Some of you may have heard by now, we were successful in our application to receive a substantial grant from central government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.
In total, we received £323,000 in order to help the Blakehay Theatre in these very trying times and to help us plan and prepare for a sustainable future.
As other applicants, we were asked to provide details of what was needed to stop the theatre closing before the end of this financial year and what was needed in order to restructure the theatre in order to re-open as soon as possible.
With this in mind, back in August 2020 we had four days to come up with a rescue plan for the theatre, and we are very grateful that this plan is now in action.
Our first stage of the plan was to make full use of our beautiful first floor studio, with this the most likely area to have restrictions lifted.
Although a wonderful space, we had many local dancers who wanted to use the space but they needed mirrors to be able to use this. Thanks to the Culture Recovery Fund, we have just purchased some portable mirrors for our studio.
We have also managed to bring the cost of hire for our studio down to help the local community and are also offering a booking service so that they can ensure that they are Covid Secure.
We were able to book in lots of new and exciting community classes into our studio starting on Monday 2nd November, when the second lockdown hit. We are hoping to have our studio open again in early December.
A large proportion of the grant has been allocated to installing new ventilation in our main house and studio. This will help to make the theatre more COVID compliant as it will help to circulate and fresh air into these rooms. Those of you who have visited us in the summer months are aware that when it gets very hot during the summer, the main house can get very hot indeed. This will also help with that problem as well.
Our dressing rooms will also be having a ‘make over’. At present, we have two large dressing rooms backstage. In order to maintain social distancing, we will be diving these in two to make four dressing rooms and adding a toilet on the ground floor backstage so that we are accessibility friendly for visiting companies.
We are, at present, also in the process of purchasing streaming/recording equipment. Rob, our technician, is very busy sourcing everything. Initially, we looking to record performances at the theatre, edit them and then upload them to various sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. We are currently working to a schedule of being able to bring you some free trials in January 2021 with a look to bringing you regular streamed performances from the Blakehay Theatre from April 2021.
The grant has also allowed us to buy more specific equipment to help us become more COVID compliant within the building. We will be purchasing more automatic hand sanitising stations, a Perspex screen for our bar, a portable fogging machine that will help clean the auditorium seats and an air and surface virus neutraliser. To be able to maintain a flow system we are also looking at accessibility into our theatre bar with the installation of a ramp.
Our final project we are looking to use our grant for is to produce an outside production in early 2021. As it stands, we are very limited in the amount of people we can have in our auditorium at the moment.
To combat this, we are looking to put on a number of performances in an outside setting somewhere in Weston-super-Mare. We are very excited about this and we will keep you informed as we work to make this happen.
We are very grateful to central government and Art Council England for giving us this grant. Many venues across the country are finding these uncertain times very hard. We are hoping that this grant will help us to come back bigger and better than ever when it is safe to do so.
Here’s to better times ahead! We hope to see you soon.
From all the team at the Blakehay Theatre