One year ago today The Spring closed for the first time as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
I don’t really want to dwell on that day. I’m not sure I have anything left to say. But, I think it’s worth marking the occasion, reflecting on how we’ve changed, all we’ve achieved and what happens next.
Throughout the year, we have tried to keep you updated about our plans and intentions. From the very beginning, our priority was to protect the organisation, care for our workforce (and by that I mean our staff, artists we work with and our volunteers) and support our community if we could.
Protecting the organisation has meant making some difficult decisions. It has meant sacrifices by staff, working our trustees harder than ever before and writing more funding applications than I care to remember. We have been so fortunate that we have received support from the Job Retention Scheme, from Arts Council England, from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund and from Havant Borough Council. It has meant asking our supporters to contribute to our survival by making donations. We are so grateful that we have had this support and are relieved that we will survive this immediate crisis.
We have tried to care for our workforce. For us this has meant keeping in touch regularly, sharing news and positive thoughts on What’s App, over the phone, via email and the now ubiquitous Zoom. It has seen us offer training opportunities to support mental health. We have paid performance artists cancellation fees and have commissioned more artists than ever before to create a variety of artworks, projects and interventions.
Our community is at the heart of The Spring. Bringing people together to enjoy shared experiences and make connections is what we do. It is what we are for. Even though this has not been possible in the usual way we have tried to offer a range of events and activities that support this fundamental aim of our organisation. As a result over the past 12 months we have presented 90 events online, engaging over 3,500 people. We ran Christmas Calls, a project that saw a poet write and deliver personalised poems over the phone to people separated by the pandemic. We began Signs of Solidarity, our project that sees us thank the heroes of our community with special placards and medals.
And let’s not forget those 10 glorious weeks last autumn when we were allowed to open. That wonderful day when we reopened to a queue outside our building will, I hope, be replicated again in May. During those weeks, we enjoyed events, ran workshops, sold coffee, and presented exhibitions. We installed our new family museum trail. We delivered The Enchanted Snow Globe, our beautiful free Christmas experience that was seen by over 1,200 of you.
And now, to a future which is difficult to imagine and hard to plan for. We hope it will involve opening our doors soon, welcoming you back and offering events and activities that bring people back together safely. As the next few months unfold we want to do the best for our community. That’s why soon you’ll start to see us asking more about how you see the role of The Spring in a post-Covid-19 world. How can we help support you and our community now?
Today though is about a year that both was and never-was. It is about extending the biggest and most heartfelt thank you to all of you. To our audiences, friends, volunteers, staff and artists. It’s about celebrating The Spring, an organisation that I think is much more than just a closed building.
How can we mark this day? For me, only a creative response really makes sense. That’s why we commissioned poet and performer Arji Manuelpillai to write about it. To explain everything we want to say and to tell the story. He has created something that I think is beautiful and I hope you do too.