Thank-you to everyone who completed our recent survey.

Thank-you to everyone who completed our recent survey.

There were 140 responses which we’re now thinking about as we plan a return to operating more like we were used to before the pandemic.

If you’ve been into the centre since we re-opened last July, you will know that to ensure social distancing, we’ve had reduced seating in the café, we haven’t re-introduced live music sessions in the cafe and we halved the number of seats on the top floor for talks.

All of this has taken a real toll on our finances and we’ve been losing money month on month. While the very welcome emergency support from the Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage means we can continue to open in the short term, in the coming months our focus must be on doing whatever we can to secure our long-term future.

So, what did the survey tell us?

The main headlines are:

  • We feel we can now proceed with putting more tables in the café because the majority were comfortable with this (although we know that many are still reluctant to share tables with strangers).
  • We are also pleased that the majority will be comfortable with increased seating on the top floor for talks and other events, which means they don’t mind sitting alongside people not in their family or friends’ group. From May, we will increase the capacity at our talks and indoor events to 50.
  • While some would be happy if live music sessions were introduced in the café, a smaller number would be less comfortable. We’ll take this on board, and see if we can find a happy middle ground.
  • We also know that the vast majority who have used our online booking system for events are happy with the way it is working for them.

We asked if there was anything we can do to make sure future visits to the Old Low Light are a good experience for visitors. There were no real themes in the comments received, with the majority saying positive things about the centre.

However, a few mentioned the following (and similar comments have been made by visitors to the centre) so we thought responses might be helpful:

Opening hours and opening on Sundays

Before the pandemic we opened for longer hours every day, seven days a week. We only have a small staff team and rely heavily on volunteers on the welcome desk, in the café and galleries (as well as planting and looking after floral displays outside and doing odd job around the centre).

Since re-opening last July we’ve had fewer volunteers overall and while a recruitment drive has been very successful (allowing us to increase our opening times from 3 days per week, to 5 days per week), we simply don’t have enough volunteers who are available later in the afternoon, or on Sundays, to enable us to open the cafe and galleries longer each day, or every Sunday. For now, we’ll be sticking with Tuesday to Saturday opening hours. 10am until 3pm.

However, as the weather gets warmer, there will be more outdoor events, some on Sundays, when we will open the café and galleries. We will also keep opening arrangements under review.

Wearing of face coverings

This is difficult one because some of our visitors put on a face covering as they walk into the building, while others have stopped doing this because there is no longer a national requirement to do so.

We have taken a cautious approach and have asked people if they wouldn’t mind wearing a mask while walking around inside, especially in less spacious areas but increasingly we’re finding that visitors are more comfortable without a face covering.

While can’t insist that visitors wear a mask while walking around inside, our posters about face coverings will remain in place, at least for the time being while the virus is still very much in circulation.

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