02:21PM, Wednesday 09 September 2020
MAIDENHEAD 132821-2Norden Farm, Altwood Road, Maidenhead
Theatre, music, comedy and more have returned to Maidenhead after the town’s favourite arts venue reopened to the public yesterday (Wednesday).
Norden Farm, in Altwood Road, officially opened its doors to live audiences and classes this week following a successful ‘soft launch’ on Sunday.
Having been closed for six months during the coronavirus pandemic, the arts centre has taken many of its shows and classes online via Zoom, but starting this week, a limited audience will be allowed into the building during ‘blended’ performances that include a physical and virtual audience.
The first blended performance, carried out by comedian Mark Watson on Sunday, was a big success, and the centre is now looking forward to seeing old friends and new arts enthusiasts passing through the barn doors.
Jane Corry, chief executive and artistic director at Norden Farm, said: “This is the first time in six months that we are welcoming the public back in which is so exciting.
“The majority of venues in the South East have mothballed – made people redundant and closed the buildings with a view to open next year.
“That’s not something we wanted to do.”
Norden Farm managed to continue operating throughout lockdown by taking its classes, shows, and work with schools online via Zoom. All but five of the 54 staff members were put on furlough, and the centre’s finances have taken a hit, but Jane is hopeful things will start looking up now they have reopened their doors.
The centre has taken plenty of measures to ensure the reopening will be COVID-safe. All who are planning to attend in person must pre-book, either on the phone or online, and face masks must be worn while inside the building, except while eating or drinking.
Contract tracing is in place, and signs are up in the building to remind guests to remain socially distant. Hand sanitising stations have been installed, plastic screens are up at the cafe bar and box office and cash payments are not permitted.
Looking back at what has been learned over the last few months, Jane said: “If we are trying to find what have been the positives of the pandemic for us, its been that we have discovered this new way of working with is blended performances and events.
“Even after we have got through the pandemic we’ll still carry on working this way, because sometimes you just can’t get to an event. That has been a real positive for us.”
Norden Farm is open from 11.30am to 10.30pm from Wednesday to Saturday. To see what shows and events are now on at the venue, visit norden.farm/events
The candidates standing in the upcoming Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner election have outlined their priorities for policing in the region.
A Maidenhead restaurant has said that new temporary outdoor seating provided by the council has helped keep the business afloat and hopes an al fresco dining culture will continue in the town.