In my first job in the arts, as a Front of House Manager at Warwick Arts Centre, I was responsible for opening the doors of the venues. Completing all the safety checks beforehand, then checking with the technical team that they were ready to open, before unlocking and letting audiences in. I often used to pause and soak up the atmosphere of an empty venue before opening up, loving the sense of anticipation and excitement in the air.
20 years ago this month, I worked with colleagues in Maidenhead to open the doors of Norden Farm Centre for the Arts for the very first time. This brand new venue combined an 18th century long barn and Georgian farmhouse with a beautiful new-build theatre, studio and gallery. It was a privilege to be part of it, to see it literally built from the ground upwards and to oversee its first few years as it built relationships with its local communities from scratch.
Opening the doors of a venue is a special moment, whether for the first time or one of many times, but re-opening ARC’s doors for the first time since March felt extra-special. We worked hard to keep in touch with customers whilst we were closed, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one worrying about whether they would come back or not.
But they did. Thank you, to everyone who has paid us a visit in the last two weeks. It has been so lovely to see so many friends of ARC again, and to share the happiness so many have expressed about being back. Some of our classes have been more popular than ever, and we’ve had lots of visitors to our cinema and exhibition too. People have told us that they have felt safe and comfortable with our new social distancing measures.
We know many people aren’t able to return yet. We are thinking of you, and working hard to ensure that you are able to connect too. For example, you can attend our ARCulele class in person here at ARC or online via Zoom.
Safety is paramount, and we are keeping everything under review. We’ve seen new restrictions introduced in the North East this week, although not yet in the Tees Valley, but we know this could change.
For now though, our doors are open and whether you join us in person or online, everyone is welcome.