Riverside Studio History

Riverside Studios is a unique arts and media centre on the banks of the Thames in Hammersmith which has, for over twenty years, acquired a reputation for both quality and innovation through an eclectic mix of theatre, cinema, dance and visual arts programming, often at the creative cutting edge. In the past it has played host to some of the great names in international and domestic performing arts including Samuel Beckett, Dario Fo, Franca Rame, Kantor and Twyla Tharp. Continuing in that strong tradition recent productions have included work by Peter Brook, Robert Lepage, Declan Donnellan, Theatre de Complicite and Australia's Company B.

Riverside is also one of the historic centres of television production in London, being one of the original BBC TV Studios and the first place to broadcast colour television. With comprehensive facilities on offer the centre was recently home to Chris Evans' TFI Friday and Top of the Pops. Previous clients have included BBC Light Entertainment, Lawless Films, Channel 4, Chrysalis Television, Blaze TV and Assembly Film & Television. The Gallery and exhibition space, positioned at the heart of the building, has housed some of the finest contemporary artists from all over the world including David Hockney, Yoko Ono, Nicola Hicks, Anslem Kiefer and photographer Nick Danziger.

Complimenting this broad range of performing arts the centre has recently expanded its events hosting, as well as providing commercial office space within the complex. The flexibility and character of the building, combined with the broad range of visiting and tenant companies, its proximity to Central London and public transport as well as the activities mentioned make Riverside an exciting all-round venue.

Additionally, the franchised Café Bar and Espresso Bar, run by Alfreso Services, have helped create an atmospheric drinking and eating space that is a destination in its own right. Hosting a range of conferences, parties, product launches and meetings some of Riverside's recent clients have included Levis ('Shrink to Fit' relaunch), Richard Branson (V2 Records UK launch), Virgin Atlantic, Nintendo (Nintendo 64 UK Launch), BBC Worldwide, Coca-Cola , Seagrams, BMG Interactive, Hussein Chalayan (for London Fashion Week), Our Price, Island Records, Virgin Radio, Andersen Consulting, BSkyB, Reuters, WWAV Rapp Collins, Haymarket Publishing, Hasbro, Disney, Systems Unison, ICO Global, SEAT, Xerox, BT and Ericsson.

Riverside began its post-industrial life as a film studio in 1934 when the Triumph Film Company converted the building from what had been a water pump factory. The building also had a brief spell as a munitions factory during World War 1. Some aspects of the interior still bear the hallmarks of Riverside's past as an industrial building, most obviously the ceiling of the foyer and Café Bar with its high criss-cross of pipe work that now looks bizarrely contemporary.

The first film made at Riverside was The Double Event followed soon after by Path of Glory in 1934. The Beauty and the Barge made in 1937 and starring Jack Hawkins and Margaret Rutherford was Triumph's first big success. The Seventh Veil starring Ann Todd, James Mason and Herbert Lom was a great commercial success and probably the most notable film made at Riverside. However, in 1954 following financial difficulties Triumph stopped making films at the site and the BBC bought the studios and completely renovated the building, converting it into a dedicated television facility. Many of the best-loved BBC programmes from the 60's and 70's were made at Riverside including Blue Peter, Doctor Who, Terry and June, Hancock's Half Hour, Z Cars, Doctor Finlay's Casebook, Monitor and Play School. The BBC also recorded a considerable number of operas, concerts and plays for television.

In 1975, when the BBC moved television production to their new centre in Shepherds Bush, the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham acquired the building creating an innovative local arts centre and forming an independent trust to administer Riverside's activities. Hugh Willatt, former chairman of The Arts Council, became the first Chairman of the Board and the playwright and director Peter Gill became the first Artistic Director.

In 1976, the first programme included work by London Contemporary Dance as well as Peter Gill's production of As You Like It. A broad mix of high quality theatre, dance and concerts, as well as community based events, continued over the next few years, but various issues surrounding funding and what was seen at the time as an 'exclusive' artistic policy dogged the centre. During the 1980's Riverside continued to develop its reputation for high quality international work, but as the climate in public funding changed in the late 80's and early 90's the support Riverside had previously received was reduced. This led the Studios to become more commercial in some of its programming and to look at other ways of generating revenue.

In 1993 William Burdett-Coutts, took over as Artistic Director, after Jonathan Lamede left, marking a new stage in Riverside's history. Among other developments and changes introduced at this time were the entrance to the building which was moved to its current position from the side of the building, creating the now familiar glass façade, and improvements to all the Studios to enable greater capacity and better facilities. In September1994 Riverside Studios re-launched, opening with a season that included Twyla Tharp and Robert Lepage's Seven Streams of the River Ota. Since 1995 Riverside has once again seen significant television production activity as well as many other renowned national and international productions, many of which have received great critical and public acclaim.


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