Our response to the current Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation in the UK
Since lockdown forced the temporary closure of Wells Maltings three months ago, we have remained hopeful. We have sustained ourselves with the knowledge that when the time is right, and when there was enough confidence in being able to support the safety of customers, staff and community, we would cautiously and steadily reopen.
We see the further relaxation of lockdown yesterday as an amber light: the opportunity for us to proceed with caution. Therefore, from Saturday 4 July, we aim to bring Wells Maltings back to active life in the same vein: cautiously, carefully and steadily.
Safety remains our primary concern. We all must continue to do our bit to keep the virus in retreat and prevent a second wave. In a business that thrives on social interaction and sharing of experiences, that’s going to be hard – but we are up for the challenge, with everyone’s help.
On 4 July our café and bar will reopen, with a COVID-secure series of systems and procedures to protect the safety of you and our staff. To begin with, opening times will be shorter, and over five days a week rather than seven. Our menus will be shorter too, and the way we serve you will be different. They will be fewer tables inside, but we’ve increased seating outside and everything we sell will be available as a takeaway option. We’ll have a one-way route through the building, and we will need everyone to respect social distancing, hand sanitising and other safety measures. We’ve increased our cleaning routines too. We won’t be taking cash payments – contactless or chip and PIN only – and we’ll be restricting our toilets to customers’ use only.
It’s a big step, and we’ll keep a close watch on how things work and make adjustments and changes as we need to. We ask everyone to bear with us as we reopen, and most of all to be kind.
We’ll then reopen our visitor information centre and heritage centre a week or so later, again with protection measures in place and ways of managing flows of customers and interaction with staff and volunteers.
The most challenging aspect of reopening is our arts programme, which so many of you have missed a great deal. Our intimate auditorium does not lend itself to the kinds of safety measures we can employ in other areas. Our obligations are twofold – firstly, we have a responsibility to our customers, staff and volunteers not to reopen our performance spaces until we are content that it is safe to do so – for everyone’s benefit. Secondly, we have to work sustainably, within our financial resources and needs. We are a not-for-profit organisation without regular core funding, and although we have been successful in securing emergency grants to help us through this crisis, they won’t last forever. Every event we programme, every film we show, everything we do must operate sustainably, and we must balance that against reopening to much smaller and socially distant audiences for the time being.
It’s also important to say that live performances are still under lockdown, and the film industry is only just adjusting to cinemas reopening. We want to offer you great film titles and latest releases, and these aren’t available to us just yet. It will be into August before we take the first tentative steps into unlocking our programmes again, and looking to how we can both resume delighting and entertaining you in our venue – or in other spaces – and giving our support to colleagues in the performing arts sector who have been hit so very hard by this crisis.
Now, we ask for your help again. We undertook a survey across our audiences in May, with some interesting results into attitudes towards reopening. At the time, customers and audiences were extremely cautious about returning. We are now re-running that survey in a shorter form, to check in with how you are feeling now that lockdown is easing. Please take a moment to take part – as before, it’s anonymous and will help us hugely. Please click here to take part.
Thank you all for your continued support, confidence and faith in our future, and in how we adjust to the reality of return. Let’s all work together to resume the fun, the fellowship, and the fantastic (and in the case of our bar, the foaming and the frothy) in as safe a way as possible. The last three months have been hard and unprecedented: but it’s how things transpire in the next six months or so that will be even more important.
Stay safe, be strong and be kind – and don’t forget to complete our survey.
Director, Wells Maltings
Updated, Tuesday 24th June 2020