History and ethos of the Albany Centre

The Albany Centre was a thriving venue for around 20 years and was home to (amongst others) the Avon Touring Theatre. Below is some of its history over the past 25 years. If you have any additional information or photographs relating to the Albany Centre during this time we'd love to hear from you.

June 1980Montpelier Community Association lose their home and approach Avon Touring Theatre Company who are looking for rehearsal and office space to talk about the two redundant Methodist church buildings in need of repair in Montpelier.

August 1980Bristol City Council lends 10,500 interest free to enable the Avon Touring Theatre Company to purchase the two redundant Methodist buildings. One of them the chapel is promised to the Montpelier Community Association.

November 1980The buildings are purchased and the Albany Centre Project gets underway, with Avon Touring sponsoring an MSC Funded Youth Opportunities Program employing four adults to teach building skills to 20 trainees renovating the two buildings.

February 1982With building and renovations to one of the buildings complete the MSC project finishes. The Montpelier Community Association changes their name to the Albany Centre Community Association and continues to raise funds towards renovations of the second building. Unable to raise sufficient funds, Avon Touring and the Albany Community Association decide to amalagmate resources and share the space in the one renovated building while major grant applications are being considered.

May 1982The Community Association put on a week long festival of music, theatre and dance to celebrate the completion of the building project. Grants totaling 2,000 are received from the South West Arts, Bristol City Council and the CRE to go towards the festival costs.

September 1982The Community Association receives a years grant of 11,443 from the Department of Health and Social Security through the Consortium on Opportunities for Volunteering. A full-time Co-ordinator is employed.

October 1983Consortium Grant is renewed for another 6 months 6,906.

December 1983Unilever Export Ltd award the Centre a grant of 6,500 per year for two years to start from April 1984.

February 1984Consortium grant is renewed for a further year - 13,900.

March 1984The second building, designated for community use is demolished because of its dangerous state and lack of funds available to renovate.

July 1984A second full-time worker takes up employment as a community worker.

October 1984Bristol City Council award Albany Centre a grant of 17,000 to purchase a temporary building and refurbish and repair main building.

November 1984MSC funded Community Program team sponsored by Bristol City Council start work. Team includes two part-time community development workers one full-time publicist and one part-time caretaker/maintenance worker. A new temporary building (Portakabin)) - arrives to house them all and provide another community room.

February 1985Work on the main building near completion, including a new seating rostra, new floor and redecoration. The temporary building brings much needed extra space allowing a wide program of clubs classes and workshops to continue throughout the year landscaping work is underway for the surrounding area. The Consortium grant renewed for a further year 14,471.

1985-1994The Lost Decade

1994The performance licence was lost and the building's main use became youth work. A performance group called Prometheus were hiring the Albany Centre for regular rehearsals. The Albany Circus Club was also based in the space which was mainly used at that time as a youth work project. The youth work lost its funding and as a result the Albany had no community users left.

1995/6The Trustees approach Prometheus and ask if they want to run the building as they are the main users and no other community interest was shown. Prometheus wanted to take on the building but were aware that it was a big job to run the space so invited other arts and physical based groups and individuals to join a committee that would keep the space running. This was a mixed bag of contemporary dancers, capoieraistas, aerialists and other skills based circus performers. This group gradually became the Albany Artists and a healthy co-operative was born. The committee met on a regular basis to discuss day to day running and future projects.

1999The first Albany Cabaret was presented as a fund raiser and has become the main fundraising activity that keeps the space running and repairs to the building. It has also gained a cult following and due to increased popularity has grown to a two night event which quickly sells out.

2000The Albany Collective was registered as a company to make the space more legitimate as a legal entity and as a more formal organisation. The space continues to work as a professional training space offering some classes. Performers have moved to Bristol specifically due to the healthy, supportive atmosphere between performers who come together to make their training space work and to continue their professional development.

2007The Albany Centre's bricks and mortar are struggling and in need of much work to maintain the space - a tall order for an unfunded artist led organisation without an administrator. The space is still thriving as a training space used by many professional performers and courses such as acting and tai chi.

The general opinion of the success of the Albany Centre is due to the fact it is artist led and rates are affordable. The artists have the space running as it is useful to them. Rather than having restrictions imposed they agree between themselves and agree on any necessary changes as they arise.

The organisation is currently receiving strong support from Theatre Bristol and CAST - The committee are hoping this will take the Albany into a new phase where it is run more efficiently by paid staff and kept dry!