But the director of the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) project has insisted that plans to open next year are still going ahead, though there may now be a delay of several months.
The collapse of 150-year-old construction firm Killby & Gayford, who were working on the project in Brixton, south London, is the latest in a number of set backs for the BCA.
On April 18, the builders who were working on the conversion of Raleigh Hall, in Windrush Square, the BCA’s new home, went bust. In February, lawyer Matthew Ryder QC stepped down as chair after serving for two years. He said: “I had signed off on contracts and everything was looking fine. The BCA is a phenomenal and unique offering and there’s lots of goodwill behind it.”
Reacting to how the collapse of the building firm will affect the project, BCA director Paul Reid, said: “It was really disappointing when we heard that the construction company has gone into administration but we responded immediately. Firstly, by securing the site and then by beginning the process to engage another construction company.“
He added: “We still plan for the building to be ready by the summer of 2013.”
Plans to open in time for the Olympics this summer were rumoured to be foiled by funding and planning issues pushing the scheduled launch to April next year.
The BCA, which has made homes in various temporary locations in the last 30 years including a redundant health centre, is planning to open the first permanent home for black archives. It’s new home is planned for the long-derelict grade II listed building.
It will house a number of historical records including donated papers, photographs, and oral histories of thousands of families and a major reference library. An exhibition showcasing black women, their struggles and achievements was also recently announced.
Reid said that they have been prepared to handle delays and are remaining optimistic, “During BCA's 30 years, we have successfully overcome many hurdles. Therefore, this setback is not insurmountable for us. The main impact is the delays to the building completion date. We will amend our schedules to allow for the delays.”
However he said that in the likely event that the cost of the project would be increased the BCA ”may need to re-open the fundraising campaign for the capital [building] project ”.
The BCA is on track to become the leading institution for Black heritage and culture ad has been backed by a number of funders who helped them to meet their originally £6.5m capital appeal. Among them are the Heritage Lottery fund who handed over £4m and the London Development Agency who offered £1m and Lambeth Council.
Reid said that the project will be greatly valued by the community giving them an opportunity to discover more about their history and culture. “We will be opening the first national Black heritage centre in the UK. From here we will collect, preserve and celebrate the histories of Black people. This will be a truly historic development,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Heritage Lottery Fund, the BCA’s main financial backer, said it would not comment but said it was “aware of, and was monitoring, the situation and that the BCA will keep them informed on the developments”.