Barking Riverside, Scrattons Farm and Thames View

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A performing arts centre is coming soon to your neighbourhood!

The Riverside School has embarked on an ambitious feat: to deliver a £6 million performing arts centre right in the heart of the Barking Riverside estate.

To be based near the Riverside Campus, the Riverview Performing Arts Centre – as it is being called for now – is a project aimed at building a professional performing arts centre for the local schools and community. The goal is to provide students with experience in a professional theatre and offer the community rehearsal spaces, flexible seating arrangements, and access to various performing arts activities. “It will be the cultural heartbeat of the community once it’s done!” said Soren Ramsing, assistant headteacher at the school.

The project aims to raise £6 million pounds through fundraising efforts and has set up a charity. The challenge lies in obtaining the necessary funding, but efforts are being made to connect with philanthropists and companies that may be interested in supporting the project, said Soren.

The project also seeks to improve art engagement in Barking and Dagenham, which currently ranks as one of the least aspirational boroughs according to Arts Council England, Soren said. Efforts are being made to change this perception by creating awareness about cultural experiences through workshops, exhibitions, and shows at the future centre, he added.

A video has been created showcasing the community’s talent and commitment to these projects. Additionally, plans are underway to involve more residents as trustees of the charity and engage professionals from within the performing arts industry, Soren said.

While there is excitement surrounding these endeavours, challenges arise due to limited expertise in marketing and fundraising within the team. With a timeline for funding completion set for September 2024, the clock is ticking and it’s a race to get the funding necessary to get the project going, said Soren.



The school has engaged with Chris Goldie, director of Gifted Philanthropy – a company that specialises in fundraising for community projects – on fundraising for the performing arts centre.

Chris said that it has been challenging raising funds for the project because of the nature of it. “The school doesn’t have any rich alumni or parents that can donate to the project so we’re forced to look elsewhere,” he said.

Another challenge the school faces on raising funds is from granters who are very sceptical of financing projects led by state schools. “Very often they won’t give to state schools because they feel the government should be paying for it,” Chris said, adding: “That’s not to say there isn’t grant money out there. There is from certain foundations, but it’s a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation that you need to have some money in already, before they will consider giving.”

The school organised a fundraising event in July at the House of Commons for initial contact with potential philanthropists and to raise general awareness about the project. The school is now looking for individual benefactors or philanthropists to kickstart the project, followed by securing more funding from grant makers, Chris said.

Chris has had discussions with the council about potential investment from someone involved with the film studio development, and a couple of potential benefactors for the initial tranche of funding, but declined to provide details on who they are at this stage. “Then we’ll have the opportunity to go to a number of grant makers and institutions that support these sorts of projects, either from the community perspective or the educational perspective of both, and look to secure more of the funding,” Chris said.

He emphasised that publicity is crucial to attract interest and showcase the cultural importance of the project to both education and community perspectives.

Chris mentioned the need for champions who can help the school access funding or promote the project.


By Venilia Amorim

Local resident and REB member

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