New mezzanine performance space set to be installed but criticisms remain over reduced public space, reports James Cracknell
Enfield Council has revealed detailed plans to revamp Dugdale Arts Centre – but is again facing criticism over the reduced public space available.
With the Enfield Town arts venue at Thomas Hardy House still currently closed, the council has now revealed its £1.5million plans to revamp the venue ahead of its reopening later this year. The plans include three new “presentation areas”, an expanded café-restaurant and a “more prominent home” for Enfield Museum. A new “welcoming” entrance will be created in Cecil Road alongside an outdoor seating area.
The redesign of the Dugdale’s interior by award-winning architects Dallas-Pierce-Quintero will include a mezzanine and a tiered seating area that can be used for performances, presentations or teaching. The 150-seat studio theatre will remain for larger performances, while Enfield Museum will be given a “movable exhibit area”. EnFood, the council’s award-winning food sustainability project, will continue to run the café at the Dugdale, but will add an “evening offer”.
The council says it hopes the revamped building will “become a key focal point to help revitalise Enfield Town and in particular the evening economy”.
The Dugdale was first opened in 2008 but has been closed to the public since 2020, having been used as an NHS vaccination centre for several months last year. In its absence, a temporary arts space has been created by the council at Palace Gardens Shopping Centre.
Two years ago the council announced that it would be converting the first floor of Thomas Hardy House into offices for its staff, meaning it could no longer be used by Enfield Museum and the Local Studies Library and Archive as part of the Dugdale Centre. Rooms that had been available for hire by community groups were also axed.
The decision was criticised at the time by local heritage groups and led to a petition to “save our Dugdale” being signed by more than 2,000 people. It later also transpired that Paul Everitt, the council’s former head of arts and culture who was made redundant last year, had himself opposed the plans to reduce the public space available at the Dugdale.
Conservative councillors have now ‘called in’ the council decision to spend £1.5m on the Dugdale’s revamp, which will be debated by members of the overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, 21st March.
Criticisms put forward by the Conservative group concern the space available for Enfield Museum being reduced, with only the ground floor now being used; the apparent loss of a specially-adapted public toilet previously available at the Dugdale; a lack of storage space for the cafe and theatre; and “the failure to explain how moving the entrance enhances the centre”.
Regarding the plans for Enfield Museum, the Tory councillors state in their call-in request: “The design shows a new dedicated area for display of the permanent collection which is significantly less than the space allocated on the first floor of the Dugdale Centre and the space it already inhabited on the ground floor. The report fails to say how a smaller area enhances the museum.”
The council’s plans for the Dugdale will be available to view this summer at a special exhibition. There will also be an opportunity for people to express their views on what or who they’d like to see at the arts centre. The refurbishment is due to be complete by winter, in time for panto season.
Deputy council leader Ian Barnes said: “The Dugdale has a special place in everybody’s heart but we know it can achieve so much more to be part of the ongoing, exciting transformation of Enfield Town and to better connect our communities with the arts.
“Our plans will ensure it becomes a fully inclusive and adaptable space for all. Rather than sitting on the fringes of the town, Dugdale Arts Centre will become a fundamental feature that celebrates the heritage and diversity of the borough.”