WTM: Our Stages to Reopening
WTM’s CEO Amanda O’Reilly confirms our plans for a phased reopening of venues from Saturday 8th August, first to open - the permanent collections in Worthing Museum closely followed by a Screen Arts Programme at the Connaught Theatre and later in the year, comedy nights at the Pavilion Theatre.
When Worthing Theatres and Museum (WTM) closed its doors in March, no one could have imagined the gravity of the crisis, and the impact it would have on our team, our audiences and the wider culture sector. Leaving the building on 24th March, with all five venues simply empty spaces, I thought back to less than two weeks earlier; we launched our new season and shared our new brand as WTM to our supporters, patrons and press - the building buzzing with excitement for everything we had in store as a newly established charity.
We’d programmed Jitney by the incredible Headlong Theatre and were thrilled to have the awe-inspiring Bryony Kimmings performing I’m A Phoenix, Bitch. We were co-programming Rhum and Clay’s The War of the Worlds, and Joseph Toonga’s Born To Manifest with Brighton Festival. We welcomed TRIBE// as our first ever dance company in residence, and launched Anthony Bennett’s Indian Yellow exhibition planned to open in May. Top all this off with a stand out cinema and screen arts programme and it would be fair to say this season marked a new era for us and a spectacular first step in realising our vision as a multi arts and heritage charity that could enrich people’s lives with an incredible and varied programme of culture. This vision was driven by the tireless passion and efforts of the team over the last five years finally making the charitable trust a reality in November 2020.
We were delivering the mission we hold dear; to enable everyone to access arts and heritage by creating shared experiences that entertain, educate and inspire. Last year we welcomed over 340,000 people to our venues, exceeding all expectations and previous records. However now we are met with a new mission: given the current crisis, how do we bring those spaces back to life and give you a programme of inspiring events, most importantly in a way that is both safe and retains the experience you love?
In short, we do it in stages.
Stage 1 - Reopening Worthing Museum
We will be reopening the museum on Saturday 8th August and every Saturday through to November with pre booked sessions and bespoke talks from our curators. We will be constantly reviewing the offer so that if we can extend the number of visits, we will.
We’re lucky that the design and architecture of the Museum make it possible to open with social distancing in place; for example our large open space on entry and the beautiful galleries. Our exclusive pre booked sessions will have limited numbers and clear guidance on social distancing will be in place throughout the building. With measures including deep cleans and additional cleaning between each session we can safely welcome you back to your museum.
Stage 2 - Reopening the Connaught Theatre for our Screen Arts Cinema Programme
The Connaught Theatre will open on the 29th August with the launch of a wonderful Screen Arts programme including: Andre Rieu, Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes, Pink Floyd: A Delicate Sound of Thunder, National Theatre: Fleabag and Ball & Boe: Back Together.
While we are aware that the Government stated cinemas could reopen from 4th July, we wanted to take the time to ensure we made the necessary adjustments to the buildings, to train and support our staff team and to speak to our audiences.
We will have fewer screenings per day to allow social distancing and avoid crowds, we are completing deep cleans of all spaces with additional cleaning between every screening and will have clear signage directing customers through the venue to avoid bottlenecks. We will have all the necessary measures in place to provide a safe space for you to enjoy a great night out so we can confidently welcome you all back to the Connaught Theatre.
Stage 3 - Reopening the Live Events Programme - a laughter filled autumn at the Pavilion Theatre
We welcome the government announcement that indoor performances with socially distanced audiences would be able to take place from 1st August, but bringing live events back in a safe and affordable way will take time particularly as most shows and events have now been rescheduled to 2021. Live performance remains one the most challenging areas for the WTM venues because social distancing and reduced seating capacity makes the economics impossible for the majority of large scale shows and events.
However we do have good news. On the 26th September we will be launching a stand up comedy season at the Pavilion Theatre, opening with a comedy fundraiser. Seats will be limited to meet the social distancing guidelines so these will be hot tickets! Join our mailing list to make sure you don’t miss out.
We know that not everyone will want to return to public venues immediately: but we want to be open for those who do in a safe manner that retains the spirit of WTM and your experiences with us. For those of you who want to wait a little longer - we will be here when you are ready.
Ways you can support WTM
The crisis has placed many arts charities like us on unstable ground. We need to prepare for the long term shock to the UK’s economy, or the chance that measures in social distancing might change again in the future.
Working to reopen all our beautiful venues and safeguarding as many jobs as possible has been a priority for WTM, but we do have to find ways to save money to get us through this crisis. We sadly do have to reduce the majority of the teams hours and make a number of redundancies, while incredibly painful, this is necessary to ensure the future survival of WTM.
Worthing Theatres and Museum