New signs will give Woolwich Works a boost, venue’s boss says

James Heaton
James Heaton opened the doors to Woolwich Works last September

The boss of Woolwich Works says digital signs promoting the new cultural venue are about to be installed, after it was revealed that Greenwich Council is preparing to give financial help to the trust running it.

Last week a senior Greenwich councillor said that the Woolwich Creative District Trust would be told to improve its marketing strategy. The town hall spent £45 million on refurbishing buildings in the Royal Arsenal to accommodate Woolwich Works and a new base for the immersive theatre company Punchdrunk.

Woolwich Works opened last September, and has had to contend with the consequences of the pandemic, with many people initially reluctant to visit indoor venues.

But its programming and promotion has also come in for criticism; signage in the area does not point to Woolwich Works while it is unclear to passers-by what actually goes on in the building. Last week, the a sign outside was still declaring the venue’s opening date last year.

James Heaton, the Woolwich Works chief executive, says that new signage will be installed to help rectify this.

He told 853: “We entirely agree that the signage and marketing presence on the exterior of our buildings is inadequate and have been working hard with partners for many months to improve this. Digital displays promoting shows and activities within the building are due to be installed in our front window in the coming days.”

Woolwich Works exterior with sign saying "open September 23, 2021"
The front of the venue still showed its opening date last week, nine months on

At last week’s full council meeting, Adel Khaireh, the council’s cabinet member for culture, said he would be encouraging the trust to “ramp up their marketing strategy”.

In response, Heaton said: “We have run advertisements at key tube, train and DLR stations, on buses, via paid social media campaigns and in numerous local publications; distributed leaflets with [the council fortnightly paper] Greenwich Info; and attended major business-to-business events.

“We’ve also achieved regular press coverage both locally and nationally, including in The Times, The Guardian and Time Out – which awarded us Best New Spot for Culture last year and has named [the forthcoming festival] Woolwich Words and Sounds as its number one top pick for things to do in London this summer.

“We absolutely want and need to do more; it is simply a question of resources.

He added: “In parallel, we’ve worked hard to build a social media following and our mailing list from scratch, through which we also run regular offers for heavily discounted tickets for local residents in addition to distributing free tickets through our education and community programmes.”

Woolwich Works offers “early bird” tickets for borough residents. But at a scrutiny panel meeting on Monday night, Charlton Hornfair Labour councillor Lakshan Saldin suggested a “super discount” for residents within a mile of the venue, targeting people in less well-off areas in Woolwich town centre.

“You don’t effectively want to be subsidising people who can afford to buy those tickets just because they are Greenwich residents, you actually want to target those who might not necessarily go to that,” Saldin said.

Stuart Godfrey, the council’s assistant director for central and corporate services, told the regeneration, transport and culture committee: “We don’t offer the one-mile scheme, we do want to make sure all residents benefit from the investment this council makes in cultural activity.

“I think it’s fair to say that lots of councils are cutting back in that area; this council believes in culture.”

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