Our reporting of a neighbourhood planning meeting on Tuesday night sparked a debate online about the gentrification of central Brixton, focusing on the Ritzy’s use of public space on Windrush Square. Here we publish a response from the Ritzy – and tomorrow we’ll hear from Devon Thomas, Chair of the Brixton Area Forum
We would like to respond to the interesting debate that has been happening about our use of the space on Windrush Square.
We appreciate the concerns being raised by residents, and of course, as a public space there is plenty of room for debate and comment as to its use. To clarify briefly, we have a licence agreement with Lambeth Council which we apply and pay for annually. This has appropriate caveats to preserve the space, access through it, and its availability for community use, which we are committed to.
Our attitude to the agreement goes beyond the mere logistics and legalities however, and we feel that, as a thriving, integrated and wholly accessible part of the Brixton community, we have much to offer. We provide a clean, safe and serviced seating area for customers, local people and families. We feel that this is a positive contribution (and many of our customers agree), particularly in light of the square’s history where a small minority had something of a negative effect on the space. We aim to serve the community and have a remit to engage with local talent in our film, music and events programming, as well as offering a wide range of entertainment for the public to enjoy – our café-bars providing free wifi and a pressure-free work and meeting space for local freelancers and businesses seven days a week. Fulfilling this remit is a source of great personal pride to our staff, the majority of whom are local residents.
We lease a small part of a large space. The square is open to all and the council are no doubt open to suggestions and applications for use of the majority which remains unoccupied. We would love to see more businesses and community groups using the space, helping to build and contribute to a lively, diverse, open public arena that offers something to local residents, visitors, businesses, charities and other organisations alike.
Going forward, we definitely aim to remain (as a Twitter user so aptly said) “a respectful and family/community cinema. This is what we all want and love”.