Endangered arts centre Rich Mix last night beamed messages of support onto the front of its building to draw attention to its financial dispute with Tower Hamlets Council.
The arts centre is at risk of closing down following council demands that it repay £850,000 in full, a sum given to Rich Mix in 2002 to help it refurbish its premises.
Rich Mix claims it was never clear whether the sum was a one-off grant or a loan, and that it is not able to cough up the money in one lump sum without having to close.
Nearly 12,000 people have signed a petition on change.org to help save Rich Mix, and with a High Court case looming, the arts centre last night projected messages of support received so far onto the front of its building.
A small crowd of well wishers gathered to watch the projection and read statements designed to stir the passions such as: “As an artist I see this place as one of my homes,” and “Supporting the arts supports the entire community.”
Employees Eileen and Anna were filming the projection. They stand to lose their jobs if Rich Mix closes. “The response has been amazing,” said Eileen, who has only recently moved to London but managed to make friends through her work.
The High Court case between Rich Mix and Tower Hamlets Council is set for 20 July, with Rich Mix CEO Jane Earl keen to reach a settlement beforehand.
“We’d much rather that we settle the case rather than having to spend money on internal and external legal fees,” Earl said.
Earl told the East End Review in January that Rich Mix has offered to repay the money in instalments. “What we mustn’t do is pay it in a way that will make us go bust,” Earl said.
However, Earl alleges that Tower Hamlets Council is withholding £1.6 million owed to Rich Mix as part of the planning agreement for a nearby development.
The agreement saw developer Telford Homes pay over £2 million towards cultural development in the immediate area.
The council’s Strategic Development Committee decided in 2010 that this money would go to Rich Mix, but the contract drawn up to transfer the money was deemed “unenforceable” by a court due to a lack of firm targets.