As cultural leaders across the UK begin to fearlessly reopen their venues, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past 14 months. Every team member at every venue and cultural organisation should be congratulated for their tenacity, fighting spirit and empathy as we take to the stage for our most challenging act to date.
The creative industries are one of the most successful in the UK. Yet arts and cultural leaders are no stranger to fighting for our cause. It’s almost in our DNA. The COVID-19 pandemic has been no different. With the increasing financial pressures of funding cuts that have been taking place during previous years, we’ve adapted to become artistic champions as well as commercial business leaders (with often under-resourced teams) to make our organisations work and thrive.
Waterside is a multi-purpose arts space, built, owned and operated by Trafford Council. It’s a cultural hub for our residents and communities. Years ago, this was a common model, but there are now few local authority-owned venues. For our residents, access to the arts is front and centre here in Trafford. Of course, while cultural venues face the most inordinate of challenges, our local authorities have also been financially crippled by the pandemic.
Everything we do at Waterside is for our communities, be that for our audiences, artists or participants. As our industry shattered piece by piece, we’ve felt their absence deeply. But where some businesses had to compete during the pandemic, arts leaders across the North West have come together. We’ve spent time sharing and conversing, looking after each other and creating collaborative projects that will make a change, here and now, exactly when it is needed. We are nothing if not resilient.
We opened our doors on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (May 17), which also marked the first day of Pride in Trafford. This was a perfect segue to reopening as we celebrate our communities, challenge discrimination and put Queer artists at the heart of the festival programme. Our wider programme is as vibrant and exciting as ever. While we know things won’t quite be the same for some time to come, we make a commitment to our audiences and artists that they’ll be in safe hands.
Each time I’ve visited the venue during our 426-day closure, I’ve felt as though our usually vibrant, bustling building has lost its soul. But with our reopening imminent, I can’t wait to see it come back to life. This is a time for us to hit restart, value the experience we’ve shared and make the changes needed to build our industry back. And we won’t stop until we do.
By Darren Adams, Venue Manager at Waterside
Main image: Waterside © Jason Lock Productions