It’s no secret that the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s visionary, £31.59m commitment to the Woolwich Creative District represents a significant investment. On the face of it, the majority of that money is being spent on restoring and preserving five historic buildings and bringing them back into public use; a noble, bricks and mortar endeavour. But Woolwich Works is about much more than that. It’s not so much an investment in property, as an investment in people.
Having been involved in live music and theatre for most of my life, I know that some of the energy and excitement that audiences enjoy on stage comes from the volatile and fragile nature of the complex operation behind the scenes. Everybody’s familiar with the phrase “the show must go on”. But perhaps I can finish the sentence: “in spite of a catastrophe that would stop it dead without the resourcefulness and creativity of the many people working on it”. In these industries, each day, all over the world, people overcome the most extraordinary challenges to make things happen – or at least they did, until March this year.
The small team behind Woolwich Works has worked flat-out over the past few months to adapt to the unprecedented situation arising from the coronavirus pandemic. We each have friends and former colleagues working in the creative industries whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated, and across the Borough, the communities we were founded to serve and represent are facing the toughest of times. We particularly feel the pain of our black community as we pledge our commitment to diversity and inclusion and join the chorus of voices affirming that Black Lives Matter.
Some may wonder whether now’s the right time to be launching a new cultural hub, given everything that’s going on in the world. Certainly, the context in which we’re doing so is very different to that we’d anticipated – and a huge amount of thought, soul-searching, and analysis has gone into reviewing our plans for Woolwich Works and re-evaluating our role post-Covid-19. But ultimately, we are founded on the power of the arts and culture to transform lives: to inspire people to imagine, create and innovate; to build confidence, enable communication and drive collaboration; to empower and make change; and to create jobs and act as a catalyst for economic regeneration.
If you’re one of the people or organisations affected by the current situation, we’ll be here to support you as we come out the other side. If you live in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and feel excluded from the arts and creative industries, we want to include you. If you’re part of the rich creative community that already exists within the Borough and beyond, we’re grateful to be joining you and look forward to collaborating with you. Whoever you are, and wherever you’re from, we hope you’ll find something in our forthcoming programme of shows, events and creative projects that interests you. And so, it seems to me that our mission has never been clearer, nor more relevant: to offer hope and opportunity by enabling people to realise their creative potential.
Each day, all over the world, people overcome the most extraordinary challenges to make things happen. Be one of those people.
Welcome to Woolwich Works.