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Royal Opera House Director of Development joins our 'Cultural Cities' event

Above: interior of the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden - designed by Stanton Williams. The new Linbury Theatre is a world-class stage for The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera and their collaborating artists and partners, and is the West End's newest and most intimate venue. The auditorium seats up to 406 people. It re-opened in December 2018.

Future Cities Forum is delighted that the Royal Opera House's Director of Development, Amanda Saunders, will join our 'Cultural Cities' discussions at the V&A Museum this month. Amanda is a highly experienced arts professional who leads the ROH's fund-raising team.

The Royal Opera House was formed as the Covent Garden Opera Company in 1946, but behind it lies a tradition of operatic performance which goes back for more than 260 years at its home in Covent Garden, London. In each of the three theatres there have been on the site since 1732, opera has played an important role.

The Royal Opera continues to widen its audience through a range of innovative means: through cinema broadcasts, through television and radio broadcasts, through free You Tube broadcasts and through the BP Big Screens, which are broadcast for free to open spaces around the UK.

Future Cities Forum interviewed Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House during the pandemic about the organisation's online arts programme and his involvement in the future of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor.

Alex - as Chair of High House Production Park in Thurrock, Essex - described how High House has brought education and job opportunities to the borough.

'High House is a hugely important part of the Royal Opera House story. My connection is twofold as I am Chair of the production park and also Chief Executive of the ROH. What makes High House so special is the range of facilities and expertise. We have a world leading set production and scene painting workshop, a heritage costume collection and costume centre, and there is a BA in costume design course on site with South Essex College and the University of the Arts London.

'We have an education team that works with the council on access to creative education, and we run ROH Bridge, which is an Arts Council funded project that connects arts organisations with high quality education across Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire and East Bucks. It has a connection with The National Back-stage Centre and local artists' studios. The opportunity is to be make it more than the sum of its parts by cross-fertilising these creative organisations in a relatively deprived area.

'Being in Purfleet gives us a much richer character than we would have otherwise have. On one side we have a foot in the Covent Garden piazza with some of the world's top opera and ballet performers connecting to the world. On the other foot, we are in the Thames Gateway where we are developing sets and costumes and working with local authorities and schools to develop the next generation of talent. Being part of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor and the next phase of Purfleet's development is very exciting.'

The Bob and Tamar Manoukian Costume Centre opened in October 2015 and is home to over 20,000 costumes from the Royal Opera House repertory, together with over 6,000 items from the historic collection including items worn by Maria Callas and Margot Fonteyn. In a unique partnership with South Essex College and University of the Arts London, the Royal Opera House has established a new BA (Hons.) degree course in Costume Construction, delivered from the Centre’s bespoke workrooms.

High House Production Park is also home to the Backstage Centre; a flagship national training centre for Creative & Cultural Skills; and High House Artists’ Studios. The 39 artists’ studios and four work/live units are managed by Acme Studios.

Also on site are Grade II listed barns, from which the ROH has delivered a Learning and Community engagement programme for the local and wider community since 2006. Before this date the ROH Production Workshops were based in Bow, East London.

To date over 60,000 people have engaged with ROH Thurrock activity since 2007. They have participated in activities ranging from schools projects to teacher training, from work-based learning to fully-staged community operas. People in Thurrock have both been able to watch special performances and gain a very special insight into the behind-the-scenes process.

In April 2012, the Royal Opera House established ROH Bridge, which works to connect children and young people to great art and culture across Essex, North Kent, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire while promoting the importance of culture both in and out of schools.

In 2014 the Royal Opera House began the Thurrock Trailblazer programme, a Cultural Entitlement Initiative in partnership with Thurrock Council. The Royal Opera House has been working with a wide range of cultural organizations to deliver both in and out of school activities.

Below: ROH set making studios at High House Production Park in Thurrock, Essex


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