Lockdown Lowdown At Your Local Venues


As we find ourselves in yet another lockdown, we also find ourselves going through another few months without being a part of a singing crowd or laughing audience.

Not all is lost, however! We’ve spoken to a few local venues in Suffolk, so that you can hear about all the lovely stuff that they’ve been up to in order to get that fabulous audience feeling we’ve missed so much from the comfort of your own home.

The Cut, Halesworth

The Cut, based in Halesworth, have been a busy bunch. While their building has been closed, they’ve managed to repaint the whole interior of the building with a team of volunteers, receive emergency response funding from Arts Council England, Theatre Trust and Suffolk County Council, planned to install solar panels and upgrade the theatre lighting to LED, designed a new website with a digital archive of their art exhibitions dating back to 2003 with artist interviews, upgraded the theatre sound system and are planning a bunch of new streaming events to entertain your household with brand new streaming equipment paid for by East Suffolk Communities Bounce Back Fund.

They are also creating a series of writers events called ‘Cut Conversations’ and are approaching writers across multiple genres to either do an online or live event, as and when restrictions lift.

I think, one of the most important things to consider, is that when we went into lockdown, a lot of people turned to the arts and read books, looked at paintings and the arts were so important to people’s mental health. We are determined, as a local arts centre, to reopen and offer as much as we possibly can in a very careful and considerate manner.

Jo Leveret, Marketing and Communications officer at The Cut

To check out The Cut in more detail, and to show your support, head to their website newcut.org and follow them on social media @newcut.halesworth.

The Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe

In the latest lockdown, the Spa is working hard to carry out some long planned improvements with the help of a combination of new loan facilities and the Culture Relief Fund from Arts Council England. These include new air conditioning and heating systems, which should make the auditorium and café areas both more comfortable and safer, by filtering the air as well as warming or cooling it.

Plans are also about to be submitted for a new balcony, which, if passed, will increase outdoor drinking and dining capacity, which again could be very important while virus restrictions remain in place. They’re also promoting their new DVD release of their Panto Cinderella, which you can read about and purchase here.

We wish to thank all of those who are holding tickets for shows for their support, which is crucial at this time, and greatly appreciated. We want to point out that it isn’t just about the money, but also about the shows, and by agreeing to keep tickets and attend the show when it is re-scheduled, people are doing much more than helping with cash flow. Artists will not visit unless there is a good level of ticket sales, and shows generally take 3-4 months to sell to a good level, also, once re-opening is allowed other means of support such as the furlough scheme will probably end so by keeping tickets customers are playing a vital role in ensuring that the theatre can re-open.

Ray Anderson, Theatre Owner

The much beloved theatre has been doing everything it can to ensure that it is ready to open as soon as it is allowed, and to make as many improvements as possible during the closure to give their customers and audience the confidence to return.

To see about The Spa Pavilion in more detail, head to their website spapavilion.uk and give them a follow @SpaPavilion.

John Peel Centre, Stowmarket

As with so many arts and cultural venues across the country, the John Peel Centre has been badly hit by the impact of COVID-19 and, for the safety of the wider community, they have been closed throughout this crisis.

Of course, we are itching to open again and to continue to do what we do best: provide a platform for great live art for live audiences, and arts groups and classes for the local community. However, like the rest of the country, saving lives is our primary concern, and we understand we can only reopen when it is safe to do so.

Tom Gooding, Centre Volunteer

The good news is that the venue has recently celebrated Independent Venue Week online. They worked with a great line-up of artists to put together some exclusive virtual gigs which were streaming online throughout the week. The line-up included: Tensheds, Reg Meuross, and Tom Hingley (former lead singer of Inspiral Carpets). The Arts Centre has also been working with the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust to curate an evening of traditional sory and song.

On Friday February 19th they also have their third virtual Whole Shebang! At Home open mic night. Local artists of all kinds are invited to take part, and can find out how to submit their own performances at johnpeelcentre.com/the-whole-shebang-open-mic-night-at-home-feb21.

As well as on YouTube, people can find the John Peel Centre online johnpeelcentre.com, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @johnpeelcentre. You can support them by buying a ticket to The Event That Never Happened or directly through PayPal.

Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

Despite being in lockdown again at the moment, the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds staff are beavering away pulling together a fantastic programme of shows ready for audiences, albeit in a socially distanced fashion, and touring companies are being booked to bring their dramas, comedy, musicals and dance shows to the Theatre Royal stage. Very excitingly, the reopening will kick off with Theatre Royal’s own production of Around the World in Eighty Days, a fast-paced family comedy drama – the perfect way to welcome audiences back to live theatre in Bury St Edmunds.

A year without live theatre has highlighted to everyone how important performing arts and theatres are to local communities to job and to the mental health of the nation. Those of us lucky enough to survive this pandemic will need audiences to come back to theatres when it’s safe to do so – it is this continued support which will ensure theatres are here for future generations.

Julie Cole, Head of Marketing and Sales, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

To help support the Theatre Royal head to theatreroyal.org and give them a follow on social media @theatreroyalBSE.

Now, more than ever, we need to support our local venues, this is just a sample of what is available in Suffolk. Be sure to check them all out and show your support for all of these dedicated people who provide us with entertainment, laughter and music.

If your venue or company would like to be featured, contact us via info@grapevinelive.co.uk. Stay tuned to see upcoming articles covering even more venues near you!