Riverside Studios Poised to Go into Administration

Trustees blame high energy bills and interest costs for cash shortfall

Riverside Studios viewed at night from Barnes
Riverside Studios viewed at night from Barnes. Picture: Riverside Studios

March 31, 2023

The management of the Riverside Studios has confirmed that the community arts centre is set to go into administration unless it receives an immediate cash injection.

It is saying that it has been forced into the move due to high energy and debt costs hitting at a time when the venue was still struggling to rebuild revenue after the lockdown.

The board of the Riverside Trust charity which oversees the activities of the centre has now confirmed that it has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators.

The centre will remain open even if it is forced to go into administration and the trustees say they would prefer that it continues to be owned by a charity.

A 300% rise in energy costs combined with rising interest costs relating to the development of the complex created a cash shortfall which was not being met by other sources of revenue.

Greg Parston, chair of the board, said ,“Launching the new Riverside Studios with such a huge burden of inherited debt from the building development was never going to be easy. With the fantastic team that we have built over the last three years, it was our fervent hope that careful business planning – coupled with the support we received from the government’s culture recovery fund and Triodos Bank during the darkest days of the pandemic – would put us in a healthier cashflow position.”

Tony Lankester and Rachel Tackley, joint chief executives, said, “To avoid administration and to give us time to re-engineer the legacy debt, we need cash amounting to a relatively small portion of the overall debt: an immediate cash injection of £500,000 with a commitment of a further £750,000 over the next few months. We’ve explored several avenues to try and raise that amount to no avail, and only have around another week to do so.”

The centre reopened, with much fanfare, at the end of 2019 after a redevelopment which took five years to complete. The original Riverside Studios had been on the same site since the mid-1970s. Prior to that, a former light industrial building had been converted into a film studio in the thirties and was used by the BBC to film shows such as Dr Who and Dixon of Dock Green.

The new complex has three theatres, state of the art TV studios, a cinema, and a café bar area facing the river.

Only a few months after the reopening, the Covid-19 outbreak meant that the centre had to temporarily close and was subject to restrictions on the size of audiences for some time afterwards.

It received grants totalling nearly £3mn from the central government culture recovery fund and the Arts Council during this period.

Ticket sales, since a full programme was restored, have reportedly been mixed with some productions such as Ava: The Secret Conversations with Elizabeth McGovern regularly selling out but others being performed to sparse audiences.

Sam Harrison, the owner of Sam's Riverside restaurant which can be accessed through the centre said, “I am very sorry regarding Riverside Studios and they have our full support at this very difficult time. We know very well how hard it has been and continues to be for the Arts and Hospitality world. As far as Sam’s Riverside is concerned, we would like to reassure all our loyal guests that nothing changes and we continue to trade as normal.”

Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council said, “We are extremely saddened that Riverside Studios is likely to go into administration.

“Having worked with its new team to try to save it, it quickly became evident they had been bequeathed an unmanageable burden of historic debt.

“It is vital Riverside Studios remains a community arts hub and we will work with the administrators to make sure that happens.”

There was no comment on the announcement on the centre’s social media other than a post saying, “Thank you for your kind words, thoughts and wishes today. We've got a packed programme of Pooh, Killing the Cat, Yoga, Film and more (don't forget the fish and chips!). Come on down see for yourself.”

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