The last few weeks have been a challenge for us as they have been for everyone in our sector. Trustees have continued to progress plans to open the venue so as to be part of the initiative to revitalize Barnard Castle high street and be ready to welcome old friends and new faces with a programme of events, and with welcome smiles in our café/bar and shop.
The programme of building work had progress well. We had taken the opportunity to complete some difficult maintenance. We had also undertaken the risk assessments and planning for safe working within the constraints of the social distancing challenges that our building presents.
The Trustees met on 25 June to review the final plans for reopening and for preparing to bring staff back from the CJRS. The discussion included the information that was released by the government the previous day and which made it very clear that there could be no live performances, with no live audiences.
Trustees faced the reality that, if we were to open now, we would lose money every single day. Sadly, without income from ticket sales and from community events we can’t operate successfully. Therefore, after in-depth discussion, it was with very heavy hearts that Trustees decided not to open the venue at this time.
On Friday, The Culture Secretary: Mr. Oliver Dowden released the initial plan for reopening venues associated with the performing arts. The main steps of which are:
- Stage One – Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)
- Stage Two – Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)
- Stage Three – Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience
- Stage Four – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)
- Stage Five – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors).
Based on the published information, it seems that it might be feasible for The Witham to reopen when the plan moves to Stage 4. However, the government has yet to publish their timetable.
The Trustees will closely monitor events and will continue to plan for reopening at the earliest point at which we can be confident of being reasonably successful.
Our doors remain closed for the moment. However, the team is ready to respond to the signals that would give us a reasonable degree of confidence to operate with success.
We have shared this news with our mailing list and, as a result, have received several uplifting responses which included ‘a very wise decision’, ‘how do I make a donation?’ and ‘the long-term viability of The Witham is important to preserve’. These messages give us much encouragement and we ask for your goodwill and patience whilst we find the right way to reopen our venue.
We will keep you abreast of our plans.