Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre to auction donated paintings in fundraising mission

Philanthropists hands over 37 paintings to boost art centre’s coffers

An arts centre which lost �350,000 worth of funding through government cuts has been given fresh hope thanks to a generous philanthropist.

Al Weil, an arts historian, has donated 37 valuable paintings to the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn High Road, which they can auction to raise much needed funds for their coffer.

The centre, which opened in 1980, is not only a high-profile victim of funding cuts but its renowned artistic director. Nick Kent stepped down in protest over the issue.

The donated works by Victorian painter Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, which could boost the Tricycle’s coffers by around �92,000, was put on display this week.

Hollywood actress and West Hampstead resident Emma Thompson, an avid supporter of the Tricycle’s work, launched the exhibition at the Pyms Gallery in Mayfair

She told the Times she has had a long standing passion for the venue.

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“It covers such important issues that still really face our society, like institutional racism, people often want to brush that sort of thing under the carpet but it is still very prevalent in society today,” she said.

The actress, who has appeared in a host of films including the recent Harry Potter saga, hosted a benefit event for the theatre after it was struck by a fire in 1987 and was also involved in the early stages of its introduction.

She said: “I still remember the first time I met Nick and I thought it was such a wonderful place.

“I went all round Hollywood to tell all the movie stars from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Sylvester Stallone about it and badger them to pledge their support for it.”

However, she also expressed relief that the theatre has remained a strong voice amid changing times for the area.

She said: “When I was younger the only place you could get a cup of coffee in West Hampstead or Kilburn was a Wimpy but now that’s all changed now because of the Jubilee Line.

“It’s so geared towards tourism that in a way it has killed the uniqueness of the area but thank god the Tricycle is still going and now has this extra bonus which I hope raises thousands.”

The actress has a further special connection with the theatre, when pregnant with her daughter her waters broke the morning after watching a performance at the theatre in 1999.

Bidding for the paintings is now open with each painting expected to raise at least �2,500.

Mr Weil, who is married to casting-director Joan Brown, has been collecting the paintings since the 1960’s and he explained his decision to put them for auction.

He said: “I had them lying around my house, and I wanted to make sure they go to a good cause, when I heard the Tricycle was in difficulty that was the perfect excuse.

“My wife and I have been members since it started and it always struck me as such a special place.

“They have amazing gusto and bravado to put on the productions they do and we haven’t missed one yet.”

Despite heading for the door after 27 years, Mr Kent said he was optimistic about the future of the art space and grateful for Mr Weil’s gesture.

He said: “It’s an amazing thing to have done and if it helps secure the future of the theatre for many years to come that’s brilliant.

“It’s so vital to have a theatre that reflects the community it serves and I believe we have done that well.”

The exhibition is held at the Pyms Gallery in Mount Street Mayfair until February 8.

To bid for a painting email