Gordon Brown’s £45m backing for new British film centre
• Funds to help create new public home for the BFI
• Centre will be built close to Royal Festival Hall
- Patrick Wintour, political editor
- guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 October 2009 20.32 BST
The dream of a new National Film Centre on London’s South Bank is to take a decisive step closer to reality when Gordon Brown confirms tomorrow that the government is to provide £45m in funding to realise it.
The prime minister is expected to say he believes the centre, with five digital screens, will be built by 2015.
There had been fears that the project, backed by the British Film Institute for many years, would be the victim of the spending squeeze hitting the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. But Brown will confirm that the money is to be found from the departmental budget this year.
The late film director and former BFI chairman, Anthony Minghella was one of the leading advocates for a new public home for the BFI so that a cultural centre for cinema in London could stand shoulder to shoulder with the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall.
It is expected the centre will be built on the site of a car park close to the London Eye on the South Bank, a few hundred yards from the Royal Festival Hall.
The London Mayor’s office has already committed £5m to the project and it is thought the BFI would raise another £15m-£20m from the sale of their current Stephen Street offices in Waterloo. This would leave a further £80m to be raised from private sponsors.
The BFI has suggested the new building would contain five cinemas, with one large auditorium capable of hosting events currently hosted by the Odeon Leicester Square, such as the opening night of the London film festival and film premieres . It has been suggested that a large outside screen could be constructed. It would also show the BFI’s huge archive of films. Such ambition could not be realised from within the confines of the current National Film Centre premises – also on the South Bank.
Brown said: “Britain has achieved worldwide respect for its innovative and vibrant film industry, exceptional arts and rich cultural heritage. This project creates a new home for British film right at the heart of London’s cultural centre on the South Bank.
“These are challenging economic times, but with backing from the public and private sector, the new film centre demonstrates Britain’s commitment to supporting the arts and our determination to invest in leading creative industries as part of our economic recovery.”
The government has blown hot and cold about backing the centre ever since a green paper on the creative industries two years ago.
The Conservatives have said they will review the structure of the film industry, including the role of the BFI, if they come to power next year.
Brown, better known as a bibliophile but also an enthusiastic film goer, has given his personal backing to the project. His last cinema visit was to his local Odeon in Kirkcaldy when he went to see Slumdog Millionaire.