BY MOLLY LEMPRIERE
It was announced last September that Brunel would be investing £150 million over the next five years on various plans throughout the University, with Vice Chancellor Professor Julia Buckingham explaining the plans: “Brunel University London has begun a process of transformation which has already brought successes in student satisfaction and international reputation. This new investment will help us to ensure that, as London’s only single campus University, our facilities continue to keep pace with our achievements”.
However, the changes around the University do not seem to be being viewed as entirely positive, with a current campaign under way by Arts Centre students to save the Roberts Room, which is under threat of being ‘reclaimed’ by the University for private corporate use.
The room, situated at the very top of the Lecture Centre is a fully soundproofed rehearsal space used by a variety of ensembles, such as its chamber orchestra, which is too big to use the smaller spaces within the Arts Centre building itself. Currently, discussions are under way between the Arts Centre and the University as to what should be the future of the Roberts Room. The space is at risk of being removed from the remit of the Arts Centre and becoming inaccessible to students.
Not only does the chamber orchestra require the size the room provides, but the Roberts Room is also home to the University’s Steinway piano, the highest quality piano they own which is a great honour for many of the students at Brunel to play, as well as a harpsichord and timpani drums.
Jay Wilkinson, who worked at the Arts Centre for over thirty years before his recent retirement, says: “During all the time that I was at Brunel, the Roberts Room played a vital part in housing a full programme of teaching (both individual and ensembles), rehearsals and performances (both public and informal) throughout the working week.”
The room is used on a daily basis, providing a space where groups and lessons are able to play to their full volumes without disturbing the work of those in the other rooms, as well as providing a venue for the Friday lunch time and Art Award concerts. The Arts Centre sees this space as invaluable, and for the last few months there have been in discussions to keep it for their use, including monitoring the sound levels the groups within the room produce to highlight the importance of a room detached from the lecture and seminar rooms as the Roberts Room is.
A petition circulating through social media has by the 27th of October already reached over 100 signatures, showing a clear support from students for keeping the room as an Arts Centre space. As it trends more and more on social media as #savethesteinway one student dramatically puts it as “I won't stand for the room being taken away from students in favour of private use for University executives”.
The petition states:
The Roberts Room at Brunel University is subject to being taken away from student usage. This room is used as a practice and rehearsal area for music classes as it contains a Steinway piano for the best quality teaching […] Acoustics in the room make it one of the few suitable places at the university for this kind of practice. Please help the students keep this highly resourceful room by signing this ePetition.”