Hammersmith reflections

This time a guest blog by Sian Alexander (Lyric Hammersmith)

Welcome back to our blog “Hammersmith Reflections” where our Trustees share with us their thoughts about Hammersmith United Charities and our local area. This time we have a special guest writing for us: Sian Alexander, Chief Executive of the Lyric Hammersmith. Keep on reading to find out more about the Lyric, what they do and their role as an organisation at the heart of Hammersmith.

__________

The Lyric has an extraordinary history in Hammersmith. There’s been a theatre on this site for more than 120 years – not quite as long as Hammersmith United Charities – but plenty long enough to be firmly rooted in our local community.

Forty-five years ago, the Lyric was threatened with demolition to make way for a new shopping and housing complex. There was a huge public outcry and, at the eleventh hour, the local council decreed that the Lyric’s exquisite Matcham plasterwork auditorium would have to be preserved and painstakingly reconstructed in a new theatre above the Kings Mall Shopping Centre, where the theatre stands today: a Victorian auditorium above a 1970s shopping centre and now with a state-of-the art 21st Century extension on the side.

So we owe our very existence to the people of Hammersmith, and it’s this history that gives the Lyric such a strong sense of community ownership. In response to this, we feel a real responsibility to play a leading civic role locally, opening up the arts and creativity to all, and ensuring the Lyric fulfils its obligation to be an iconic cultural hub for west London.

The Lyric Hammersmith. Copyright Jim Stephenson 2015

It’s three years since we reopened with our Reuben Foundation Wing extension which houses new education and creative spaces.  Working with our 9 partner organisations here at the Lyric – DanceWest, TriBorough Music Hub, Action on Disability, Amici, Musiko Musika, New English Ballet Theatre, TEAfilms, Turtle Key Arts and Zoonation – we run an extensive programme of creative classes and activities, after school and in the holidays with over 40,000 attendances by young people age 0 – 25 in the last year alone. We know that 40% of young people attending come from Hammersmith and Fulham and more than 80% from the west London area. We also work with local schools, providing artists in residence, teacher training and networks, and opening our spaces for workshops and performances.

Inclusivity is very important to us and we pride ourselves on being a warm, open and inclusive space in Hammersmith. We run a wide range of pioneering programmes to ensure that the arts are open to all young people including those who are marginalised in some way. This includes those who are not in education, employment or training; those who are in care; who are disabled; who are newly arrived; or in the criminal justice system. A brilliant example of this is our Journeys company of disabled and non-disabled performers who recently performed in our Evolution Festival of young artists, with the support of Hammersmith United Charities.

As Chief Executive of the Lyric Hammersmith I see first hand every day the power of the arts to change lives.

We are passionate about making sure that young people from all walks of life have the opportunity to explore and express their creativity, developing essential life skills such as confidence, team work and self esteem along the way.

But we’re also here for them if they discover a real talent and ambition to forge a career in the creative industries. We can help them find pathways into further training or employment and we provide a platform for young artists to make and share their work. The creative industries, after all, are one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the UK.

But if the Lyric is at the heart of Hammersmith, at the heart of the Lyric is our beautiful auditorium. We are very proud to be one of the UK’s leading producing theatres with an award-winning programme that has everything from bold and adventurous contemporary theatre to big musicals to London’s best panto. Oh yes we do!

But if the Lyric is at the heart of Hammersmith, at the heart of the Lyric is our beautiful auditorium. We are very proud to be one of the UK’s leading producing theatres with an award-winning programme that has everything from bold and adventurous contemporary theatre to big musicals to London’s best panto. Oh yes we do!

If you haven’t been to the Lyric before or would like to try something new, why not sign up for Free First Night? Every year we give around 2500 free first night tickets to people who live or work in Hammersmith or Fulham, many of whom haven’t been to the theatre before.

The Lyric is a charity, and grateful for the support of enlightened funders like Hammersmith United Charities. We’re also grateful for the support of the people of Hammersmith – by buying tickets, hiring our spaces and eating and drinking in our bar, restaurant and café you are contributing to all our work on and off stage and helping to ensure that the Lyric is a vibrant community resource for at least another 120 years in the future.

I hope to welcome you to the Lyric soon.

Sian Alexander
Chief Executive
Lyric Hammersmith

Hammersmith Reflections – Award Winning Secret Gardens Open Saturday 9 June

Hammersmith United Charities is thrilled to announce the charity has won two awards at the London Gardens Society Competition for each of its two sheltered housing schemes for older people.  Sycamore House won third place for the large community gardens at the awards ceremony. (more…)

Read More ...

Enigma Event – Polish Heritage Day

We were up against the Royal wedding, the FA cup final (featuring Chelsea), battery powered technology and Ikea flat pack garden furniture…it didn’t feel promising! But the sun shone, we viewed “the dress” on our mobile phones and we were enchanted by the hospitality of the organisers of Polish Heritage day in Ravenscourt Park.

This Enigma lunch took place in a tent on a drop in basis. The revelation was how to make people laugh – genuinely surprised, proper laughs – directly ask them to sit at a (slightly wobbly, bilious orange) table, eat bread and cheese and talk to someone they don’t know. For those who dared, this was everything we wanted from an Enigma event; people sharing their stories, their languages and their experiences.

We focused the lunch around the republication of “Passport to Exile”, memories of Polish migrants in the 1980s. And around an artist in residence who shared his art with us during the day. Technology failure denied us a Polish musician but instead we enjoyed – for the first time in this series of events – the conversation and enthusiasm of some delightful children.

Read More ...

Irish Enigma Event

Serenaded by footstompingly enjoyable traditional Irish musicians, we enjoyed the hospitality of the new Irish Cultural Centre for our third Enigma lunch.

The hall was full for the occasion with guests drawn from the Cultural Centre, our residents, friends of the charity and neighbours who found out about the event from Next Door.

As hoped, the conversation flowed, sparked to some extent by responses to our republication of the reminiscences of Irish migrants first published in the 1980s. Guests were delighted to read the stories; some remembered the original project and, for others, the stories newly discovered, very much tuned in to their own memories.

We ended the event with a riveting and entertaining story by a professional story teller who had the whole hall enthralled and entertained with her tale of her life as the daughter of a small town shopkeeper  – and more seriously with her thoughts about “community”  – very much the theme of our Enigma lunches.

Read More ...

Hammersmith Reflections – People who aren’t like us

I was sitting in the sunshine on a bench in Ravenscourt Park having a coffee when I noticed people waving from another bench on the far side of the Tea House. It was Diane, who lives locally near Hammersmith Grove, and a couple of other people.

Diane comes over. We haven’t seen each other for a while. She’s pleased to see me and shrieks in delight.  I am delighted to bump in to her too. Diane smiles. You should see that smile; (more…)

Read More ...