“Two Years on from controversial sale of its building, London’s Africa Centre still has no permanent home”
Two years on from the sale of its original building to property developer, Capital and Counties, there is still no sign of a new Africa Centre building in London, and serious questions of governance and communication remain. That is the conclusion of a report published today by the Save The Africa Centre Campaign, which battled for the charity’s management board to hold a public consultation before selling its only asset, a listed building in Covent Garden.
The building, 38 King Street was the charity’s home for 50 years, and was sold for a rumoured £12 million pounds in august 2012. Over the course of its life as the Africa Centre, 38 King Street played a leading role as a focus point of African life in London, hosting art exhibition for many now established African artists and performers, and many political discussions including playing hosts to anti-apartheid activists.Many a coup was rumoured to have been plotted in its bar, and it hosted the famous Limpopo Club, one of the first regular club nights playing African music.
In 2012, following a number of years in which the charity’s status, as well as financial and administrative health had declined, amidst wide concern about its governance, the charity’s board of trustees chose to sell the building, despite a 4, 000 strong petition, which included the voice of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to halt the sale.
No New Africa Centre?
The campaign did succeed in gaining a commitment from the charity’s trustees to acquire a new location in central London. However, the report released today concludes that there is no indication that the charity has acquired, or is making plans to acquire a new permanent home in Central London. It also finds that whilst the funds of the charity are available for the public to view through the charity commission, showing more spending on governance than events programming, there has been no suggestion of governance reform being made at the charity, one of the key concerns for campaigners, who say that poor governance and an out-dated constitution led to the charity’s original decline.
An Africa Centre Building
Two years on, there is still a strong demand for a physical building called the Africa Centre in London, which would service the needs of London’s increasingly vibrant Africa focused organisations and African communities. In a statement from the report, the Save The Africa Centre Campaign urged the trustees to be open about developments for the charity, and to respond constructively to the report.
The Full Report can be viewed below and downloaded here.