Life after lockdown for Wells Maltings
Last Saturday, in accordance with government guidance, we reopened our doors again after three and a half months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
We opened the cafe first, and now aim gradually to reopen our other facilities: starting with the Visitor Information Centre and then the Heritage Centre, moving on to the theatre auditorium and Handa Gallery, Clore Community Studio and Kiln Room spaces from August.
We are really keen to have in place once again, as soon as we possibly can, a full programme of film, drama, music and exhibitions for local residents and visitors to enjoy. But safety of our staff and audiences has to be paramount, and the timing and content of the programme will have to depend upon whether the pandemic continues to recede, and upon changing guidance from government. We will do everything we can – from the way we organise the café to the delivery of our events programme – to give visitors and audiences confidence that they will be safe.
As with all arts organisations, the lockdown has meant additional financial pressures for Wells Maltings. As a relatively new venue, we were working hard to become financially sustainable. We now have to work even harder. We have been able to access some emergency funding from the Arts Council and from North Norfolk District Council; and we have been blessed with some generous private donations. Going forward, we have a lot of work to do in maintaining the building and sustaining our operations on a financially viable basis.
Bringing back our audiences and restoring our ticket sales will obviously be vital. So, please do come for our ticketed events as soon as you feel safe and able to do so. The same goes for the café, since sales here are also vital for helping to cover our overhead costs. Prior to the lockdown we were enjoying increasing success with rentals for community and commercial activities: we will hope to build on this once we get fully open again.
On the cost side, the board of trustees has decided that, as with many arts organisations, we have no option but to reduce our staffing. In addition, in order to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and free up space for rental, the office will be moved from the Sackhouse into the main building.
Many of our supporters have given their time as volunteers; others have donated by becoming Patrons and Friends. We are hugely grateful for each of these. We hope as many volunteers as possible will return once we are fully up and running again; and we would be enormously grateful if, at this time of maximum financial pressure, everyone who has enjoyed our programmes over the past two years would consider becoming a Friend or Patron, providing ongoing support for our work. We will shortly be launching a further fundraising campaign to help us with our post lockdown recovery, to get our programmes and activities back on their feet once again.
On behalf of everyone at Wells Maltings, thank you for your support.
Chairman, Board of Trustees