College evicts theatre company

June 23, 1995

At the end of next month the Soho Theatre Company will make a final exit from London's Cockpit Theatre, its home for the past four years, after a bitter row with landlords The City of Westminster College.

The college says it needs the theatre space to cope with massive student expansion, but the theatre company claims that these extra performing arts students will probably not find jobs in the industry.

The Cockpit will not close and the college has stressed that it will continue to operate as a professional venue as well as being a base for performing arts students. But it has had a rough ride. The theatre company has mobilised the support of a celebrity cast, including Bob Hoskins, Simon Callow, Richard Wilson and Eleanor Bron to campaign against its "eviction", creating much favourable attention.

Producer Mark Godfrey said the company was talking to the National Lottery about future funding and two or three properties in Westminster were being considered although without collateral a purchase was proving problematic.

The company has been unlucky with its homes in recent years - in 1990 it had to move out of premises owned by then landlords Westminster University. Mr Godfrey said the new two-year performing arts course offered by the college was not what the industry wanted and blamed the funding system for forcing colleges to recruit more vocational students regardless of their job prospects.

The college says it has doubled its number of performing arts students over the past year. It needs the theatre for them and as a teaching and assessment centre for electricians and sound engineers.

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