Battersea Arts Centre is based in the building which was originally constructed to house Battersea Town Hall: a labyrinthine building with over 80 rooms and a rich, complex, often volatile history dating back to 1893. Battersea Arts Centre’s relationship with the building spans over five decades of creativity, community and multiple campaigns to save the building.

Since 2006 we have been engaged in a project to architecturally develop the building through a process we call “BAC Playground Projects”. 

This site tells the story of the process and has been made possible by Arts Council England's RENEW programme.

Welcome SLIDER



Old Town hall GALLERY

The Old Town Hall in Images

5 What Is Playgrounding


‘Playgrounding’ is a term coined by David Jubb, who was appointed Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre in 2004, working closely with architect, Steve Tompkins of Haworth Tompkins.

Over ten years ago Battersea Arts Centre created an approach to theatre called ‘Scratch’, which has now been taken on across the world by organisations such as Sydney Opera House, the Royal Court and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Playgrounding is the practice of applying the ideas of ‘Scratch’ to the architectural process, a design methodology that places artists and audiences at the centre of the architectural process.

Playgrounding develops ideas through collaboration, before testing them through a series of low cost investments. This allows for more fluidity and flexibility, giving good ideas the opportunity to mature over longer periods of research. We believe this process delivers richer, more creative results that better meets artists’ and audiences’ needs.

The idea of Playgrounding is simply about artists, staff and audiences doing what we all used to do in our playgrounds, creating flexible worlds in which anything could happen. The significance of Battersea Arts Centre as a found space in this concept is important. As David points out, often the very best games are those played in the areas of the playground that have not been especially equipped or designed – ‘the parts of the playground where we could create our own worlds.’

Steve Tompkins

Steve Tompkins is a Director of Haworth Tompkins Architects who has been the key collaborative partner involved from the very beginning of the project.

David Jubb

David Jubb is the Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre. He has been at the helm of the project since its inception and continues to oversee it as Project Director.


“Battersea Arts Centre has the rare accolade of being a genuinely local theatre which is also a vastly important national resource. Battersea Arts Centre has this country’s best developed process for nurturing new artists and new shows. If there is one place which has a genuine claim to be Britain’s most influential theatre it is Battersea Arts Centre.”

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

6 From Scratchto Programming


The Scratch process is based on six principles which define the ethos of Battersea Arts Centre and the flavour of the work it produces:

  • TAKING RISKS is fundamental to creativity. Scratch allows artists to experiment, to change their mind, and gives them the opportunity to make mistakes, which is crucial to the creative process.
  • IMPROVISING: Scratch allows you to set off without being sure what, where or when the end will be. It legitimises making it up as you go along.
  • Scratch is ARTIST - LED. It is designed as a development process to support the growth of a project from the idea inside an artist’s head, to a full production.
  • COLLABORATING: Scratch places the artist at the centre of a network of collaborative relationships which support the work (in particular with their producer and with the audience). In Scratch the artist opens their work up to feedback, drawing a wider group of people into the making process.
  • TAKING TIME: It takes time to make good work. Ideas are often scratched on a number of occasions with several months in between. The time spent away from the idea can be just as important as the time working on the idea.
  • LEARNING: Each time an artist returns to an idea, learning from the previous Scratch is incorporated. Scratch creates a constant ‘feedback loop’. It is an iterative development process.

We wanted to find a process for changing our building which takes account of instinct and story, accidental discovery, messiness, a search for the unknown and a love of play. In another word, theatre. 

Maddy Costa

Maddy Costa is a feature writer for The Guardian and runs Dialogue with fellow theatre writer Jake Orr.

David Jubb

David Jubb is the Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre. Here he explains the Scratch process.


The Team


BAC Playground Projects are collaborative by nature. From the initial idea to realising the projects, we have tried to engage and empower all those involved. One key principle has been to treat everyone like an artist, like a creative contributor: whether they are artists, members of the design team, licensing officers, funders, members of our community or our Board. 

Playground Project People

There have been hundreds of people involved in Battersea Arts Centre's Playground Projects, all of whom have played a key role.

The Core Team GALLERY

The Core Team

The Core Team is made up of the people who have been most heavily involved in the process from design through to construction.

David Micklem

David Micklem was Joint Artistic Director with David Jubb from 2008-2012 and played an integral role in the project. This is a video made at the end of his time at Battersea Arts Centre in which he recalls his experiences.



BAC Playground Projects have involved many different members of the Battersea Art Centre staff team since 2006. However, there have been a few key individuals that have driven the project forward. David Jubb, Artistic Director, has been at the helm of the project since its inception and continues to oversee it as Project Director. David Micklem, during his time as Joint Artistic Director (2008-2012) was also integral to its planning and delivery.

Each of the Chairs of BAC’s Board has played a key role: Nick Starr (2002-2009); Roanne Dods (2009-2011); Michael Day (2012-Current) and Chair of Battersea Arts Centre’s Capital Group Bruce Thompson (2009-Current)

During the early years of the project, the ground delivery and planning was spearheaded by Head of Space, Richard Couldrey, supported by key members of the technical and production teams as well as Capital Administrator, Tref Davies who remains on the project. With Richard’s departure in 2012, Jo Hunter, Head of Strategic Development, took on the role of Shaper of the Capital Project with Capital Project Manager, Scott MacColl coming on board in 2013. Members of the Welcome, Infrastructure and Technical project teams at Battersea Arts Centre remain vital to the delivery of the project on an ongoing basis.

This site has been put together by Miranda Marcus, with consultation from Allegra Gavin. 

2010 05

Haworth Tompkins

Haworth Tompkins is pioneering a new way of building design by working with artists and audiences through creative projects: defining a programme of works over a period of time and creating an on-going dialogue between user and designer.


Haworth Tompkins' credits include:

  • RIBA Award for London Building of the Year
  • International Architectural Award
  • D&AD Graphic Design Award
  • British Construction Industry Building Award
  • Blueprint Architecture Award

For a host of projects including:

  • The Young Vic
  • The Royal Court
  • The National Theatre Studio 
  • Almeida Theatre
  • North Wall Performing Arts Centre
  • The Egg, an award winning children’s theatre in Bath

“We have tried to imagine an architectural proposal not as a standalone, all-encompassing design that artists would then attempt to inhabit, but as a seamless, on-going dialogue with the building that originates in the creative perception of the artists themselves. Our aim has been to generate a new/old, composite architectural space backwards from a collectively envisaged performance in that space, to look at the architectural design process through the ‘wrong’ end of the telescope as it were”.

Steve Tompkins

Steve Tompkins

Steve Tompkins is a Director of Haworth Tompkins Architects. He has taught and lectured extensively at a number of UK schools of architecture and is currently Visiting Professor of Architecture at the University of Greenwich, guest critic at Cambridge and external examiner at Dundee. He has exhibited architectural work at the RIBA and the RA, as well as landscape paintings at various UK galleries.


“The whole theatre scene in the UK has been enormously influenced by the work that has gone on at Battersea Arts Centre over the last twenty years. Some of it high profile but much more in a quiet but consistent way.”

Alistair Spalding,
Chief Executive, Sadler’s Wells

17 Theatre


Our mission is to Invent the Future of Theatre

Over the last 10 years we have opened up how theatre is made and presented by using creative processes like Scratch. Over the next 10 years we will also seek to open up what theatre and the creative process can achieve in our community. Our “THEATRE” mnemonic sets out our ambitions.

Download the full THEATRE Mnemonic

David Jubb

David Jubb is Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre.

Michael Day

Michael Day is Chair of the Battersea Arts Centre board, and Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces.

Toby Jones

Toby Jones is Patron of Battersea Arts Centre. He is an actor who is known for his roles in films such as Infamous (2006), Frost/Nixon (2008), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), Berberian Sound Studio (2012) and The Hunger Games (2012).

Jude Kelly

Jude Kelly was the first Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre (1980 - 1985). She is currently Artistic Director of Southbank Centre. 

21 Infographics


Artists who have developed work at Battersea Arts Centre include:

  • Cheek by Jowl (International theatre company)
  • Complicite (International theatre company)
  • David Farr (Associate Director, Royal Shakespeare Company)
  • Kneehigh Theatre (International Theatre company)
  • Ian Rickson (ex Artistic Director, Royal Court)
  • Improbable (International Theatre company)
  • Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (Comedians, The League of Gentlemen)
  • Matt Lucas and David Walliams (Comedians, Little Britain)
  • Harry Hill (Comedian)
  • Stewart Lee (Comedian, Jerry Springer Opera)
  • French and Saunders (Comedians)
  • Graham Norton (Comedian and TV Chat Show host)
  • Steve Coogan (Comedian, I’m Alan Partridge)
  • Tom Morris (Artistic Director, Bristol Old Vic)
  • Jude Kelly (Artistic Director of South Bank Centre and Chair of the Arts, Culture and Education Committee as part of London’s 2012 Olympic bid)
  • (David)Mitchell and (Robert) Webb (Comedians, Peep Show)
  • Paul Merton (Comedian, Have I Got News For You)
  • Neil Bartlett OBE (Write and director, ex-Artistic Director at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith)
  • Nigel Kennedy (violinist and BRIT Award winner)
  • Patrick Marber (writer, comedian, actor The Day Today and Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge)
  • DV8 (international dance company)
  • Bijan Sheibani (Artistic Director of ATC, JMK winner)
  • Natalie Abrahami (Joint Artistic Director of The Gate)
  • Thea Sharrock (ex-Artistic Director of London's Southwark Playhouse, director)
  • Toby Jones (Actor, Truman Capote, Battersea Arts Centre Patron)