from all at Hafren, Newtown
It’s been a difficult year for everyone. With Welsh Theatre’s closed from mid-March 2020 until further notice, social distancing, the mandatory wearing of masks or visors, hand sanitiser everywhere and queuing just to pick up the weekly shop.
Theatre is about bringing people together, not socially distancing! Even with the vaccine roll out, I’m not convinced that we shall be back to any normality until at least Christmas 2021. By the Autumn 2021, I do hope that social distancing will be reduced to 1 metre, but face masks and hand sanitisers will be here for some time is what I took away from my round table with Welsh Ministers last Friday afternoon.
While the Theatre has been closed, many staff have been on Furlough, and my special thanks to them for their patience and understanding in this difficult circumstance. With no trade allowed the 80% reclaim of Salaries and Wages has been crucial. We have received money to undertake essential maintenance from the Cultural Recovery Fund. The theatre air handling system is having a massive overhaul and we are installing some new units in the Technical Office upstairs. We’ve had new electronic hold-backs on all the doors, so that they won’t swing shut on customers. We have Jill Rolfe making up seat covers which will make certain seats out of bounds, customers won’t even be able to lower the seat and have a chat to someone else. We will be ordering new ticket scanners for all volunteers to scan customers tickets instead of having to handle them, there will be a one way system in the auditorium for customers and we are looking at ways of introducing refreshment delivery to customers seats instead of customers queuing. We will still be required to have screening up on serving points – the bar, ice cream and coffee shop.
We have been used as a Covid-19 drive through centre since May 2020. What should have been a 2 or 3 week period turned into 9 months. We’ve had people travelling from Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, London, for testing but I think the award for distance goes to the family who travelled over from Margate!
The Testers left us last week as a new centre was opening in Newtown’s Gravel Car Park. This will accommodate people on foot as well as drive through. The Community Nurses who were using one of our dressing rooms as a base have also gone, and been rehomed elsewhere.
Mid Wales Opera will be using the stage and backstage areas from 4th - 16th January 2021 to film a version of their Satellite Stages production “Mrs Peachum’s Guide to Love and Marriage”. This will provide some digital content for them to promote over the Spring. They will then move back in in May 2021 to produce a version of The Magic Flute which could be toured either into theatres, or to outside spaces. The premier will be with us on the 22nd May, either on our stage or in the open somewhere if we’re not allowed to open.
I’m touching wood as I write, but the Theatre Fly Tower works should be starting on the 18th January 2021. It will take a week to erect the scaffolding, then each piece of cladding will be carefully removed. The replacement cladding will be fitted on all four sides, the roof and smoke vents are also being replaced. No more raining onto the stage! The new cladding will be a pale blue colour, and we’re going to be able to light it up with a different system to what we presently have. The blue stabilisers will also get a new coat of paint. All this should take around 14 weeks, meaning that we could re-open after Easter.
We’ve repurposed the Marketing budget to develop a new website. This is much needed and will hopefully launch in the new year. Much more interactive, more connectivity and give us an enhanced presence in the digital market.
I’m applying to every source of money available to get a new system to present digital content installed. My Arts Council Wales recovery fund was rejected, but I have an offer from the MoonDance Foundation. I’m desperately looking for a match. This equipment would enable us to show “live” screening content from such organisations as National Theatre, National Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, The British Museum, The V & A etc. We could re-open and show this as there are no performers on our stage, thus we could start trading again.
As we come to the year end, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Pat Egerton. Pat was one of our stalwart Volunteers and she will be much missed. My thanks to all Hafren staff for keeping us all up to date with news and looking after each other.
Enjoy Christmas as much as is possible, staying safe of course. I very much look forward to seeing you all again in 2021.