Can Sir Ian McKellen invoke his Gandalf wizardry to save ‘The Space’ on Isle of Dogs with crowdfunding?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:34 25 September 2020

Sir Ian McKellen... crowdfunding to save The Space. Picture: Ben Broomfield

Sir Ian McKellen... crowdfunding to save The Space. Picture: Ben Broomfield

Ben Broomfield

A crowdfunding drama is being staged by the wizard of the big screen Sir Ian McKellen to secure the future of The Space performing arts theatre on the Isle of Dogs.

The Space in Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs. Picture: Ben BroomfieldThe Space in Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs. Picture: Ben Broomfield

The Space was launched by the Theatres Trust to prevent hundreds of theatres shutting down, but now faces permanent closure itself because of the lockdown crisis.

So it is crowdfunding to secure its future support for creatives and theatre-makers while involving thousands of people across east London during the pandemic.

Its star patron Sir Ian, known more in another role as Wizard Gandalf in The Hobbit, has pledged support with an online Q and A for funding donors.

Artistic director Adam Hemming wants the public to buy “rewards for others” as sponsorships for theatre-makers.

The Space artistic director Adam Hemming... The Space artistic director Adam Hemming... "I knew when saw their performance that they had something special." Picture: Ben Broomfield

“We’ve had pledges to pay for support for actors and theatre companies,” Adam explained.

“Promises have been made for tailor-made development plans for four playwrights, three actors, two theatre companies, two residencies a theatre practitioner and even an online workshop for 30 people.

“But the most popular reward has been my eight-year-old daughter’s doodles that she creates live during our weekly Facebook broadcasts.”

The Space has raised more than 40 per cent of its £15,000 target in the first week of the month-long fundraiser.

Its crowdfunding has received messages declaring that “many theatres need support but this one is special and worthy of helping out in any way we can”.

The Space in its 25 years has supported writers, actors and directors and drawn its own support for the Westferry Road venue from the arts world, especially from 81-year-old Shakespearean veteran Sir Ian McKellen, now its patron, who is almost its neighbour living just a stage away in Limehouse.

But it has been hit like all theatres by the pandemic, with tumbling income from ticket sales, hiring out the venue and rent from the cafe-bar pulling the rug from under its financial feet.

The Space has always played its part in the community life of Millwall and the Isle of Dogs, but now risks permanent closure.

It is struggling on a wing and a prayer after a quarter-of-a-century in its converted house of worship.


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