We could never have envisaged, setting out on our far-reaching plans to restore and reimagine our theatre and its much-loved and Grade II listed home, the events of 2020 that have affected every part of all our lives. And for our sector, the impacts of Covid-19 are well-reported and cannot be understated. In spite of all recent challenges, I am very pleased to be contacting you with a project update in respect of your continued support of the transformation of Hall For Cornwall.
One of the by-products of the coronavirus lockdown has been the way in which performance has reached new audiences around the world as artists and institutions stream content to people starved of live performance. 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 difficult time. Recently, we were able to start our youth theatre and dance groups in person again, and who would have thought that the social distancing ‘boxes’ we have marked out in tape on the floor could inspire so much creativity.
There is no doubt that we miss live performance and the energy that comes from being part of something 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 our transformation of the Hall For Cornwall.
Since we last reported on our redevelopment much has been achieved and those who have been fortunate to visit the construction works have found themselves breath-taken and quite visibly moved by the sight of our auditorium coming together. The performance space, and its associated offices, creative hub workspaces, bars and cafés, are all taking shape. We’ve had delivery of the first few seats to be fitted into the auditorium and are making final selections on other fixtures and fittings.
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.
That has impacted both our timetable and our costs, and with the continued uncertainties around the pandemic, we are constantly reviewing when will be the best time to reopen next year. Spring 2021 has been our hope but with the recent talk of further potential lockdowns and the impact on lead times required by the quality shows we want to stage, we cannot commit to that with certainty. Like many therefore we are having to keep our options open and I will of course continue to keep you informed.
What we are sure of however is that we will be ready to raise the curtain whenever that time comes. Despite a longer period of closure than ever envisaged we have kept together our small but talented and committed team, and have continued to deliver our youth outreach work and the support we give to our associate artists and the wider creative sector.
We already have the makings of an exhilarating programme from across the theatrical spectrum for when we do reopen. We’re working closely with touring shows, musicians, comedians and other eagerly anticipated visitors to our stage who can’t wait to be on the road again and are excited to appear in our new auditorium in front of a passionate and loyal community, who every day tell us that they miss us. This reminds our whole team of why we set out on this project, and how the end goal will enrich the lives of our community on the other side of the current difficulties.
At the same time, the support of our funders and donors has been vital in enabling us to meet some of the increased costs of the project. At national government level we have secured support from the Getting Building Fund and we enjoyed a recent mention in the House of Commons by our local MP advocating for ‘our fantastic theatre on the brink of completion, serving the whole of Cornwall and acting as a beacon for the arts for the whole county’. We are also grateful for continued support at local authority level from Cornwall Council and of course to our cherished philanthropic and Trust & Foundation advocates. But we are nothing without you, our community, and I thank you for all your kindness and ongoing messages of support. Responses to our Name A Seat campaign have been incredible and I am humbled and overwhelmed by all of your dedications coming in from across Cornwall.
It’s been a tough year but as I reflect on our reopening next year, I look forward to the vital role we will play in Cornwall’s post-pandemic economic recovery, helping to bring jobs, footfall and vitality back to Truro city centre, and I hope lifting the hearts of everyone from across Cornwall along the way. We look forward to the day when we can open our doors to one and all once again.
Take care, stay safe and see you very soon.