By Vanessa Kortekaas
CoolTan Arts, a mental health charity in Southwark is under threat from a landlord who intends to demolish part of the charity’s building on Tuesday.
CoolTan has been unable to raise enough money to either rent or buy an alternative space since being told demolition work will tear down the charity’s disabled toilet facilities.
The charity’s director, Michelle Baharier, said she was “gobsmacked” when their landlord notified them of the works in July. Baharier said it is unclear how long CoolTan can remain at its location on Walworth road, where it has been for three years. She added, “We just have no idea how long or short we can stay here and that’s problematic. If someone offers to buy the whole space tomorrow we will have to leave.”
Baharier said finding an alternative location is difficult because the charity must be accessible, and sharing a space with another organization puts the charity at risk of losing its identity.
The center has raised about £3,000 but say they need £1 million to buy their own space. Baharier said fundraising has been difficult because, “we live in a very poor borough where most people who come here are on benefit. People simply have less to give.”
In its current location CoolTan houses an independent gallery and runs weekly art workshops, which at least 150 people attend. The charity offers people with mental distress alternative treatment and an opportunity to produce art.
Bettie Morton, CoolTan’s Special Projects Manager said: “If people feel there is no future it affects their confidence in us and they might look elsewhere.”
Fiona Wright, 30, one of the 1500 members of CoolTan echoed these concerns: “Any sort of change takes that extra bit of time to get used to,” adding: “What makes CoolTan is the people—this disruption will affect a lot of people’s lives.”
Southwark has a high population of people suffering from mental “distress” as 8,700 people have acute needs, and 52,000 are without access to services they need.