The building which is now home to Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre was built as a generating station in 1916 and powered trams in the area until they ceased to run in 1953. For the next 20 years, the building was used as factory units, housing a wide variety of small businesses, under the ownership of the local council.
It opened as The Tramshed Theatre in the autumn of 1973, originally intended as a ‘youth’ offshoot of the Greenwich Theatre, but was relaunched the following summer with a bar and a wider variety of activities. The theatre was run by a company specially set up for the purpose, The Woolwich Theatre Ltd, although the building was (and still is) owned by the council. In 1985 the company went into liquidation and the operation was taken over by the Arts and Entertainments division of the London Borough of Greenwich.
In the days before the council took over, the Tramshed was best known as the home of FUNDATION and pre-dates the Comedy Store by some years as the capitals first regular, modern, comedy club. FUNDATION were a riotous and very successful team attracting sell-out audiences every week. Amongst their members were Gareth Hale and Norman Pace and it was thei subsequent television success that led to Fundation being disbanded. Other notable performers at the Tramshed at this time included Max Wall, Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts (who made their first ever appearance at the venue), Billy Brag, Warren Mitchell and Richard Digance.
In early 1987, The South of Deptford comedy club was founded, with early bills including such names as The Joan Collins Fan Club (Julian Clary), Harry Enfield, Craig Ferguson, Stephen Nallon (the voice of Margaret Thatcher on Spitting Image), Arthur Smith and many more acts who have since made the breakthrough to national acclaim.
The Woolwich Tramshed was voted top South London Comedy Venue by City Limits’ readers and, in 1988 BBC Radio One chose the Tramshed as the venue to record their very first comedy series, Hey Rrrradio!, with a Comic Relief special following in 1989.
Musical highlights have included John Martin, Tom Robinson, Albert Lee, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister (who recorded much of their ‘live’ album at the Tramshed), The Oyster Band, Tanita Tikram, Wilko Johnson, John Otway, and many, many more.
Heading into the 2000’s the building was used by Greenwich Leisure Ltd, who ran a small stage school offering singing, dancing and drama workshops. This provision in the area was expanded when Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre took over tenancy on 22 July 2009. The company’s summer school took place in the building before the company offices moved over in September of the same year.
Do you have memories or photos of the Tramshed you would like to share? If so please contact us on 020 8854 1316, firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to pop in to say hello.