A huge Regency mansion in Dulwich is reopening as an arts centre

Watch out, South Dulwich, a brand new community arts centre is opening in your ends, and it’s in an extravagant 32-room mansion that dates from 1811. Better brush up on your Jane Austen-era etiquette in case you bump into a ‘Bridgerton’-type duchess.

The house in question is Kingswood Arts a not-for-profit cultural venue located in the Regency splendour of the grade II-listed Kingswood House. In the late nineteenth century, it was bought by the Scottish inventor of Bovril – who added its battlemnts – and became known as ‘Bovril Castle’. Over the years it has been a convalescent home for soldiers during the First World War, and its cellars were used as bomb shelters in WWII. The mansion and its grounds have been owned and managed by Southwark Council since the 1960s, but its changing fortunes meant that the one-time community hub, library and wedding venue had been closed for some years, until a dramatic restoration project, which is allowing it to reopen as a spanking new arts centre in April 2023.

The launch weekend on April 8-9 forms the core of the Kingswood Arts Festival taking place in the building and grounds. It features stalls, DJs, heritage tours, food, drink and music (although expect more steel pan bands than quadrilles).

The centre will then launch a year-round programme of activities, plus a café with free wifi and computer access. It will focus on free and affordable activities, events and performances for young people and families. Many activities will be free at the point of access for local residents. There will also be a membership scheme that will give locals free or discounted tickets.

Jack Hartshorn, co-founder and general manager of Kingswood Arts, said: ‘We are so excited and privileged to be given the opportunity to reopen the doors of this amazing historic building. We will operate the building with care, creativity and consciousness of the environment, but most importantly, we believe that co-creation with the community here is the only way to make a genuine impact on people’s lives! We are just getting started so our message to you is to come and get involved and be part of our journey!’

Let us just grab our dancing slippers and we’ll be there.  

Launch Festival Apr 8-9, Kingswood House, Seeley Drive, SE21 8QN. Free.

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