Woolwich Works Unveils ‘Brilliant Little Venue in a Big Venue’Press 21 Feb 2023
Woolwich Works – the cultural hub on the Royal Arsenal – has announced a series of changes 17 months after the venue opened to the public.
The venue’s café and gallery spaces have been combined to create an informal performance venue for up to 220 people, putting the site’s live performance programme front and centre and reducing the gap between its existing 130 and 900-seater spaces. The changes to the physical space are designed to support a step-change in the venue’s approach to programming which will see the new-look Visitors’ Book Café offering live entertainment each week from April, focusing on live music and comedy and including a regular “piano bar” house band taking requests.
The venue will host a variety of free and ticketed events in a relaxed environment that will remain open to everyone during the day and continue to offer its popular weekend brunch. Events previously programmed into smaller spaces will move to the new venue, which Woolwich Works believes will improve the audience experience; increase the available capacity; and improve the visibility of what’s on offer in its buildings – the stage in the new space can been seen through its windows.
The new-look space and approach form part of a wider set of changes at the venue and have been developed by James Heaton, its Chief Executive & Creative Director who is set to leave after nearly four years, as part of the changes. Other developments include the creation of a new dedicated Community Hub for the use of community organisations in the borough, and the restructuring of the charity’s operations as it works to contain rising costs and establish a sustainable operating model.
Speaking about the changes, James Heaton said, ‘All arts organisations have to adapt to deal with challenges and changes to their operating environment, and in response to their audiences. The Visitors’ Book Café will be a truly brilliant little venue in a big venue, and I have no doubt that the changes we’ve designed for Woolwich Works over the past months are positive ones that will set it up to have a bright future. While I’m sorry that it is one that will not include a number of people who have given so much to getting us this far, I’m proud to have helped build an organisation that in each challenge has found opportunity and made difficult decisions guided by the motto it inherited: each for all, and all for each.’
Ben Howarth, Interim Chair of Woolwich Creative District Trust said: ‘It’s no secret that Woolwich Works has had a rough ride since opening in September 2021, but what’s perhaps less visible is the huge amount of work that happens behind the scenes with Trustees, staff and the Council continually collaborating to make it a success. So much has been achieved over the past few years and I’ve no doubt that these exciting changes will help advance our journey to realising the Trust and Council’s shared vision.’
A gallery carousel of 4 items
The Visitors’ Book Café is open daily Wednesday – Sunday, with its first live performance being stand-up comedy with Lateef Lovejoy on Thursday 23 February. Other performances in March include singer-songwriters Olcay Bayir and Noga Ritter, Berlin jazz drummer Magro, pianist Tom Sochas, and the venue is also planning to run a series of free Saturday performances throughout March in the run-up to starting its full performance programme from April.