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Woolwich Works Provides an Inclusive London Space for Artistic Enjoyment and Self-Expression

Photo by Josh Aberman

Despite the fact that there are certainly smaller venues throughout London, Woolwich Works, which recently opened its doors on the 23rd of September, might take the prize for being one of the most intimate venues London has to offer. On the weekend of the 8th and 9th of October, audiences at Woolwich Works were treated to an eclectic mix of genres as the former front-woman and bassist for Noisettes, Shingai, brought her afro-futurist music which is inspired by her London, Bantu, and Zimbabwean heritage to the stage Friday night, while on Saturday the South London ensemble, Soothsayers, brought their mix of reggae, afrobeat, dub, jazz, electronica and Latin influences to Woolwich Works.

Before Shingai’s show on Friday, a Woolwich Works staff member told the audience that they should feel comfortable within the space to physically express themselves through dance. Perhaps due to this sort of attention paid by Woolwich Works to their visitors’ comfort and immersion while at the venue, both Shingai and Soothsayers’ shows had a truly magical feeling to them. In the crowd, people danced in a freer way than one can usually expect to find at a gig in London. Instead of worrying about how they looked, or subtly swaying and bobbing along to the music’s rhythm, people were moving their whole bodies joyously, smiling, and laughing throughout the sets.

Photo by Josh Aberman

During Shingai’s powerful show Friday night, the crowd seemingly became a single entity, dancing together and experiencing the show as one listener. There was a true sense of community as Shingai informed the audience that she would be taking us ‘on a musical safari through South London’ that night. Her lyricism is incredibly poetic, covering a wide array of subject matter from poverty in London to her family’s heritage and resiliency in confronting and rising above struggle. During a particular high point in her show, Shingai brought out her siblings to sing with her, which led to both beautiful harmonies and an extremely emotion-packed moment in Shingai’s set. Throughout the show, Shingai’s direct interactions with the crowd erased the separation between artist and audience in a way that made it feel as though the audience were contributing to the music itself.

Photo by Josh Aberman

On Saturday, Soothsayers gave a virtuosic set which felt very different from Shingai’s show the night before but was equally as impressive and fun. The band’s many sonic influences led to a psychedelic, genre-melding sound quite unique to the band. Whereas, during Shingai’s show, the audience started dancing together in synchronised moves, during Soothsayers’ set audience members became much more individualistic, with one person doing interpretive dance towards the front of the stage and another salsa dancing to Soothsayers’ Latin rhythms. This exemplifies the sense of freedom for self-expression which Woolwich Works’ environment gives to its audience, and typifies how music is able to reach people of all ages and different backgrounds equally in such a safe, communal space.

Woolwich Works is also not simply a venue, but additionally is home to a café and bar, hosts resident artist companies such as the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and Luca Silvestrini’s Protein Dance, and features free art exhibitions like the Black in Full Colour exhibition currently on display. This new London venue is not one to be missed and promises to continue hosting a wide variety of exceptional talent.

Photos by Josh Aberman

To keep up with shows at Woolwich Works, you can check out their website or Instagram.


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