Kingswood Arts is a new not-for-profit arts centre and cultural hub, designed to support its local community through creativity. Located in a stunning 32 room mansion, we offer a range of free and affordable activities, events and performances for young people and families, involving music, drama, dance and visual arts.
We aim to support and give voices to marginalised communities and those who face barriers to accessing arts and culture. Our programme is and always will be co-created with our local community, relevant, affordable and accessible.
Kingswood House was first commissioned in 1811 by William Vizard, a well-connected solicitor who leased 30 acres from Dulwich College. The house was extended in the 1890s by John Lawson Johnston, the inventor of Johnston’s Fluid Beef (Bovril) and was affectionately known as Bovril Castle. The house was used during World War One as a convalescent home for Canadian Soldiers and during World War Two the basements were modified into a bomb shelter.
In the 1950s it was acquired, along with the land, by the local authority who built the Kingswood Estate, a collection of 691 mostly council-owned dwellings that surround the house. After many years as a Community centre and Library, the house was sadly left empty but is now entering a new era as Kingswood Arts.
Who are we?
Kingswood Arts is an independent not-for-profit community interest company founded by Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook. Kingswood Arts is supported by and maintains strong links with Hartshorn Hook Enterprises, a theatre and entertainment company based in London.
HHE produces immersive theatre shows such as the Great Gatsby, Doctor Who Time Fracture and Peaky Blinders : The Rise. They are experienced operators of heritage buildings and provide vital infrastructure, skills, resources and industry contacts for Kingswood Arts.
We are community hub and resource for the people living on the Kingswood Estate and surrounding areas. We've worked closely with residents, local groups and the council to develop a model where Kingswood will be accessible for all whilst still generating enough income to support the significant running costs & maintenance of the house.
Many of our activities will be funded and will be free at the point of access for residents - especially those aimed at young people. There will also be a local membership scheme that will give residents free or discounted tickets, space hire or activities!
We will also run a year round programme of community events including a summer activities and an extensive winter programme that will always be open, accessible and affordable (or free!).
All of this is guided by a steering group made up of key stakeholders including representatives from the residents, the schools, political representation and crucially, young people.
We would love to hear from local residents, parents and anyone with an interest in the future of Kingswood House! We've created a short questionnaire and run regular community updates meetings where you can find out more about the project.