In the last week the life of The Spring has turned around completely.
Last Monday we were open, busy and, although we were running some scenarios for a difficult future, we had no idea that in less than a week on our world would have changed to such a huge extent.
On Monday evening as I was driving home, I heard the Prime Minister’s speech advising social distancing and the need to stay away from venues like ours. We were not prepared for such a stark announcement so soon. In that moment our world shifted and I knew immediately we’d have to close our doors. Conversations with our trustees, management and the Arts Council continued into Monday evening, followed by some quick reviewing and alterations to our contingency plans. Like many theatres and organisations, we also received confirmation that we would not receive any compensation from our insurers, despite having Business Interruption cover in place.
By 9.30 on Tuesday morning our Coronavirus Plan was ready. We held a staff meeting in the theatre. It was easily the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my time at The Spring. During that session I talked through our approach to the situation, including our intention to look after our staff and volunteers, how we would make decisions about cancelled events and workshops and how we would communicate it all with our audiences and community. I say to you now what I said then: there is no team of people more able or that I would rather have with me than the wonderful staff of The Spring. They have been incredible.
The team have faced some difficult news and made some hard decisions this week. Top most in my mind through all of this was the need to care and look after our people – in the widest sense.
We want to be transparent about our decisions and we are pleased to let you know that:
- All staff have been paid in full to the end of March
- All salaried staff will receive full pay in April and then will reduce to 50% of hours (this is unless government support enables us to do something different – we’re still looking into that)
- There will be a regular payment for all zero hours contracted staff who work above 25 hours per week
- All contracted theatre makers will be paid
- We are trying to reschedule as many events as possible. We’ll be busy on our return!
- Freelance staff will be paid in accordance with their contracts
- Volunteers will receive weekly communications from us and we are putting together way so helping them (including telephone support, delivery of groceries for those self-isolating, making our library of DVDs available for borrowing – we’ll deliver)
After explaining all of this – and more - the magic happened. Despite the worry and the tears (and there were some – including from me), the staff came together in a way I have not experienced before. They looked out for each other and we began to talk about how we could help each other, our volunteers and our community more widely. I have never been more proud of a team. They are more exceptional than you know and we are very, very lucky to have them.
Within hours we had started to instigate our plans and now, a few days later, we are well ahead of the game.
Helen and Theresa (and lots of other staff too) have been refunding tickets on events we had to cancel or reschedule. Amy has created a brand identity for our closure and has set up a new text donation scheme (Please text LITTLE to 70085 to donate £5). The café staff closed up the café and Faith took all the supplies that can no longer be used to a local food bank. Clayre has been financial planning. Sue, Richard and Dan have started on our usual August closure maintenance tasks in the hope that we can use the theatre in the summer when we re-open (how does a Feel Good Film Festival sound?). On Friday we even donated some supplies of loo roll, soap and cleaning products to a local school who are looking for help as they care for keyworker’s children. And they have all kept me buoyed with coffee, support and an incredible amount of generosity and good humour, even in the most difficult of situations. I am beyond grateful.
We have also been supported by many, many messages of goodwill from volunteers, audience members, performers and others who all wish us well. At times this has been emotionally overwhelming but we are so grateful to know you care and it and speaks volumes of The Spring that people feel this way. People have let us know that they will miss us and we will miss them just as much.
We are all determined to approach this situation as we do everything: with honesty, flexibility, creativity and integrity. I read this week that in good times you talk about values, and in a crisis, you live them. Our team are living this!
This is a very strange time but we remain optimistic (I even wrote the words ‘reopening plan’ on my to do list so we’re definitely not beaten!). If we can help you in any way we will – please reach out and let us know what you need.
Much love to you all.