Get involved: send your pictures, video, news & views by texting TIMES NEWS to 80360, or email us
Arts charity Community Focus worried after 'bolt out of the blue' eviction notice from artsdepot in North Finchley
An arts charity for the disabled says it may be forced to close after being handed a shock eviction notice.
Community Focus is consulting lawyers after the North Finchley artsdepot told charity directors last week they have less than three months to leave the premises.
Volunteers and disabled users were reportedly left in tears by the decision, which has been condemned by local councillors.
The charity, a founding partner of the popular arts centre, runs courses and projects for more than 1,500 adults and children with physical and learning disabilities in Barnet.
Director Tim Balogun said he was left surprised and bewildered when he was informed of artsdepot’s decision to oust the charity in favour of dance organisation the London Studio Centre (LSC).
Community Focus says it was not told about the eviction until artsdepot announced the “good news” of its new partnership with the LSC last week.
Mr Balogun said: “We’re very worried, surprised and confused. We can’t understand why we only found out at the same time as the press. It is in the hands our lawyers at the moment
“It is not a decision you make rashly so it must have been discussed for a long time. We seem to be dealing with a Goliath and we are the Davids here."
The inclusive arts organisation, which has been based at artsdepot since 2005 and has operated in the community for more than 30 years, pays rent and service charges equating to around £50,000-a-year.
Stakeholders of the charity say it has invested more than £140,000 into the arts centre, including a multi-media suite allowing staff to offer accredited digital arts training programmes to disadvantaged people.
Chair of trustees Tudor Spencer described the decision as a “bolt out of the blue”.
Barnet Council cabinet member Robert Rams pledged to try and prevent the eviction, claiming the campaign will be his priority in the coming weeks.
Woodhouse ward councillor Anne Hutton added: "The fact artsdepot has seen fit to dismiss Community Focus with no apparent discussion or consultation appears on the face of it to be an extraordinary act of high handedness.
"There are some people with disabilities who will be quite bereft if the service they provide were to disappear."
Artsdepot chief executive Tracy Cooper said in a statement last week that the decision to terminate the tenancy was a “difficult” one.
She said: “We have valued our relationship with the staff and clients of Community Focus and wish them well for the future in finding alternative premises.
“The partnership with LSC represents a golden opportunity for both artsdepot and North Finchley. With over 300 students living and spending in the area, this partnership is estimated to inject around £4 million into the local economy each year.
“We’re thrilled that we have this opportunity to give back to the local community who have supported artsdepot through challenging times.”