10% most deprived areas in the UK on the official deprivation register. A newly refurbished Chelsea Theatre aims to change that.
Chelsea Theatre has seen a lot of changes in the past couple of years…
Paul Adlam After the Grenfell fire, our building was tested for fire safety and shut down. The Theatre’s board of trustees raised £2.5 million to have it completely overhauled and renovated and it reopened two years ago.
The refurbishment has made huge changes. Rather than have just one performance space, we have four. We have two exhibition spaces and six studios and meeting rooms and the theatre is also now a cinema. It’s set up as a complete creative hub. We are marrying our two purposes of community and creativity as catalysts for personal and social change, and everything is built from that.
And you are now collaborating with ECIFF…
Paul Adlam The work with ECIFF started because we bought the equipment to become a film venue. We were looking at partners for that but realized that we also had a lot in common with ECIFF.
We’ve developed this to the point where we are partnering on a special festival award for films that tell stories that have social impact. It was open internationally, and we received 366 submissions from all over the world.
This is just the first year, but we’ve started partnering with ECIFF on other things too. For example, the film festival’s first event is a parent and baby showing at the theatre. We have a parent and under-ones group on a Friday and we realized there’s no provision for them to see a movie with their babies and be in a safe and happy environment. And if the baby’s crying, no one’s going to complain. So the first Festival event is the Best of the Festival at the Chelsea Theatre.
We also recently did a project called Inclusive, which was getting people to tell us about their tattoos. It’s a creative choice. People make them. More often than not, there’s a story behind them.
So Maggie put together a project that filmed that and has made a short film about it.
Maggie Razavi It’s called Inclusive Stories of the Soul, World’s End. The concept is tattoos-as-modern-day-folklore. It’s essentially a way of providing new access points into storytelling, getting people to open up about their lives and really tell us about themselves, their stories, their connections to the World’s End Estate.