Protests over plan to change Tricycle theatre’s name to The Kiln
Former artistic director Nicolas Kent says revamp is 'tragic' and a 'commercial misstep'
19 April, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
‘Save The Trike’ campaigners
THE former artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre has hit out at plans to rebrand it with a new name. Nick Kent told the New Journal that changing the famous arts centre in the Kilburn High Road to be called The Kiln was “tragic” and a “commercial misstep”.
Hundreds of people have signed a petition against the changes since the New Journal reported on the proposals last week. Mr Kent’s successor, Indhu Rubasingham, said last week that the new name was a “natural evolution” after the theatre’s recent multi-million-pound refit. It will open again in October under the new name, but objectors are hoping there will be a change of heart.
Mr Kent, who ran the theatre between 1984 and 2012, said he could not understand the decision. “I am mystified why they should get rid of a major brand – it is a commercial misstep,” he said, adding that he believed it would take five years for the public to recognise a new name. “Rebranding costs thousands of pounds, and for what reason? When the Tricycle burnt down in 1985, a lot of people put a huge amount of time, goodwill and effort to restore it and they did not change the name then. “I just cannot see the point. I have had so many phone calls and emails about it, it is completely disrupting my life. I’d find it easier to respond if I understood why, but I do not.”
Shirley Barrie, who founded the Wakefield Tricycle Company in 1972, alongside husband Ken Chubb, died earlier this week. Mr Kent added: “It is tragic. This would be a lasting memorial to her and the vision she had. It seems such a shame her legacy has disappeared.”
Nicolas Kent with director Sam Mendes during his time at the Tricycle
His views have been echoed by organisers of a group of protesters who have formed under the name, Save The Trike. Organiser, Jean Clarke, who lives nearby, said: “I was so upset when I heard. I remember the theatre opening and I have been going there consistently every since. I never miss a play and also see a lot of films there – it is excellent.”
She added: “I and others stood outside the cinema this week to collect signatures and every single person we spoke to agreed it should remain the Tricycle.” Duncan McAusland, another objector, said: “It seems extraordinary to throw away a brand name that, for something so small, is nationally known and has a hell of a reputation. To throw it away on a whim beggars belief. Every actor, director and writer knows it as the Trike.”
A spokesman for the theatre told the New Journal it had chosen to change the name to mark the revamp – and had consulted widely. He said: “We’re close to the end of a stunning and major architectural renovation and we have a brand-new season of our own exciting productions and outreach work coming up. “e are sorry our new name doesn’t please everyone. We have thought about this for a long time and consulted audience members, staff, our young company, our board and many members of our communities.”
He added: “We believe it’s a name that speaks of creativity, inspires a sense of warmth and echoes the name of the place where we live. “We’ve had an overwhelmingly warm response from our donors and supporters, from the theatre world and the people around us in Kilburn, along with record-breaking advance ticket sales for our new season.”
Theatre’s radical history
THE Tricycle, founded by Ken Chubb and Shirley Barrie in 1980, came from a small theatre company who would meet in the back room of the Wakefield pub in King’s Cross – until they found the former Foresters Hall on the Kilburn High Road to make a permanent home.
Helped with grants from the GLC and the Arts Council, it developed a global reputation for being the home of cutting-edge political theatre. It has covered issues such as the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Bloody Sunday, the 2011 riots, and the US prison in Guantanamo Bay.
Nicolas Kent recalled how judges at the International Criminal Court in the Hague had heard of the plays they ran about the trials regarding Srebrenica atrocities in the former Yugoslavia – and when judges said they needed an extra desk in the court for the trail of Slobodan Milosevic, they asked if they could have one used from the set.
The Tricycle also offered a space for new Black and Irish actors and writers – and was a firm supporter of the Anti-Apartheid movement.