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A letter of thanks to our supporters as we prepare to reopen the Grand Pavilion and Blaengarw Workmen’s Hall

No one could have predicted that when the curtain came down after our final performance in March 2020, that our theatre would remain dark for so many months later. It goes without saying that the past year has been incredibly challenging for venues across the UK. It is widely acknowledged that this country’s arts and cultural sector has been one of the areas worse affected by the pandemic. Income from ticket sales, essential for most theatres’ survival, suddenly stopped; performers and their backstage crews, often freelance, lost employment opportunities overnight; and, local communities lost access to some of their most cherished cultural buildings and the role they play in supporting their physical, mental and social wellbeing.

For us at the Grand Pavilion and Blaengarw Workmen’s Hall, the latter has been the most challenging for us to deal with; our inability to entertain, to welcome our customers, to offer a space where people can connect, meet others in a shared, safe space, be inspired, and have a great time. The very essence of theatre is to provide all of these things and we simply cannot wait for a time – hopefully in the not too distant future – when we can throw open our doors and welcome you all back. We have missed you all.

But we haven’t been sitting still. Over the last year we have sought funding and invested in making our venues better. These include at the Grand Pavilion a new café; a new bar which is located at the opposite end of the venue; a larger and brighter foyer space for pre-event and interval drinks, which will also host community artwork; and new decoration, inspired by our Art Deco heritage, throughout.

As well as making physical changes and improvements, we have also been delighted to maintain activity in other ways. This included offering digital shows with a ‘pay what you can’ ticket price, taking performances out into the community to engage with those feeling isolated due to the pandemic, and brightening up the exterior of the Grand Pavilion with our popular ‘Promenart’ exhibitions by local creatives. The feedback from all of these activities has been so positive and a welcome boost to the whole team.

We were delighted that Welsh Government announced theatres could re-open from 17th May and subsequently that live performances could take place – all of course still under the necessary restrictions to support the prevention of COVID-19. We will continue to follow the advice from Welsh Government and other industry partners, and plan to bring you a safe, well managed and phased reopening over months ahead.

Things may look a little different when you return. We will keep you updated so that you can feel reassured that your safety and wellbeing are our paramount concern.

We are so grateful to the funding we have received whilst we have been closed, from the Welsh Government’s Covid Recovery Scheme, administered by Arts Council of Wales; the UK Job Retention Scheme; Social Business Growth Fund, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Welsh Government and is administered by Social Investment Cymru, WCVA; and Garfield Weston Foundation. And of course to our very kind patrons who have donated to our charity, we cannot thank you enough.

On behalf of my colleagues at Awen Cultural Trust, we would like to thank you for your loyal support whilst we have been closed. We are confident that theatre will return stronger than ever, and your experience of the Grand Pavilion will be even better than you remember.

Richard Hughes, Chief Executive, Awen Cultural Trust