Riverside Studios has received a grant of £425,000 from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help the newly completed redevelopment centre recover and reopen.
The grant will be used to cover essential organisational costs, as Riverside looks to open its cinemas in May and host its first live theatre production of 2021, Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days directed by Sir Trevor Nunn and starring Lisa Dwan, from 11 June.
“Like all organisations in the sector we have been hit hard by the Covid lockdown. While our theatres have had to remain dark, our team has been using the time to map out the next 18 months, planning for our gradual re-opening and re-imagining our role in a post-Covid world,” Executive Director Tony Lankester said.
Among the plans being developed by Riverside include supporting artists who want to migrate their work to a digital format.
“The way our artists think about and present their work has had to shift as the world has changed. Riverside, with its rich legacy of bridging the gap between ‘live’ and ‘digital’ work is ideally placed to support them,” Creative Director Rachel Tackley said.
In 2003 Riverside hosted iconic artist David Bowie who used the centre to launch his album ‘Reality’ by streaming a performance to an audience of 50,000 fans in 86 cinemas in 26 countries. At the time it was the biggest ever live and interactive music satellite event the world had seen.
“We’ve always tried to be at the leading edge, finding new ways to present work at scale. This thinking and mindset is part of our DNA, and will stand us in good stead in the future,” Lankester said.
Tackley pointed to the recent success of Eddie Izzard’s ‘Run for Hope’ as an example of this approach. The project saw the comedian run 32 marathons on a treadmill at Riverside in January, ending each day with a streamed live stand-up show that reached thousands of fans in 62 countries. “What we learned from the Eddie experience is that there are no limits and no boundaries – but yet despite the massive reach of these projects, the art itself remains intensely personal. Riverside helps strike that balance, by giving artists a unique environment to showcase and devise their work, while still being able to scale it up as much as they like.”
Tackley described the support being offered artists as being a “lifeline”. “It has been an extremely tough year and I expect it isn’t over by a long way yet. However, we are indebted to the CRF and ACE for this support which will help Riverside establish a space where artists can perform and record their work for a global audience,” she said.
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said:
“Our record breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they've ever faced.
Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors - helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead."
Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said:
“Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work.
We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”
The funding awarded today is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.