Letter: Those remarkable goings-on at the Riverside

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The Independent Online
Sir: Emily Green ('A very tough act to follow', 22 September) reminds us of the remarkable things that went on at the Riverside Studios in its earlier years. Her emphasis on David Gothard's special contribution is welcome and perhaps overdue. Without his unique flair, the place would have been less exciting than it was.

But, at a time when the Riverside is entering on a new lease of life, the story needs to be a little more complete. Other people contributed a great deal: notably, of course, Peter Gill, the first artistic director, who in his four years guided and controlled the operation. Quite early he enlisted Gothard's creative skill in programme finding, but it was Gill who was in charge. He attracted actors of calibre, many of whom took part in the studio work he conducted on the side. And under him the Riverside programme included dance companies (one housed in the building), opera performances and concerts, and a bookshop.

Under Jenny Stein, his successor as director, an art gallery was created and her film programme drew fresh attention to the achievement of Humphrey Jennings.

There were financial problems, but they did not result from meagre attendances. Some credit should go to the local borough which set up the Riverside in the first place, and to the Arts Council, and to the GLC and Greater London Arts, which provided funds.

But in the end, these things are created by the people who run them and in this case there were quite a few, including a devoted staff. They all created a unique atmosphere which spread to a wide range of the public. Those of us who were involved at that time wish for the new Riverside every success in the future.

Yours faithfully,

HUGH WILLATT

London, W6

30 September

The writer was secretary general of the Arts Council (1968-75), and chairman of the Riverside Studios (1976-84).

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