On a project previous to GBM, we worked with Laban. As one of the world’s leading contemporary dance institutions, its success and increased programme of activity meant that the old London premises in New Cross no longer supported the level of work.
A successful application for the Arts Council of England National Lottery funding meant that a new building designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Pritzker Prize winning (2001) architects behind Tate Modern, could be built. However for the project to be realised, match funding of £10,000,000 was required. Work was needed to clarify what Laban’s vision was, in order to gain vital support from key stakeholders such as future business partners, the local community and the wider UK public.
We looked at how the Centre was perceived by both its own staff and by outsiders, journalists and dance professionals. Laban’s approach was seen as being both challenging and intelligent. But Laban was also seen as somewhat institutionalised and lacking some of the sparkle it had had a decade or so ago which would prove critical for developing stakeholders for the future. It was not as well known as it should have been either.
The vision of the project was then developed and used to drive all activity. We decided to widen the context of dance within contemporary culture (rather like Tate Modern did for contemporary art).
Diversity was important, attracting and building the interest of underrepresented groups, gaining wider support from business. The new building was situated in one of the poorest boroughs in the UK, so there were quite a few challenges in engaging the local community.
Collaboration was important with the architects, Herzog & de Meuron, locals, artists like Michael Craig-Martin, who produced his biggest ever piece of work as a mural in the new building, and with other arts and community based organisations such as Trinity School of Music, Hales Gallery, Goldsmiths, Deptford X (a community arts event), The Albany and local and national businesses.
The historical context of the new building was also an important element as the new building took its design cues from the front of St Pauls church by Hawksmoor. Also, the sense of history and journey of the Thames and the Creek where the building sat, were important in the story.
Environmental leadership was another important part of the vision. Working with Groundworks and other passionate community groups a green roof, green corridors, a clean up of the Creek (which itself had become an important breeding ground for plants), new nest boxes for swallows and sand banks for kingfishers, were all undertaken.
We had an extensive media push with good results. We maintained an ongoing dialogue about the progress of the new building with key stakeholders. Also, regular tours and presentations were offered to business and locals.
Match funding of £10,000,000 was successfully achieved from corporate support and a mix of grant and foundation monies. The range of different partners reflected the local national and international significance of the building.
Massive media coverage was achieved which helped put Laban on the map for all stakeholders. All the main nationals supported the project. Also specialist and local titles covered the opening and we had great broadcasts – the BBC TV News team were regulars at the building.
We managed to get over 7,000 people to the opening weekend and had a sell-out first season.