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January - March 2023 Part Two

Hanging the exhibition 


Reuben Esson-Parkes, our  Creative Associate, continues....

Our facilities management team, Jan and James, helped with the hanging process. The back wall was painted first and then the large Benjamin Zephaniah image was hung. Once the imposing image of Benjamin was up, I was sceptical on whether to add the Exhibition title text next to it as I did not want to take away from the impact of the image. It took a bit of convincing before making the call on the text being added and I’m glad to say my trepidation was put to rest. 

We then hung the right wall; a few of the pictures we had planned to put up couldn't fit the wall due to sizing issues but we found alternative positions for them. Despite the issues the wall came out very close to the original vision planned in the 3D model. The large images for the corridor were the most imposing and is one of my favourite parts of the exhibition as I feel the images make passersby want to come in to see more. When I worked in film I got used to seeing the final result of a creative vision not being close to what you intended and that tends to be the general nature of film. With this exhibition the final result was what the original vision had set out to be and the culmination of hard work and preparation paid off.

Speaking to those who have attended the exhibition has been an amazing experience, hearing the feedback on how important the exhibition is and how proud they feel to see black talent celebrated so well has been encouraging. I’ve had conversations with those who are in the images and have spoken in depth about their experience and how happy they are for their experience to be shared through the exhibition.

My experience working on this exhibition has been one of the most rewarding creative experiences I have had, being able to revive the past and explore such a rich heritage of black performance and the feedback has been humbling. The support, trust and contribution from the heritage and volunteers team has been extremely warming. I hope the exhibition has inspired many people to look deeper into the heritage of Riverside Studios.”


The photography exhibition was launched on March 13th with a busy event attended by staff, members of the local community, past and present collaborators, figures such as former artistic directors Peter Gill and David Gothard, and actor Trevor Laird, who was a founding member of the Black Theatre Co-operative. He and playwright Farrukh Dhondy gave evocative speeches recalling their time working at Riverside Studios, which is celebrated in the photographs. 

Our programme of exhibition-related events kicked-off the following week with ‘An Evening with Benjamin Zephaniah’. This sold-out interview was held in our largest cinema and attracted an enthusiastic local audience who ended the evening posing some brilliant questions themselves. It was fascinating to hear Benjamin speak about the part Riverside Studios played in his early career as well as his experiences as a writer, a performer, a son and a citizen. We all felt enriched after spending time in his company. 

It has been a pleasure to collaborate with Reuben for the past five months and the work he has achieved has made such a positive impact on our organisation and audiences. Via the exhibition, he has captured a vital theatrical movement, stirring memories for some and providing inspiration to others. Through the programme of events he has curated, he has brought our elements of our history to life, providing inspiration for our future. 


In other aspects of the heritage project....

Our community dance project in collaboration with Roehampton University began in January. Three fantastic MA students joined the project as facilitators, and immediately provided us with ideas and inspiration for what this dance project could look like, and how it could serve the community and inform participants about Riverside Studio’s heritage. 

Aimee, Sarah and Juliana joined Hope in the archive, and trawled through boxes of material, identifying key figures, styles of dance and stories that emerged from the archive. Taking this inspiration, they came up with a concept influenced by performance pieces they read about, and the corresponding title ‘Drop by Drop: Legacy in Motion’. 

Over two workshops with professional dancers, two workshops with members of the local community, and a final group rehearsal, the facilitators workshopped and developed a piece of work. The facilitators and two workshop groups came together to perform a dance piece to a well-attended Studio 3 audience in late May, with great feedback from participants and attendees alike! 


Looking to the future....

At the beginning of April, Riverside Studios entered administration. While this has been a time of uncertainty for all involved in the project, we have been able to continue cataloguing material, helping researchers, and most importantly planning for the future! 


October - November 2023