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.
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.