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Inspiration in hard times: The Harlequin Theatre keeps staff employed with an innovative social initiative

paul.twynham - November 10, 2020

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, with the events industry being hit particularly hard, so we wanted to take a moment to draw your attention to a positive lockdown story from one of our clients – the Harlequin Theatre and Cinema in Redhill, Surrey.

Tough times for theatres

The Harlequin Theatre is known for putting on a top-class range of on-stage entertainment, but the lockdown and restrictions on events this year has made that impossible, with the next planned production expected to hit the stage in April 2021.

Thankfully, with cinemas permitted to operate again since July, at least the venue has been able to host film screenings, but like event venues across the country (and indeed the world), the Harlequin has had its business severely disrupted by the coronavirus lockdown.

Inspiration in hard times: The Harlequin Theatre keeps staff employed with an innovative social initiative

Turning a challenge into an opportunity

In a positive twist on the situation, the Harlequin Theatre and Cinema has managed to find an inventive way to stay open, allowing its staff to continue working and providing a positive service to its local community in the process. Since April 2020, the theatre auditorium has been converted into a storage space for stock collected from local supermarkets and the public in order to deliver essential food and supplies to food banks and directly to vulnerable people. The theatre also opened up its kitchen to provide a service delivering hot food to those in need.

Craig Penrose, the theatre’s Customer Experience Manager, highlights that it was important for the theatre to remain active even when it couldn’t perform its usual function: “As the theatre is owned by the local council, there was always a need and desire for us to deliver something. When we realised that we had the space and opportunity to do this, it was a no-brainer, and the service was received positively by all of its beneficiaries. As a local theatre, it’s great to be able to give back to our local community.”

Pulling together to support those in need

This positive and innovative move has allowed the popular venue to lift the spirits of both employees and the public while giving its staff a continued sense of purpose. Craig says that many individuals have had to be flexible, giving their energy to carry out tasks that are often far removed from their normal duties: “Our staff had to learn new skills to deliver this service, so we commend them on their willingness to do this. For instance, our Refugee Support Manager ended up in the kitchen cooking around 60 meals a day to be sent out, with our technical team working as warehouse managers. Everyone developed their own role to help this initiative fulfil its potential.”

Other lockdown initiatives at the Harlequin Theatre

In addition to the food bank scheme, the Harlequin Theatre and Cinema has also found other ways to create value both in an out of its venue space, with ‘event cinema’ presentations featuring alongside the schedule of standard film screenings, and the café reopening in September.

The venue also engaged with its community online and showcased the local performing arts scene with its fantastic Live from Lockdown competition, which ran earlier this year. The competition received a total of 48 high-quality video entries from local performers of all kinds and over 3,000 votes from the public, with the 10 winners to be given the opportunity to perform at a special event on the theatre’s main stage at some point in 2021.

Paying tribute to a great achievement

We feel that it’s only fitting to highlight this incredible example of a venue thinking outside the box and demonstrating passion, energy and dedication during this difficult period to stay open and in constant use while also bringing value to its local community.

All of us here at Artifax say “Bravo!”

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