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Kingswood House set to get revamp and reopen as council agrees new lease

21 March 2023

Plans for Kingswood House to reopen as an arts centre and events venue are underway with Southwark Council having handed over the keys to Kingswood Arts CIC. 

Kingswood Arts is a new not-for-profit cultural hub. While the refurb takes place, they will continue working with local people on their line-up of free and affordable activities, events and performances involving music, drama, dance and visual arts. Their programme will have a special focus on young people.

From spring 2023, Kingswood House will reopen for weddings, and a number of spaces will be available to rent including offices, studios and workshops.

Kingswood House is a Grade II listed building built in 1811. The property and grounds have been owned and managed by council since the 1950s.

It has previously been home to a small library and youth club. The smaller rooms were rented out and larger function rooms hired for weddings, events, and by local groups.

In March 2019, the house had to be closed as it was no longer safe for the public to access. Major works were needed in terms of fire safety and electrical compliance.

Up until this point, the council had invested more than £850k to maintain Kingswood House. This was on top of big annual subsidies from the council as income from rent and event bookings did not cover running costs. This was not sustainable in the long term.

The council asked local people and groups what they wanted the future of Kingswood House to look like. Over 170 responses helped build the brief for a tender process the council ran with a community panel to seek a new manager for the historic building. Applicants had to show they could invest in the building and optimise its use for the benefit of local people for years to come.

Cllr Catherine Rose, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Streets and Clean Air, said: “Kingswood House is an historic Southwark icon. We are thrilled to be one step closer to it reopening and being enjoyed by residents once again. From the start, our community has been at the heart of our plans to unlock its full potential. I want to offer my sincere thanks to the Friends of Kingswood House and Kingswood Estate Tenants and Residents Association (KETRA) for their commitment and hard work. In the next chapter of the house’s rich legacy, it will support and bring local people of all ages together. We are all very much looking forward to Kingswood Arts doing this through creativity and the space itself.”

Jack Hartshorn, Co-Founder and General Manager of Kingswood Arts, said: We are so excited and privileged to be given the opportunity to reopen the doors of this amazing historic building. We will operate the building with care, creativity and consciousness of the environment, but most importantly, we believe that co-creation with the community here is the only way to make a genuine impact on people's lives! We are just getting started so our message to you is come and get involved and be part of our journey!”

The council's plan sets out a commitment to protect Kingswood House as an asset for local people and to improve facilities on the Kingswood Estate.

As well as Kingswood House reopening, the library which was formerly based in the house is moving to a permanent home on Seeley Drive. The small ‘order and collect' service currently running from one of the small Seeley Drive units will be expanded and improved at a larger unit. The new service will include books for loan, a dedicated children's area, Wi-Fi, printing and computers. The new larger unit will provide space for youth services when the library is closed and the library service will also work with Kingswood House to provide outreach opportunities for local people.

Kingswood Arts is hosting a launch festival from 8-9 April. For more information, visit www.kingswoodarts.com/whats-on/events-updates

Page last updated: 21 March 2023

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