It’s no secret that 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. We wanted to draw your attention to a positive lockdown story from one of our customers – the Harlequin Theatre and Cinema in Redhill, Surrey.
The Harlequin Theatre is known for putting on a top-class range of on-stage entertainment. However, lockdown and restrictions on events this year has made that impossible. The next planned production is expected to hit the stage in April 2021.
Thankfully, with cinemas permitted to operate again since July, at least the venue has been able to host film screenings. The Harlequin, like event venues across the country (and indeed the world), has been severely disrupted by coronavirus.
The Harlequin Theatre has managed to stay open, keep staff working and provide a service to it's local community. Since April 2020, the auditorium has been converted into storage space for stock collected from local supermarkets and the public. Vulnerable people and food banks then receive the essential food and supplies. The theatre also opened up it's kitchen to provide a service delivering hot food to those in need.
Craig Penrose, the theatre’s Customer Experience Manager; highlights that it was important for the theatre to remain active even when it couldn’t perform its usual function. He said “As the theatre is owned by the local council, there was always a need and desire for us to deliver something. When we realised that we had the space and opportunity to do this, it was a no-brainer, and the service was received positively by all of its beneficiaries. As a local theatre, it’s great to be able to give back to our local community.”
This change has allowed the venue to lift the spirits of both employees and the public while giving its staff a continued sense of purpose. Craig says that many individuals have had to be flexible. Giving their energy to carry out tasks that are often far removed from their normal duties. “Our staff had to learn new skills to deliver this service, so we commend them on their willingness to do this. For instance, our Refugee Support Manager ended up in the kitchen cooking around 60 meals a day to be sent out, with our technical team working as warehouse managers. Everyone developed their own role to help this initiative fulfil its potential.”
In addition to the food bank scheme; the Harlequin Theatre and Cinema has also found other ways to create value both in an out of its venue. ‘Event cinema’ presentations feature alongside the schedule of standard film screenings, and the café reopening in September.
Earlier this year, the venue also engaged with its community online. They showcased the local performing arts scene with its fantastic Live from Lockdown competition, which ran earlier this year. The competition received 48 high-quality video entries from local performers of all kinds and over 3,000 votes from the public. 10 winners won the opportunity to perform at a special event on the theatre’s main stage in 2021.
We feel that it’s only fitting to highlight this incredible example of a venue thinking outside the box. They demonstrated passion, energy and dedication during this difficult period to stay open and in constant use, while also bringing value to its local community.
All of us here at Artifax say “Bravo!”