There’ve been times over the past year or so that I’ve wondered whether we’d ever see the day when we’re able to start talking about things that people can actually come to Woolwich Works to see and do.
We wanted our first season to be a celebration of our long-awaited opening, but now it'll also be a moment to mark the general reopening of the world. It’s always been our intention to contribute to the borough’s marking of Black History Month, so in October we’ve given particular focus to celebrating black art and artists – something we’ll continue to do throughout our programme. I’m particularly excited for what I hope will be the first of many great musical collaborations, as Tommy Blaize and Reginald D. Hunter join us with NYJO to pay tribute to the legendary Gil Scott-Heron; to see the work that emerges from our partnership with our friends The Collective Makers; and to hear Balimaya Project, and Bukky Leo and Black Egypt – two groups that have been on my playlist most days since we started putting this programme together.
I’ve long said that though we can’t be everything to everyone, we’ll aim to offer something for anyone – and while I don’t expect to have achieved that just in these first announcements, I hope they go some way towards painting a picture of the melting pot we want Woolwich Works to become.
As excited as I am about all the things we’re able to share today, I’m at least as excited again by those that are yet to come. I look forward to announcing events from our world class resident artistic companies, Chineke! Orchestra and Punchdrunk; to being able to share more details of non-artistic and free events; our schools and community programmes; the digital creative projects that will run from our recording studio; and more performances for the autumn / winter season and beyond that will be released in due course.
But perhaps more than all that, I’m excited because for all we want and need people to buy them, this is about much more than just selling tickets.
As the pandemic has proven, there’s no such thing as an arts centre without artists, or indeed audiences. There are no audiences without performances, exhibitions and events. Announcing these first parts of our programme is exciting in its own right – but it’s also essential to unlocking the huge power and potential of Woolwich Works. People buying tickets enable us to make free or discounted performances available to those who can’t afford to do so. Audiences buying drinks enable us to create more good, London Living Wage jobs for local people, with low barriers to entry and meaningful progression routes; and people using our café help us promote local businesses and create work placements. Shows enable us to offer skilled and unskilled work, apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities; and to access artists, creatives and craftspeople who can teach and inspire the next generation. Events bring visitors that drive the local economy, and our spaces enable us to support and showcase local creatives, community groups and emerging talent, creating a sustainable organisation of national significance, for local benefit.
Whoever you are, I hope you’ve found a glimmer of something that feels relevant to you in the first shows and events that we’ve announced. If you haven’t, I can only ask you to watch this space.
This is just the beginning. This is Woolwich Works.
Chief Executive & Creative Director