We’d hoped to re-open for seven days a week but we’ve now decided a phased approach would be better, allowing us to test out new ways of working against staff and volunteer rotas and also financial viability. This means when we do return to everyday opening, we can be confident that it will be sustainable.
There’s been great progress with preparations to make the building as safe as possible. We’ve completed a deep clean, installed protective screens, and delivered training for all staff and many volunteers.
We’ve already been able to welcome back some of our regular community groups and look forward to others returning in the coming weeks.
The galleries and café are next on our agenda and our thinking is that we’ll open initially on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm – starting on Friday 4 September – building up to every day as soon as we can.
Apart from making the centre as safe as possible, our big considerations have been staff and volunteer rotas and running costs.
In terms of rotas, our small staff team relies heavily on the selfless support of volunteers who provide daily support. Before Covid-19, 87 volunteers were active every week. Although our re-opening plans reduced the numbers needed, we were still looking at 56 a week to open safely every day. Meanwhile, not all of our volunteers feel able to return immediately, a decision we totally respect and understand, given the ongoing coronavirus situation. So initially we’ll be working with a smaller number.
Also, although we’ve been successful with fundraising and grant applications which have helped keep the centre afloat over the past few months, running on reduced hours without our usual programme of events means we’ll be losing a significant amount of money. So we’ll need to monitor the situation carefully and continue efforts to bring in more money.
All of that said, we’re excited about re-opening even if it’s only for three days a week to start with. We hope you’ll enjoy the changes we’ve made in the heritage gallery and on the top floor there’s a new exhibition celebrating the fifth anniversary of our official opening which we’d planned to celebrate at the end of March.
We look forward to seeing you soon.