Ropetackle confidence high - despite latest lockdown

Ropetackle chairman Martin Allen says confidence remains high at the arts venue despite the latest lockdown.

Ropetackle chairman Martin Allen
Ropetackle chairman Martin Allen

The centre, which has always been the great survivor, will certainly survive again, he says.

“With the first lockdown, after the first two or three months, we became used to having to manage our way through, shifting programmes around and working out how we could get through periods of closure and then being able to open again to a limited audience. It just became our new way of working.

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“But I think one of the great things that we have got between us is optimism. The point is that we are absolutely certain we are going to get through. For us, it’s not a matter of thinking whether we are going to survive. For us, that’s virtually a given. We know that we will get through. For us, it is really just a question of how long is it going to take.”

Martin and the team have been looking strategically at the next 12-15 months. The government’s cultural recovery fund has been extended through to March 2022.

“We will be looking at that as well, but really we see the next 12-15 months as being in three phases. The first phase is the current closure. The second phase is when we can open again on a limited basis. We are assuming that that will take us through until September/October.”

After that, phase three, as the Ropetackle sees it, will be opening again fully – and they have got their sights set on the autumn.

“But even then, there will be big questions in terms of audience confidence. It will be a big factor for everyone, but there will also be the economic fall-out. We are just focusing on trying to get through the pandemic at the moment, but after that, all the economic fall-out of what has been happening will be a very big consideration.”

But as Martin says, the optimism is there: “We have still got a full programme from April. We have kept it in the diary, so to speak. Each time we have had to change the programme or cancel things, we have done it over what we feel is a realistic, albeit limited, period.”

Great support comes through being part of a network of venues which goes under the name House, networked through Farnham Maltings.

“It is very useful. It does a bit of commissioning but at the moment, its real value is that we are all talking to each other. It’s a very good support network of maybe 20-30 venues.”

And the general consensus among them seems to be that mid-March might be the time when it is possible to reopen again, to limited audiences “if all the grim statistics are going in the right direction by then.”

As Martin says, once they get the green light to reopen, then the venue can reopen again very quickly: “We been keeping it ready. We have got a contractor that does a deep clean.”

In the meantime, they are doing a degree of streaming.

Also in the meantime is the application to the latest round of cultural recovery funding: “We are hoping for something like £25,000. Last time we got £56,000. This time we are limited to about 50 per cent of what we have got before. And it is not a given. There are a lot of strings attached. But even if we don’t get it, we will still be OK. We are going to be looking at another crowd-funder soon, but financially, at the moment, we are OK.”