You owe us, Shoreditch arts centre tells council

RichMix cinema and bar, Bethnal Green Rd, Shoreditch , London 250912 ©

RICH MIX has admitted to Loving Dalston that the local council’s court action against it will not result in the arts centre’s closure.

Tower Hamlets says Rich Mix owes it £850,000. But the Shoreditch arts centre, which includes a stage, café and cinema, maintains it is owed almost £2 million by the council.

An official bribe – sometimes known as planning gain – given to the council by the developer of a nearby skyscraper, and approved for the arts centre, has yet to be passed over in full, says Rich Mix.

The centre told Loving Dalston: “Since March 2011 Rich Mix has tried to agree with Tower Hamlets council targets for the remainder of the money, and to clarify what the council would like to see Rich Mix do to enhance services already being delivered for and with local people.

Palestinian Reem Kelani at Rich Mix 070315 ©
Diversity: Palestinian singer Reem Kelani lights up Rich Mix

“Rich Mix has offered to have such targets agreed by a neutral third party but the council has refused this.”

Rich Mix was willing to pay Tower Hamlets the disputed £850,000 in return for the council’s paying over the outstanding sum, £1.6 million.

The centre also offered to pay up to £50,000 of the council’s external legal costs, because the taxpayer should not have to bear the costs of “this unfortunate and protracted legal action”.

Rich Mix has avoided legal costs by obtaining pro bono publico representation from Latham and Watkins, an international law firm.

Rich Mix has always been controversial. Setting it up early this century took £27 million of public money. The Hackney Road venue opened unofficially in 2006 and officially two years later.

Now the Arts Council subsidy of £300,000 a year looks to be good value: Rich Mix is likely make tax payments this year of about £480,000.

Critics, however, claim that it is failing to reach out to the local Bengali community at a time when Muslim inclusion in mainstream culture is more important than ever.

Rich Mix counters that it is reaching reaching “increasingly diverse audiences” by presenting “excellent art”, although it has, it admits, “much to learn about how best to do this”.

A week of events for Freedom Week had attracted “growing audiences” of people with a Sylheti background.

Rich Mix would continue to collaborate with Oldham and other British centres with big Sylheti populations.

Aboriginal tale-teller: Koori Jack Charles at Rich Mix 2014 ©
Tale-teller: Koori Jack Charles at Rich Mix

Tower Hamlets, asked about its court action, said it would be“inappropriate” to comment.

The council was open to constructive discussions with Rich Mix over possible partnership funding but it had a duty to local residents to pursue outstanding debts.

David Altheer 080415

* Rich Mix, 35 Bethnal Green Road E1 6LAP (020 7613 7490)

* Backstory: Criminal tales from ancient culture 

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