Curious about what's been happening behind the scenes over the last few months and most excitingly, what our plans are for reopening? Read on!
Following the latest Scottish Government announcement, I am pleased to confirm that Birnam Arts plans to re-open on Wednesday 28th April. Taking into account all restrictions, the café, gallery, shop and Beatrix Potter Exhibition will open on a similar basis to last summer. Our hope is that the situation with Covid will improve rapidly, allowing us to open 7 days a week as soon as we are able to do so. Depending on the course of the pandemic, we plan a fully functioning Birnam Arts by autumn 2021.
It has been over a year since lockdown required Birnam Arts to close. In that time, we achieved a phased and partial re-opening between July and December 2020, followed by a return to total lockdown. It has been a difficult time for everyone, and we are acutely aware of how important Birnam Arts is as a venue for many in the community. We are desperately keen to re-open the doors and welcome people back as they meet family and friends again.
Birnam Arts has been working hard behind the scenes
Despite being closed to the public, Birnam Arts has been working hard behind the scenes on implementing improvements to the premises and developing our arts and community programmes. Back in March 2020 we were very fortunate to be awarded £162,000 by the SSE Griffin & Calliachar Community Fund to realise a number of projects focussed on improving the operation and efficiency of Birnam Arts. I’m pleased to say that many of these are scheduled to be completed for our re-opening in late April.
The most significant of these projects includes a major upgrade to the general and theatre-lighting to adjustable, LED units that will reduce both our environmental footprint and running costs. This will enable us to meet incoming legal theatre-lighting requirements as well as providing much greater versatility for performances whilst significantly reducing power consumption. Funding from Creative Scotland has enabled the acquisition of a modernised projector to enhance film screenings and presentations for talks and conference events. Alongside this, installation of super-fast, fibre optic broadband throughout the venue will offer greater Wi-Fi connectivity.
To improve functionality, accessibility and reliability, we are building a new website allowing us to keep you updated and informed with the offerings at Birnam Arts. We are developing our branding and signage to improve our visibility and marketing materials. To enhance accessibility and better support visitors with autism, we are working to create an interactive map of the building.
As part of this refresh, we will be installing new furniture to our café and gallery areas. Our Catering Team are working on reopening in late April, as well as continuing to develop approaches to establish an evening menu and expand our catering capacity throughout the summer and beyond. Before lockdown intervened, the quality and professionalism of the menu and service was refreshing and very well received. We look forward to their being able to drive this forward in the future.
Our Arts Development Team have been actively looking for ways to improve access, flexibility and adaptability to the Visual Arts Workshop. This will enable us to support a wider range of arts and community classes. We are progressing with plans to offer new and meaningful opportunities to practicing and emerging artists; practice development; open-call exhibitions; additional community workshops; and, to build an arts legacy to facilitate future engagement.
I am really pleased that we have been able to create an opportunity for our first studio-access Artist Residency which has been filled by artist and researcher Rowan Lear. The programme will be developed going forward into a more regular offering.
Upon reopening, we will launch a rescheduled exhibitions and artist talks programme in the gallery. As restrictions ease, we will work to return the Birnam Arts Ballet School and all movement and dance workshops to the Dance Studio and auditorium.
It will take time for performances to return but we are continuing to explore potential shows that can come to life on the stage as soon as circumstances allow. Meanwhile, our staff are looking at how we can provide a series of community-based activities over the summer as restrictions are relaxed.
We have a lot to do over the coming months and it is going to be an enormous challenge rebuilding Birnam Arts as a busy community and arts centre again. The building blocks are there for us to provide a much improved and more versatile venue and with the support of the community and our customers I am confident that we will get there. Our Crowdfunder last October showed the level of support that underlies Birnam Arts, not just in the sums raised but in the many encouraging comments accompanying donations. As we return to normal operations the amount raised by the Crowdfunder will prove essential in priming the resumption of activities.
On behalf of everyone at Birnam Arts, our sincerest thanks go out to everyone who has contributed towards the survival of Birnam Arts through the crisis of this pandemic.
Chair, Birnam Arts