Riverside Studios

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Riverside Studios
Riverside Studios front external.jpg
Riverside Studios
Location Hammersmith
London, W6
Public transit Underground no-text.svg Hammersmith (District/Piccadilly)
Underground no-text.svg Hammersmith (Circle/Hammersmith & City)
OwnerRiverside Trust
Type Fringe theatre, Cinema, Television studio
Production Celebrity Juice, The Apprentice: You're Fired!, The York Realist, The Last Leg
Opened1933 as Riverside Film Studio
Closed2014 for redevelopment

Riverside Studios is an arts centre on the north bank of the River Thames in Hammersmith, London, England. The venue plays host to contemporary performance, film, visual art exhibitions and television production.


Having closed for redevelopment in September 2014, Riverside Studios reopened in August 2019 with one of the first television broadcasts from Studio 1 being Channel 4's UK election coverage. In March 2023, the Riverside board announced it was placing the theatre into administration because of debt incurred during the redevelopment.

Film studios 1933-1954

In 1933, a former Victorian iron foundry on Crisp Road, London, was bought by Triumph Films and converted into a relatively compact film studio with two stages and a dubbing theatre. In 1935, the studios were taken over by Julius Hagen (then owner of Twickenham Studios) with the idea of using Riverside for making quota quickies. However, by 1937 his company had gone into liquidation. Between 1937 and 1946, the studios were owned by Jack Buchanan and produced such films as We'll Meet Again (1943) with Vera Lynn and The Seventh Veil (1945) with James Mason. In 1946 the studios were acquired by Alliance Film Studios (then owners of Twickenham Studios and Southall Studios) and produced films including They Made Me a Fugitive (1948) with Trevor Howard, The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950) with Alistair Sim and Margaret Rutherford and Father Brown (1954) with Alec Guinness.

BBC Television studios 1954-1974

In 1954, the studios were acquired by the British Broadcasting Corporation for its television service. [1] [2] Renamed The BBC Riverside Television Studios, [3] the building was officially opened on 29 March 1957 by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Series 2 to 6 of Hancock's Half Hour (1957–60) were made there, along with other comedy, drama and music programmes, including the science-fiction serial Quatermass and the Pit (1958–59), Dixon of Dock Green , Six-Five Special , The Old Grey Whistle Test , Z-Cars , Top of the Pops , and the children's programmes Blue Peter [4] and Play School . [5] Episodes of Doctor Who were made at Riverside between 1964 and 1968, and Studio 1 was where First Doctor William Hartnell's regeneration scene was filmed. [6] The facility remained in regular use until the BBC left in 1974. [7]

Riverside Studios 1974-2014

The mission of Riverside Studios is to present a high quality arts programme and to make it accessible to all.

In 1974, a charitable trust formed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council took control of the building, and two large multi-purpose spaces designed by Michael Reardon were created from the studio's two main sound stages. While preparing Riverside's opening festival in 1976, the venue's first Artistic Director Peter Gill permitted an amateur West London music group called The Strand to use one of the performance spaces to rehearse. They went on to become The Sex Pistols. [8] Riverside's original policy was to have a combination of in house and visiting company productions of classical and contemporary plays and dance. Running concurrently with the main programme were regular events and activities including a film, music, education, workshop and play reading programme. David Gothard, the founding programming director, brought "The Dead Class" by Tadeusz Kantor and the Cricot 2 company from Krakow in Poland in 1977.

Riverside Studios became fully operational in 1978 with Gill's landmark production of The Cherry Orchard , for which Julie Covington turned down the lead in Evita. The venue quickly acquired an international reputation for excellence and innovation with productions including The Changeling with Brian Cox and Robert Lindsay (1978), Measure for Measure with Helen Mirren (1979) and Julius Caesar with Phil Daniels (1980), [9] as well as a variety of international work – including, notably, that of Polish theatre maestro Tadeusz Kantor. In 1978, Riverside hosted the first of many Dance Umbrella seasons, featuring the work of Rosemary Butcher and Richard Alston. Gill also offered residencies to artists including Bruce McLean and Ian Coughlin and companies such as the Black Theatre Co-operative (now NitroBeat). [10] The venue was also used by the BBC for some television recording, including a 1979 episode of Parkinson for which host Michael Parkinson interviewed former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Art exhibitions (including 'Prints' by Howard Hodgkin, 1978) had initially been curated by Milena Kalinovska in Riverside's foyer, but following Gill's departure in 1980, a purpose-built gallery space was established by the resident Architect Will Alsop and John Lyall along with Technical Director Steven Scott. The directorship of Jenny Stein established the first exhibition and showed works by the painter and graphic artist Edvard Munch. Subsequent exhibitions included David Hockney (Paintings and Drawings for Parade, 1981), [11] Antony Gormley (New Sculpture, 1984), Louise Bourgeois (Recent Work, 1990) and Yoko Ono (In Facing, 1990). In 1985, Kalinovska (who was Riverside's Exhibitions Director from 1982-1986) was nominated for The Turner Prize. She remains the only non-artist to be nominated for that award.

From 1980, David Gothard directed the performing arts program and invited Michael Clark to become Riverside's first resident choreographer. He made 16 original pieces at the studios before establishing his own dance company in 1984. Also in 1980, Samuel Beckett directed the San Quentin Theatre Workshop's rehearsals of his play Endgame in Studio 2, returning to Riverside four years later to direct the same company in Waiting for Godot . Under Gothard's direction, the international theatre and dance program thrived with performances by Dario Fo and Franca Rame, Le Cirque Imaginaire, Eckehard Scall and the Berliner Ensemble, The Market Theater of Johannesburg, Cricot 2 of Krakow, Collectivo De Parma, and independent dance collaborations with Merce Cunningham and John Cage and members of the Judson Church. At the same tim,e the legendary American tap dancers appeared in a sellout production of No Maps on My Taps featuring Chuck Green. During this period, Riverside Studios was an artistic powerhouse that laid the foundations for its future. British artists flocked to the foyer and joined in collaborations with Gothard from across all the arts disciplines including Peter Greenaway, Michael Nyman, Hanif Kureshi, Rebecca O'Brien, Jane Bernstein, David Leveaux, and a network of the worlds leading arts festivals and producing theaters including Edinburgh Festival, Spoleto Festival, Avignon Festival and Berlins Hebbel Theater.

In November 1987, a 200-seat cinema was opened by the actress Vanessa Redgrave.

In 1990, jazz veteran Adelaide Hall starred in the movie Sophisticated Lady, a documentary about her life, which included a performance of her in concert recorded live at the Riverside Studios. [12]

William Burdett-Coutts (also Artistic Director of Assembly) was appointed Artistic Director of Riverside Studios in 1993. [13] While Riverside continued its multi-arts programming (hosting companies such as Complicite, The Wooster Group and Howard Barker's The Wrestling School), its 200-seat cinema was celebrated for its double bill programmes and the variety of international film festivals which took place annually. In 1996, television production returned to Riverside when TFI Friday with Chris Evans took up residence in Studio 1 (until 2000). CD:UK was broadcast from Riverside between 2003 and 2006, while later TV projects included Channel 4's T4 (2006–2009), Popworld and The Last Leg , BBC's Never Mind the Buzzcocks and ITV's Celebrity Juice (2008–2014).

Riverside's Studio 1 has occasionally been used for performances by world-renowned recording artists. In 2002, a special one-off live concert from David Bowie was beamed via satellite to 50,000 fans in 86 cinemas in 26 countries around the planet from Hong Kong to Helsinki. Six years later, having been denied entry to the US, Amy Winehouse and her team were searching for a venue from which they could link live to the 2008 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Riverside rose to the challenge, hosting Amy, her band and her family and friends on a night that saw her win five awards. Footage of the event filmed at Riverside was subsequently used in the box-office record-breaking documentary film Amy (2015 film).

In September 2014, Riverside Studios closed for redevelopment.

Redevelopment 2014-2019

London developer Mount Anvil, working in conjunction with A2 Dominion, redeveloped the old Riverside Studios and the adjacent Queen's Wharf building. Assael Architecture, were employed to design a new building on the site centred around 165 residential flats, with new studio facilities for theatre and television, two cinemas, a riverside restaurant and café/bar as well as flexible event spaces. As part of the redevelopment, a new riverside walkway connects to the Thames Path alongside the late Victorian Hammersmith Bridge.

During the redevelopment, Riverside continued to produce shows including Nirbhaya [14] by Yael Farber at a number of international venues including Southbank Centre [15] and Lynn Redgrave Theatre [16] (2015), Raz, a new play by Jim Cartwright at Trafalgar Studios (2016) [17] and A Christmas Carol with Simon Callow at the Arts Theatre (2016–17). [18] Riverside's digital production team also recorded a number of theatre and dance productions for broadcast including Land of Our Fathers by Chris Urch, [19] Northern Ballet's adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four [20] and Out of Joint's production of The Winters Tale .

Riverside Studios 2019-

Riverside Studios reopened to the public in late 2019. [21]

In both 2020 and 2021, the BBC recorded the Christmas and New Year Specials of Top of the Pops in Riverside's Studio 1. In 2021, Olly Alexander (formerly Years & Years) recorded their New Year's Eve concert in Studio 1 with special guests Kylie Minogue and Pet Shop Boys.

In April 2022, a BBC Heritage Trail plaque, commemorating Riverside's history as BBC studios, was unveiled by Bob Harris (radio presenter), the longest-serving host of The Old Grey Whistle Test. The event was attended by numerous guests who had worked at BBC Riverside Television Studios including Carole Ann Ford and Frazer Hines ( Doctor Who ) and Anne Reid ( Hancock's Half Hour ).

In March 2023 the theatre trust announced that the venue was being placed in administration because of the debt incurred by the redevelopment, coupled with increased operating expenses and a reduced revenue stream. The studios operate as normal while the administration process continues. [22]


Selected television productions

Selected theatre productions


Selected dance productions

Selected live comedy shows

Selected music performances


Panorama of the terrace at the original Riverside Studios Terrace3.jpg
Panorama of the terrace at the original Riverside Studios

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  • Staging Beckett in Great Britain, Bloomsbury Methuen Drama (2016) ISBN   9781474240178

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