Director Stewart Drew reflects on reopening, recovery and where we are now
Please note that this update was written before the announcement of our second closure from 5 November. Some dates may have changed. Please read our closure statement here
Its autumn, the clocks have gone back and its hard to believe that we are almost at the end of a year that has been unprecedented in the history of the Pavilion – and indeed the country. Closed for four months because of a global pandemic, we are now entering a winter that might look like business as usual but is most certainly not – social distancing, mask wearing and keeping ourselves and each other safe will be the watch words in the coming months.
So it feels like the right moment to reflect on all that has happened at DLWP since 18 March – the day we closed our doors for lockdown. As a result of closure and reduced capacities, the Pavilion lost £1.1m of our yearly income and £2.4m worth of turnover from live events, venue hire and commercial operations. This had a catastrophic impact on our staff, our community and the artists, musicians, freelancers, suppliers and local businesses that we support. Retaining a small team – Executive, fundraising, box office, Head of Live programming – we took full advantage of the furlough scheme and through this, were able to support most of our staff, enabling us to bring back a small team for a phased re-opening in July.
I’d like pay tribute to that team for getting us back open again; for being adaptable, resourceful and hardworking so that we can stay open in a sustainable and safe way, and to Eddie Izzard for helping us restart a Covid-secure live programme. I would also like to repeat my thanks to our visitors, ticket buyers, those who donated and our family of Members and Patrons who continued to stand by us with their support.
Recovery will take a long time and from the day we closed our fundraising team have worked tirelessly ensuring that we have the funds to protect jobs and rebuild our operations. However, the significant and most public support has come from Arts Council England (ACE), Rother District Council (RDC), the DCMS/ACE Culture Recovery Fund and The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). We have received some large sums from these bodies, and I would like to explain how they will be used:
1. The initial emergency grant from ACE of £375k supported us until 1 September 2020. It replaced income that would normally be generated by our live programme, seeing us through closure and helping to get us open again.
2. The loan from Rother District Council of £350k demonstrates the commitment of the local authority to the impact of the Pavilion on the district. This loan provides a financial back stop. It is being drawn down as needed and is, quite rightly, under close scrutiny. To date we have drawn £105k of that loan.
3. The DCMS/ACE Cultural Recovery Fund of £675k is there to support us in the next six months whilst we get back on our feet. It covers operational overheads and supports us where, because of reduced capacities and lack of a full live programme, we are not able to trade viably. Over half this funding helps us to rebuild our reserves, so that we have increased resilience through the pandemic and be in a better position to rebuild.
4. The National Lottery Heritage Fund of £109k from their Heritage Emergency Fund will help us with some practical repairs in the building including the front doors and the lights and flooring in the Café . It will also support staffing and allows us to review and remodel our core Business Plan and move forward with plans for further capital investment in the building. We know that the Pavilion needs a lick of paint (and more besides!) and we have been working on generating capital investment in the building for the last 12 months, assembling an expert group of people, local and national, to help us with this. This NLHF grant allows us to keep our ambitious plans alive and supports us until January 2021.
The result of all this funding is that we have the confidence and stability to keep open (government permitting) and continue to operate in the coming months.
However, this support is only short term. The impact of being closed for so long will be felt next year and beyond. We will continue to work hard to achieve the funds we need to run this amazing building and its programmes and hope that our supporters, whether public or private individuals, will stay with us for the journey.
In the mean time our Exhibitions programme will open in December and lead in the Ground floor gallery with Rock Against Racism: Militant Entertainment 1976 – 82; a showcase of vibrant posters, graphics and photographs from one of the most important British grassroots cultural movements in of the 20th Century, as well as a new commission from artist Larry Achiampong. Working with the cultural sector on our approach to anti-racism, this exhibition could not be more timely and will have a programme of associated on- and offline events that will provoke thought and action. In the First floor gallery the Refugee Buddy Project, Hastings Rother and Wealden, have worked with refugees, their buddies and other members of their community throughout lockdown to create hand-stitched patchwork squares, which have been sewn together to make four large quilts. All In The Same Storm: Pandemic Patchwork Stories presents these quilts alongside their makers’ stories, giving visitors a glimpse of each participant’s very different experience. Over the coming months, DLWP will work in coalition with those in our neighbourhood and beyond to engage with urgent matters concerning race, migration and care and, responding to the impact that Covid-19 has had on communities and individuals, we will provide space for reflection, healing, debate and action.
We have been able to restart our work with groups including Heart Of Sidley, schools (we welcomed our first school group last week), The East Sussex Music Service, East Sussex College Group and the Art & Aphasia project with UCL. The South East Creatives programme, funded by the EU to provide workshops, mentoring and grants for creative practitioners and businesses, has been running throughout lockdown and we will continue to act as a hub for this activity. In the new year, we will kickstart the Talent Accelerator project – a skills programme working with young people needed now more than ever, with generous funding awarded by Artswork.
The live programme has been reset so that music and comedy events – such as Russell Kane, Rich Hall, Al Murray and Felabrating Fela Kuti can be enjoyed in a Covid-safe way in the auditorium and will continue until such times as government restrictions change.
We are grateful to be open and busy, to welcome up to 300 visitors a day, plan and run exciting cultural programmes, to bring people back to work, restart business with local suppliers, pay musicians, artists and educators and open up opportunities for young people. Most importantly, we are proud to be back in the heart of our community and to have the support and stability to be able to steer a steady ship into the unknown waters ahead.
Director & CEO
De La Warr Pavilion