Woolwich Works: £1.8 million of bailout claimed so far

An update on how Woolwich Works is operating is set to be heard by Greenwich councillors next week.

The venue opened in 2021 but soon hit trouble. Last year Greenwich Council agreed to a £2 million loan to support the venture, which ran £14 million over the budget publicly stated.

A report before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee next week offers details of the loan and its repayment. On the night a verbal update will also be given.

So far £1,775,000 out of £2 million has been claimed.

Extract from report

It also states that repayment will not begin until 2026 and set to be paid back over 11 years of quarterly repayments.

Problems

The Council’s report gives three reasons that required the bail out.

Firstly, the pandemic. Then the cost-of-living crises and a delay in the Elizabeth line opening.

Woolwich station opened late

It does not mention other factors many have remarked upon including issues raised at previous Overview and Scrutiny meetings. One being a lack of advertising and signage and the other being a lack of events – as well as those line-ups sometimes being a bit too niche with a lack of popular acts to cross-subsidise.

In terms of advertising and signage this has improved, but still far from good.

Signage on building when approaching from Woolwich town centre

A walk around the Thames Clippers pier and along the Thames Path near the venue shows none to be seen.

Even the building has no sign as seen below:

No sign on venue. No banners on lighting

Banners attached to lamp posts along the area do not show Woolwich Works but instead highlight Berkeley Homes.

Perhaps not the biggest issue, but it struck me as curious as it’s cheap to do and alerts people walking along the Thames Path to its existence.

As for what’s on, the line up on their website looks thin. There’s some bigger names such as Tim Key, but it’s generally still pretty obscure stuff. Can a venue in Zone 4 survive on what’s being offered?

Venue on site. No drinks after 9pm.

Other issues are a failure to link the venue to “Woolwich lates” events over many months. The Woolwich lates program saw the Mayor give Greenwich £130,000 for a number of events to support nightlife and the evening economy. Since then most have been predominantly daytime events ending before the sun even sets, with little to no linkage to their own premier venue.

Even their summer “beach” stops serving at 9pm.

It also doesn’t help when the council fences off their entire main square for weeks without telling people on the fear of anti-social behaviour, giving the impression its not a safe place to visit.

Given the excellent restoration of the venue and some superb events let’s hope it now succeeds and they can repay the loan, but simple things are still not being done to generate patronage.

 

 

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J 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.

2 thoughts on “Woolwich Works: £1.8 million of bailout claimed so far

  • It would be a real shame if this place closed down. In my opinion this building’s architecture has played a part in its inability to drive ticket sales.

    The big space is far too big for most of its performances and is only fully used for the print fair. Genuinely they should have split this space into two for more specialty performances. It employs far too many staff for its performances, with most idling around due to lack of ticket sales.

    The second venue is just misshapen, long and skinny with sound, lighting and performer entrances an afterthought; a real shame as I’ve seen some really talented performers at both venues.

    It seems the marketers do understand this weakness and have been pitching performances in the cafe space, which also until recently had enormous dead space with no seating and minimal artwork on display.

    Another pet peeve is not opening their doors (or seemingly even considering it) for their bi-weekly market, where rain has made vendors leave in a hurry.

    The entrance being farther down the ‘wrong’ side of the building makes things confusing for newcomers. The more I think about it the whole building is like a masterclass on how not to redesign an historic space, with not enough attention on sound, lighting, and space.

    Even with all the above I hope it does well and perhaps offers an all-you-can-see buying option for locals to start filling the seats. Maybe the big space is fixable as well. Show films, theatre, whatever, just give locals daily options to visit.

    Reply
  • Yeah looking at those photos you wouldn’t really guess there was any venue there. Even the photo showing the big sign, “Welcome To Your New Favourite Venue” doesn’t really scream out that it’s actually in that building. It just looks like an advert for something going on somewhere in the Borough.

    Maybe they should have done some big black stencilling of the name on that side wall, similar to the Gypsy Moth pub in Greenwich. Definitely needs a bit more signage in the area.

    Makes me think of the Icon Outlet shopping centre on the penninsula, hardly any signage anywhere in the Borough for that either.

    Reply

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