Royal Opera House Production Workshop, Purfleet

It was a beautiful October day for the Old Loughtonian’s tour of the Production Workshop of the Royal Opera House at the recently created High Production Park in Purfleet, a new enterprise area built within the grounds of a fifteenth century farm, complete with some original buildings surviving the passage of time, including a dovecote made to house hundreds of doves.

The Production Workshop consists of two buildings, one for the main heavy duty scenery, backdrops and constructions and one for costume creation.

In the main Production Workshop, we were shown the huge backdrops and constructions needed for the operatic performances at the Covent Garden theatre. We witnessed the sheer enormous scale of the backdrop paintings, wooden constructions and the metal fabrications, sometimes being 100 feet high and able to support dozens of performers at the same time (see photos below). We saw many long-term employees and many apprentices, who learn their craft on the productions lines. Some production techniques created by the Production Workshop over the years have been adopted throughout the World.

The second building of the Production Workshop is the Bob and Tamar Manoukian Costume Centre. We saw dozens of the 20,000 various costumes produced here for previous performances over the many years. The superb quality of the hand-made costumes and shoes was certainly a testament to the honed skills and dedication of the workforce.

On this site, and next door to the Production Workshop, is the National College for Creative and Cultural Industries, which specialises in the delivery of Creative Apprenticeships and provides specialist training in the technical skills needed in these industries.

We were told that on many occasions, students from the College next door were able to advance their training by practical work experience in the Production Workshop.

Our next tour will be a visit to the actual Royal Opera House at Covent Garden on Friday 20th October, a visit we are all very much looking forward to

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