Woolwich Works is open: Creative district on Arsenal site welcomes first guests

Greenwich Council’s Woolwich Works project has seen opening night celebrations and performances as the project completes.

Council leader Dan Thorpe gave a speech with appearances by a number of artists following a chartered boat ride to Woolwich Arsenal pier from central London.

The site has a number of venues hosting poetry, music and other events in coming months, with an aspiration to create one of London’s major creative centres.

And boy does south east London need more live music venues.

Normally about now I’d add in the cost as it’s entirely funded by taxpayers through Greenwich Council.

Yet the authority have been extremely keen not to reveal costs before opening with many rumours of rising budgets beyond the allocated £32 million.

At a recent scrutiny meeting Labour councillors asked and couldn’t even get an estimate.

Tory councillors asked the following week and Dan Thorpe jumped straight to partisan accusations even whilst his own party were also trying to gain some clarity.

He then stated any cost increase was “fake news”.

We should know soon.

Cost increases would have been understandable given the pandemic and inflation in material cost and wages, so the response by the council and leadership simply seemed secretive and defensive.

In the past attempts to gain information on funding via Freedom of Information has been akin to entering a labyrinth.

How it looks

The “optics” of the centre running over budget however wouldn’t be too good with the site opening just a day after plans for new-builds on a Greenwich Council estate also in Woolwich were approved, in a decision that ensures a mass reduction in social homes (at least 200) while homeless households in the borough reach all-time highs above 1,500, compared to less than half that just three years ago. That data comes from an imminent Greenwich Council Cabinet meeting.

However, providing costs didn’t spiral massively, the new centre could well bring in far more revenue to the town to cover costs and help other local business. And of course offer a great deal of culture not presently well provided in this part of south east London.

Despite that, the timing is unfortunate, and many councillors and council staff having a shindig the day after a mass reduction of social housing was rubber stamped in the very same town is unsavoury to say the least.

The fact so many local politicians have been very quiet today about cuts to social housing while tweeting themselves at the opening night isn’t very edifying.

Transport

Those in charge will be very keen for Crossrail to open and not fall again behind the expected spring 2022 opening date.

The new line brings the venue into close proximity to a vast number of people. Canary Wharf will be 10 minutes away for example.

Then there’s Barking. Don’t laugh. It’s a major site of new housing, and Thames Clippers will bring those people within 15 minutes of the site when it begins running.

The catchment area of the centre will be massive in a few years.

However in the short term the eclectic line up needs to appeal. I have doubts some of it will. Far from all mind. Hopefully I’m wrong.

You don’t have to look far though to see issues with attracting people to this neck of the woods. Turn around from the stunning entrance doors of Woolwich Works and you see this:

The Firepower muesum struggled and eventually closed.

Of course the attractions are different and times move on. Many more homes have been built locally.

But for now, it has some work to do to get people from all over London to visit.

On a personal level I hope it’s a great success and the underlying philosophy in attracting people to Woolwich should – and hopefully will – see wide ranging benefits in terms of jobs, a night time economy, love events that aren’t a track to get home from and much else besides.

And for those with a Greenwich Card, performances for £5 this Friday.

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John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

8 thoughts on “Woolwich Works is open: Creative district on Arsenal site welcomes first guests

  • September 23, 2021 at 6:52 am
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    Now completed I hope the Woolwich Works will be a great success and attract more people back in to Woolwich for live music and other events taking place at the venue.

    The possible opening of the new Crossrail Elizabeth Line Station at Woolwich in Spring 2022 will open up the venue for more people across London

    However, it would be nice to see other buildings refurbished and brought back in to use around the Woolwich Works entrance to make the area more attractive to visitors and local residents. it is a real shame the entrance to the Firepower Museum building was not included as part of the Woolwich Works regeneration project. to provide more venue space for artist or a new pub or restaurant for vistors and local residents.

    The possible opening of the new Crossrail Elizabeth Line Station at Woolwich in Spring 2022 will open up the venue for more people across London.

    The new jobs created at the Woolwich Works venue are very much welcomed and needed in the hospitality sector which which was hit hard during the pandemicc.

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 8:06 am
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    It will be interesting to see how much the final cost of the Woolwich Works actually was and if the project managed to stay with in the 32 million budget. As this project was paid for by the tax payer this information should be made public.

    That said I hope Woolwich Works will be a great success and encourage people back to Woolwich. As John said we do need more live music venues and along with other forms of art. While also creating much needed local jobs for local people.in the arts and hospitality sectors.

    Woolwich needs a new night time economy to support other businesses in the area and encourage more new businesses and investment in the area.

    Woolwich has been in decline for far to long now and with anti social behaviour still blighting the area Woolwich as become a no go area for many people.

    Now is the time for change so Woolwich can become a great place to live work and vist once again.

    If Crossrail opens in 2022 this will also be a major boost for the area providing quicker journeys to other areas of London. We still need to see some improivements to local bus services as not all areas of the Borough have a direct bus routes which serves Woolwich to link with new Woolwich Elizabeth Line Station.

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 8:20 am
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    It’s a year late hence the unfortunate timing the day after a new regeneration project was approved with substantial reduction in council homes in Woolwich.

    Not much they could do about timing yet the spectacle of councillors so happily broadcasting a taxpayer funded night out is rather off in the context.

    It needn’t be a housing verses culture argument but have some decorum.

    Looking forward to see what the ultimate cost is, and if over budget how that impacts?

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 8:34 am
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    Let’s not forget the boroughs heritage centre and archive was kicked out for this.

    They still have an uncertain future ticked away on an industrial estate with limited public access.

    Homeless families and homeless heritage…

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 8:40 am
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    Looks great, and with many economic and cultural benefits; yet on an ideological level smells of some kind of planned embourgeoisement programme – which is what’s happening to that whole stretch of the Thames anyway.

    Assume there’s also some rationale to the focus on performing arts when there’s such a deficit in venues and support for for visual art in Greenwich?

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 8:50 am
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    The Heritage centre was awful. It’s fantastic they removed it: it was deserted most of the time and the staff were noxious passengers.

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 9:13 am
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    Looked at the RBG twitter accounts mentioned above and it looks like a normal opening event for an arts venue to me.

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 8:03 pm
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    I am all for seeing empty buildings being brought back in to use. Empty buildings can really drag an area down and sadly attract anti social behaviour.

    I am not sure what is planned for empty neighbouring buildings around Woolwich Works and if these will be for commercial use, housing or mixed use with commercial space at ground level with new homes above ?

    Reply

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