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Culture minister hails arts centre's role in boosting Brentford's economy

Ed Vaizey heralded Watermans following a tour of the arts centre he remembers visiting as a boy

Culture minister Ed Vaizey at Watermans arts centre with Erica Weston (marketing director) and Jan Lennox (director)

Culture minister Ed Vaizey this week returned to the arts centre he visited as a boy, and praised plans to give it a new home in the heart of Brentford.

The MP grew up in Chiswick and saw several shows at Watermans, in nearby Brentford, as a child, but he said Thursday's (March 19) visit was his first in about 25 years.

His tour came hours before Hounslow Council announced plans for Watermans to move to a new purpose-built home at the site of the old Brentford police station.

The centre's managers have been looking for some time to swap their picturesque spot overlooking the Thames for a new spot closer to the town centre.

The council said, on Thursday, it had reached an agreement with developer London Green to build new premises for Watermans as part of a major housing development at the police station site in Half Acre.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey at Watermans arts centre with Erica Weston (marketing director) and Jan Lennox (director)

Speaking before the deal was announced, Mr Vaizey welcomed plans for a move.

"It sounds like a very good idea. The current venue has an amazing setting but it's not somewhere many people would walk past and pop in. Moving to the town centre would mean a lot more footfall and potentially many more visitors," he told getwestlondon.

The minister added that people often overlooked the role theatres, cinemas and other arts venues have to play in boosting their neighbourhoods' economy.

He praised Watermans not only for the productions it hosts but also for its role in organising festivals and open-air shows in Brentford and across the borough.

Mr Vaizey, who is minister for culture and the digital economy, also hailed the arts centre's community work - especially that with disadvantaged people in the area - following his brief tour.

"They do a great job working with disadvantaged children, in partnership with the council. Engaging with young people is an important aspect of the arts but one you don't often hear about," he said. "They're doing this great community work while running a thriving arts centre, putting on a diverse range of films, plays and exhibitions, which is fantastic."

Watermans' marketing director Erica Weston, who invited the minister, said she was thrilled he was able to see the work it is doing.

"It's particularly pleasing he recognised the community work we do. Anything we make is ploughed back into the community," she said. "Our aim is to inspire communities through creativity. I think he was surprised by the breadth of what we do."

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