Arcola‘s co-founders win Off West End Special Achievement Award

The co-founders of Arcola Theatre have received the Off West End Special Achievement Award for their work staging outstanding theatre in the heart of Hackney over 20 years.

Mehmet Ergen (Artistic Director) and Leyla Nazli (Executive Producer) received the award at the Off West End Awards ceremony at Battersea Arts Centre on Sunday 8 March 2020.

Lynette Linton, whose play Hashtag Lightie premiered at Arcola in 2017 and who is now Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre, said:

“Mehmet arrived in London in 1987, aged 22, with dreams of becoming a theatre director. He placed an advert in The Stage, inviting people to join a new theatre company, and started putting on plays in pub theatres. In 1993 he co-founded the Southwark Playhouse, serving as its first Artistic Director for six years. Then he joined Battersea Arts Centre as Associate Producer.

In 2000, he met Leyla and found £5000 to establish a new theatre in a clothes factory on Arcola Street. The Arcola opened on a shoestring, but it quickly won the hearts of the local and theatrical community.

Over the last 20 years, it has had a major, major impact. You only have to look at the names of people that have come through those doors – Zawe Ashton, Mike Bartlett, Polly Findlay, me, Michael Longhurst…. Arinzé Kene started acting in the Arcola youth theatre. So there are a lot of people who owe that building.

Now it’s a fully producing theatre, and it attracts over 65,000 people a year, commissioning new plays and touring nationally and internationally. Ticket prices remain some of the most affordable in London, with Pay What You Can every single Tuesday.

They have absolutely built a powerhouse, and it is my honour and honour and honour to present this award to Mehmet Ergen and Leyla Nazli.”

Jack Gamble, Arcola’s Associate Director, said:

“The whole Arcola team is delighted that Mehmet and Leyla have won this award. They have given us all so much, and with their socially and politically-engaged programme over two decades, they have shown that thrilling theatre can live at the grassroots, and for everyone.”

Arcola also won the People’s Vote Award for Best Theatre Bar. Arcola Bar and Café is open daily from 10am, and serves a delicious selection of locally-sourced food and drinks.

Nadja Bering Ovesen, Arcola’s Events and Operations Manager, collects the 2020 Off West End Award for Best Theatre Bar

Congratulations to Mehmet, Leyla and to the whole bar team!

2 thoughts on “Arcola‘s co-founders win Off West End Special Achievement Award”

  1. It was magic from day one for me. I remember the Gods are not. To blame and great Ibsen, the factory girls and lots more,…..
    Just magic
    Thankyou Mehmet
    Thank you Leyla
    Mike Liverpool

  2. I too love the Arcola. I happened upon it because of a Time Out listing back in 2000 or 2001 (can’t remember the date). We have seen so many wonderful plays both on Arcola Street and now in the new location. In particular I remember the play about soho. Congratulations on all your achievements and thank you for bringing us such a gem.

    I hope one day soon we will be able to enjoy theatre again.

    Lisa Rodwell

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