Director's Blog September 2020

15 September 2020

One of the by-products of the coronavirus lockdown has been the way in which performance art has reached new audiences around the world as artists and institutions stream content to people starved of live performance.

From Lady Gaga and Take That singing their hearts out from their front rooms and garages, to Patrick Stewart reading sonnets on Instagram, and the National Theatre streaming classic plays on Youtube, art has found a way of reaching out to salve these troubled times, and gained millions of new fans along the way.

Here at the Hall, we’ve been doing our bit too, signposting visitors to our website to a weekly round-up of armchair entertainment from around the world and closer to home, including Life in Lockdown blogs from our HFC Youth members. We’ve hosted Unlocked a new online dance programme for our young dancers and their creative endeavours, and supported our many freelancers and artists with a mixture of weekly online drop ins and bespoke 1-2-1- funding advice and guidance to help navigate this tricky time.

There is no doubt that performance has the power to change people – and we’ve seen it time and again. Whether it’s a young person tapping a rich but previously hidden seam of self-confidence the moment they take the stage, or a ballet audience gasping in awe at a jaw-dropping leap, we emerge from a performance as slightly changed people, energised by what we have just been part of together.

It’s that shared experience which makes live theatre so magical. And it’s our passion to bring that experience to more people in Cornwall that is driving the £21.6m transformation of the Hall for Cornwall.

Since closing our doors in June 2018 we have been creating a space that matches our ambition and gives Cornwall the theatre it deserves, while revealing and conserving our building’s 175-year history.

We’re adding over 350 seats, taking the total to 1,352, to attract more higher quality shows. There will be a warmer welcome with more communal bars and cafés on both sides of the building. A brand new front entrance on Boscawen Street will lead into an Ope that runs through to Lemon Street, giving behind-the-scenes glimpses of the workings of our auditorium. We’re nurturing new talent with collaborative workspace for creative businesses, and we’re improving wheelchair access and accessible seating.

Our aim is to make sure that 300,000 people step through our doors every year.

By 2025/26 we’ll bring £35.6 million to the Cornish economy, creating 165 jobs, and over five years we’ll work with 50,000 young people in every primary and secondary school in Cornwall. I also think that we can play a vital role in Cornwall’s post-pandemic economic recovery, helping to bring footfall and vitality back to Truro city centre, and I hope lifting the hearts of people from across Cornwall along the way.

Despite being closed through the pandemic, we’ve not been immune to its effects. The impact of lockdown meant we lost a month of building work and since reopening the site our contractor has been operating at reduced capacity to comply with social distancing measures. These covid restrictions have put our programme back by around five months, which means we are targeting Spring 2021 for our opening. That delay has led to some increased costs and as a charity we’ve also seen our fundraising plans impacted, with community activities deferred because of the virus.

We’re very grateful however to have secured some additional funding from the Government’s Getting Building Fund, and Cornwall Council is considering a request for some further investment to ensure the project can be completed as planned.

We’ve also had a tremendous response to our ongoing Name a Seat campaign, with £120,000 raised to date. We continue to be awed and humbled by our army of passionate supporters and like you we look forward to the day when we can open our doors to one and all once again.