The Trustees of the Africa Centre
United Kingdom

Letter to the Trustees of the Africa Centre (Registered Charity No: 313510)
38 King Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JT
21 March 2011

We the undersigned, understand that you are proposing to sell the 38 King Street premises and close down the Africa Centre as it presently exists.

While we appreciate that you have done what you can to keep the Centre going, we believe exercising the option to sell this property held in trust is a mistake. Not all alternatives have been exhausted. There are other options that should be explored with wider consultation and support.

The Centre has been a meeting place, a cultural beacon and an iconic landmark in the centre of London for more than 40 years. Given by the Catholic Church in perpetuity to the people of Africa, huge numbers of Africans and others interested in Africa have been to meetings and events there. These people are stakeholders too and they would like a say in its future. To simply decide to sell the building without consulting them would be a betrayal of your duty as a Trustee.

Africa has recently risen up the international agenda. Although the economic recession has affected the western world, Africa is the fastest growing region on earth at the moment. Investors, new and old, are engaged with, and in, African countries as never before. In other ways too, in the arts, music and literature, Africa’s importance is experiencing a renaissance. It would be ironic if, at the very moment the rest of the world takes Africa seriously, the Africa Centre closed.

Furthermore the meetings and events programme has recently been revived thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of a few individuals and the numbers attending indicate the demand for African events in the centre of London is high and growing. Abandoning the Africa Centre now would be to lose a gilt edged opportunity, perhaps especially considering the upcoming platform offered by the 2012 Cultural Olympiad in London.

A study three years ago indicated wide support for the Centre and concluded that raising money to revamp the building was feasible. We believe this is still the case and that not all possibilities for raising the necessary money have been explored. There are alternatives. While the ground floor and lower ground floor are available for functions, meetings and social events, the upper floors are now fully occupied by organisations involved in Africa, who bring in income and further the aims of the Centre. They have indicated they wish to be involved in the regeneration of the Africa Centre at King Street.

We see no evidence that alternative ways forward have been fully explored, no discussions with those who use the Africa Centre have been held, no evidence that the price being offered is the best that can be realised and no plan to continue the Africa Centre’s mission at another home.

We, the undersigned call on the Trustees of the Africa Centre not to sell the Africa Centre before full public consultation has taken place.

The Save The Africa Centre! petition to The Trustees of the Africa Centre was written by Karen Sussex and is in the category Business at GoPetition.