Veteran actor and Eastenders' star Rudolph Walker and civil rights campaigner Doreen Lawrence, were among guests at a packed celebration marking the beginning of demolition and construction work on Tottenham's new Bernie Grant Arts Centre at the College of North East London.

The brainchild of late Tottenham MP Bernie Grant, who died exactly five years ago, the project will see the former swimming baths off Tottenham High Road transformed into a major performance and education centre of local and national significance, showcasing black and minority ethnic artistic talent - in a landmark building designed by award-winning architect David Adjaye. The Centre will sit between the College's two main sites and Tottenham Town Hall.

More than 300 guests joined the celebration, including Professor Chris Mullard CBE, chair of the Bernie Grant Trust, David Lammy MP, Cathy Walsh, Vice Principal of the College of North East London, and Kanya King, founder of the MOBO awards.

Cathy Walsh told the audience that the College was looking forward to being a part of delivering what would be an innovative and exciting programme of education and training with the Centre in the performing arts and media-related subjects. "This Centre will combine performance, education, training and business support. It will create education and training opportunities for local people in Haringey, to develop their artistic and cultural talent." The Centre has in fact already delivered a highly successful course, 'Creative Connections' has been running for three years and has helped improve the careers for over 45 students. The course won a national training award in its first year.

Sharon Grant, Bernie's widow and a driving force behind the centre described the impact the Centre will have in the area. "The Centre will be a fitting memorial to Bernie. His vision was that it would provide opportunities for local people, help to transform Tottenham, and ensure that the rich and diverse, cultural legacy of modern Britain is turned into the asset it should be. Its marvellous that so many people are here to share the excitement, and to ensure that the vision is delivered."

Rudolph Walker paid tribute to Bernie Grant's commitment: "Many of us are talkers; Bernie was a doer," he said. "I am proud to have been part of the original think-tank under Bernie's guidance, and now to see this centre come to fruition."

A £14 million funding package includes £6 million from the Millennium Commission, £3.5 million from Mayor Ken Livingstone's London Development Agency, £3 million European Regional Development funding and £1.5 million from the Arts Council. Haringey Council is providing the site and has backed the project throughout.

Construction has begun and includes a 300 seat public auditorium, rehearsal space, café and bookshop plus workshops for arts-related businesses and training facilities. The centre will be completed at the end of 2006.

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