In 1933 the Triumph Film Company moved into a former industrial warehouse picturesquely located on the Thames
just south of the late-Victorian Hammersmith Bridge. Under the ownership of Jack Buchanan, the studio produced many well-known films including The Seventh Veil (1945),
still one of the most successful British films ever made in terms of ticket sales, The Happiest Days of Your Life
(1950) and Father Brown (1954), starring Alec Guinness. In 1954, the studios were acquired by the BBC for its television service. Series 2 to 6 of
Hancock's Half Hour (1957-60) were made at what was now the BBC Riverside Studios, along with other drama and music programmes, including the
science-fiction classic Quatermass and the Pit (1958-59), early episodes of the long-running Doctor Who, and the children's programme Play School.
The facility was in continuous use until the early 1970s, the rooftop camera position providing one of the highlights of the annual University Boat Race each
In 1975, after the BBC moved out, a charitable trust formed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council took control of the building. Soon afterwards, two large multi-purpose spaces were shaped by
architect Michael Reardon from the two main sound stages, to be used for a mixed programme of live theatre, music, dance and film. A functional foyer area with exposed industrial-style
trunking and pipework was created as an always-open meeting point at the heart of the building.
In 1976, Peter Gill was appointed Riverside's first Artistic Director and soon established the Studios as a leading London arts venue with acclaimed productions of The Cherry Orchard with
Judy Parfitt, Julie Covington and Michael Elphick (1978), The Changeling with Brian Cox (1979) and Measure for Measure (1980). During the 1980s, the Centre was the venue for the highly successful
Dance Umbrella seasons, and hosted a huge variety of productions from across the world including, notably the work of Polish theatre maestro Tadeusz Kantor. An influential gallery area also
flourished, under the direction of Greg Hilty. Channel 4's opening night launch party was held at the Studios in 1982. During the 1980s, Riverside was also home to the Motley Theatre Design Course,
under the directorship of Margaret Harris.
In 1993 William Burdett-Coutts took over as Artistic Director at a time of difficulty for the Trust. It was in deficit but also lost its funding from Hammersmith and Fulham Council
in 1996, hence the introduction of more commercial work including Top of the Pops and TFI Friday ( a show that made Riverside its home for five years). This sustained the Trust until 2000 when it applied to be accepted
on to the Arts Council's Recovery Programme. The Trust was eventually accepted on to Phase One of the Recovery Programme, a condition of which was to reach agreement with a commercial partner
on providing a television recording studio in Studio 1. The new company Riverside TV Studios was formed to run Studio 1 as a TV recording studio on a commercial basis and has been home to
such shows as The Apprentice: You're Fired!, the BAFTA award winning Celebrity Juice, Question Time, Russell Howard's Good News and The Last Leg.
Over the years Riverside has developed relationships with some of the world's most innovative, experimental and controversial theatre companies of the recent past. Theatre de Complicite first
performed at Riverside in 1990 with their production of The Visit and they returned with the Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol and their award winning and many say life-altering Mnemonic, in
1999 and 2002. Highlights in the early 2000s include Stand Up South Africa, The Wooster Group (USA) with To You, The Birdie!, Men in Coats, Singh Tangos, Woza Albert (Market Theatre, South Africa),
The Secret Death of Salvador Dali (Australia), Derevo (Russia) with their magnificent production of La Divina Comedia and Pete Postlethwaite in Scaramouche Jones.
In 2010 our production of A Christmas Carol with Simon Callow enjoyed a hugely successful run at the West End's Arts Theatre while A Round-Heeled Woman with Sharon Gless transferred from Riverside to the
West End's Aldwych Theatre in 2011. In 2013 our production of Mies Julie opened to rave reviews and played to sold-out audiences. Riverside has also hosted
plays from companies such as Graeae who challenge the stereotypes of disability within the theatre.
Festivals of music and comedy have played an important part in Riverside's programme too. Every musical taste has been catered for over the years. The Studios have hosted productions of operas,
jazz festivals, rock musicians to classical chamber music, all of which has contributed to the vibrant atmosphere of the venue as a centre for the creative arts. Many famous comedians have
entertained audiences here too including Jo Brand, Jack Dee, Bill Bailey, the outrageous Julian Clary and, more recently, Josh Widdicombe, Russell Howard, Shappi Khorsandi and Richard Herring.
Riverside hasn't been just about performance though. The Visual Arts programme began when the studios opened with a purpose built gallery opening in 1980. This only closed in 1994 to make way
for the creation of the 150-seat Studio 3, leaving the gallery wall in the Cafe Bar as the primary exhibition space. Many artists' work has been exhibited over the
years including Edward Munch, Anthony Gormley, David Hockney and Yoko Ono as well as local and lesser well-known artists.
Our building redevelopment is due for completion in 2018 but Riverside is still very much a working organisation. While continuing to deliver live theatre (such as our recent production of
Jim Cartwright's RAZ), we are also reaching out to new audiences with our filmed theatre work for broadcasters such as BBC 4 and The Space, including Northern Ballet's 1984 and
Wales Millennium Centre/Theatre 503/Tiny Fire's Land of Our Father's.
The vision for the new Riverside Studios will draw on our history as a multi-arts venue to provide a natural place for the convergence of different media. The future of technology is being re-defined at a remarkable rate and our desire is to reflect this to a broad audience that are not necessarily regular theatre-goers. We believe that access is a real requirement in a competitive world where the arts must continually re-energise and re-invent themselves.