There’s certainly a sense of déjà vu on the ground at The Exchange, at the moment.
Large, empty building; no clients; a very small core team; and no audiences. It feels very much like starting out all over again.
The difference this time is that now we know what we can achieve and the value of the many events we have hosted for our community. The Exchange is in its third year of being run by St Mary’s, and it has grown into a diverse, inspiring and valued arts centre for the Twickenham community. There was a great deal of momentum behind us, with a fully packed schedule of events for the Spring/Summer season, when the building was closed due to Covid 19 on March 20th.
It is undeniable that the sector has been badly hit: – when reading The Stage, the daily news of closures and redundancies is deeply concerning. It wouldn't be an understatement to say our thriving arts sector, and all those that work within it, are in great peril.
Since the pandemic closed our doors, many of our team members have evaluated their roles and have felt the need to move on or take other jobs, not in the sector, in order to financially survive. Theatre relies heavily on a casual workforce, and more needs to be done to support the teams that work together on the multitude of jobs necessary to successfully run shows.
Whilst the government support package sounds generous, the application criteria is strict and seems to mostly exclude local arts centres or venues/companies in their first few years. Working at The Exchange, however, has made our team believe in the power of people and community.
We are not alone in this struggle, as the Light it Red campaign has shown. The Exchange stood in red solidarity with other venues in the borough, like Hampton Hill Theatre and the Landmark Arts Centre. As we get back on our feet in September for studio hires, we hope our valued clients and community will stand by us.
We are still here; the show must go on. Some events will go ahead from October with social distancing, if viable, while other shows will be rescheduled for 2021.
Whilst we can’t produce our pantomime this year, we will have a Christmas family show, The Three Little Christmas Pigs, which promises a real festive treat for the audience.
The Exchange team wants to continue to seek out more local, creative collaborations, as we go forward in this new era.
Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention, and who better to prove this than the performing arts community.
Lisette Barlow. Technical Manager@Lisette_Tech
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