LOWE has unveiled Ovalhouse as their latest guardianship property offering young Londoners the chance to live in this iconic venue

One of South London’s most iconic venues, Ovalhouse, is now home to a new collective of artists, musicians and actors as property guardians with leading guardianship company LOWE. Located at Kennington Oval in Lambeth, the former theatre operated for over 50 years pioneering talent, championing the LGBTQ community, supporting Black and Asian writing and launching the careers of famous faces including Salman Rushdie, Tamsin Greig and Piers Brosnan.

LOWE has unveiled Ovalhouse as their latest guardianship property offering young Londoners the chance to live in this iconic venue. The ten new guardians include singers, actors, writers and musicians who are set to release grassroots works inspired by the historic venue.

Ovalhouse, now renamed as Brixton House, officially closed its premises in Kennington last year ahead of moving to purpose-built premises in Brixton in 2021. The theatre will ultimately be demolished as part of a redevelopment masterplan by Surrey Country Cricket Club.

The theatre has now been added to the network of 60 commercial and 150 residential buildings that LOWE manages in locations including Kensington, Finsbury Park, Blackheath, Clapham Junction, Willesden Green and Stoke Newington. LOWE’s track record of transforming redundant buildings into new residential hubs for guardians includes a former bank in Islington, a pub/club in Battersea, a police station in Chelsea and a former headquarters in Notting Hill.

Tim Lowe, Director of LOWE says: “Ovalhouse was an iconic theatre and venue that has served its local community for decades. It is a fantastic addition to our network of commercial properties for guardians to live in and make their own. This space encourages creativity and pushing the boundaries, a fantastic environment for young creatives to enjoy. With the theatre industry hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 crisis, it is wonderful to help this property give back to the local community once again before it is transformed as part of a new development in the future.”

At Ovalhouse, the rooms are priced from £400 per month for a standard room, with guardians sharing kitchen facilities, living areas and bathrooms, which is very affordable compared to the average Lambeth rental price of £928 for a room in a houseshare.

Ovalhouse also offers a loftstyle studio apartment in a former rehearsal studio, perfect for a couple, with beautiful hardwood flooring, high ceilings, kitchenette and en suite bathroom for £900 per month. In contrast the average Lambeth rent for a one bedroom apartment is £1,774 (Home.co.uk, November 2020).

The main theatre space has been transformed into a dynamic living area for the guardians to enjoy including the original piano still in place, once played by South London jazz musician Bheki Mseleku, with the current guardians adding their own record collections and an electric keyboard.

Ovalhouse can trace its roots to the 1930s when it was opened by graduates of Christ Church college, Oxford. Providing sports, skills training and leisure activities for local disadvantaged youths, the club was a key hub for the community.

In the 1960s, new warden Peter Oliver transformed the club into a theatre which quickly became an integral part of London’s theatre culture championing immersive theatre and helping young actors and writers push the boundaries of performance on stage. Notable performances include Piers Brosnan’s first ever production which featured a live donkey. Other productions included working with refugees and a room filled with eucalyptus, popular ‘Time Bomb’ theatre classes helping local schoolchildren to write their own pieces, and hosting regular live spoken word events. Ovalhouse also hosted meetings for the Black Panthers youth organisation and helped to resource the first Pride March.

Gary Johnson, Executive Director and joint CEO of Brixton House says, “As a long-standing arts organisation, we have been committed to supporting artists for over 50 years. Our previous home in Kennington Oval served artist communities and local audiences by bringing diverse work to our stages as well as becoming a space for the community to discover theatre. As we embarked on our move to Brixton, the opportunity to hand over the building once again to artists felt fitting and a positive way to end our time in Kennington. The legacy of Ovalhouse will remain with at our new home on Coldhabour Lane as Brixton House.”

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