Tango for cash over Brockley ballroom

By Paul Campbell

Ambitious plans to save a historic ballroom have been rocked this week after the owner slapped a £10 million price tag on the property.

A consortium of interested buyers, who formed a group called ‘Let’s Buy The Rivoli Ballroom’ on social-networking site Facebook, hoped to make “a reasonable offer that is affordable to us,” for the Brockley property.

photo-rivoliHowever the plan has taken a blow after Bill Mannix – who is selling up due to ill health – revealed his astronomical asking price.

A statement from the group said: “The owner seems to have some rather unrealistic ideas about what his venue is worth. This may get in the way of meaningful negotiations.”

However the collective remain dedicated to their vision of the famous ballroom, unveiling their plan in an e-mail to its 2,700 members this week.

“The Rivoli preserves good old values such as decorum and panache,” said Alex Chappel, who formed the campaign. “We want to continue it as a venue doing regular nights of vaudeville, cabaret, tea-dances, live music and old-style themed parties without needing the extra income from photo-shoots and stuff like that.”

Chappel, a Hackney based art-dealer, admitted he had “no experience of running a campaign” but added: “I’m inspired by John Betjeman who campaigned for St. Pancras Station when it was due to be demolished in the 1960’s – and look at that place now.”

The group plan to make up for its lack of commercial experience by consulting with individuals involved with community-led enterprise and business before beginning negotiations for the ballroom.

But concerns remain over the building’s dilapidation. The group admitted: “The venue itself is in a rather poor state. It may need work and investment to make it what it could and should be.”

Current owner Mannix, who has been looking for a buyer for over a year, talked of his sadness at having to sell the ballroom which he has ran with his wife Jeannie for over 30 years.

 “We’ll shed a tear when we’ll leave” – Bill Mannix, current owner

Famous for its red velvet fittings, flock wallpaper, chandeliers, glitter balls and Chinese lanterns, the Rivoli began life as a cinema in 1913 before being converted to a ballroom in 1957.

The ballroom has been featured on Strictly Come Dancing and hosted stars such as The White Stripes, Oasis, Brad Pitt and Kate Moss for photo shoots.

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