The Hearth Centre has been ‘doors open’ since 2004 and, with the exception of a one week break after each New Year, we have been fully open and welcoming a broad range of visitors attracting a footfall of around 20,000 people annually in recent years.
So, the lock-down has been somewhat of a shock to the system for our entire community. The buildings have been closed with 7 of our 8 artists workings from home and only coming on site when necessary. However, printmaker, Rebecca Vincent has continued to work 3 days a week in her studio at the rear of our Hall but with the doors closed to visitors but open for curbside collection.
The family run café has stepped up to the challenge, making home-made food for delivery to the local community along with distributing fresh produce to those unable to get out at this time. They have extended their takeaway service to meet demand from their regulars.
Staff: Jo our Administrator, has worked very effectively and positively from home, setting up Zoom meetings, engaging with artists and hall users to keep us on track and the communication alive. Our Caretaker, Louise, has been on site each week to ensure we have control of all Health & Safety, security and cleansing issues, doing an amazing job.
The Trustees are working just as hard (at least) as they were when everything was open and ‘normal’. We have had to become much more tech-savvy – a challenge for some of us. The needs may have changed but, as previously, everything requires focus, commitment and energy…. But we have found it all to be rewarding – keeping the charity ‘live’ and ready for when we can begin the ‘New Normal’.
We have been in regular contact with our Hall Users – they have been so supportive and we are looking forward to taking 2021 bookings for our hall space. Additionally, friends have been keeping an eye on the garden where, with the help of local families, we planted native trees and wildflowers last November.
THE ‘NEW NORMAL’ We are currently working on plans to ensure that artists can regularly work in their studios in the knowledge that measures have been put in place to ensure their safety. Moving forward – and we certainly will do that - the Hearth will re-open to the public but at the moment we can’t say when or exactly what that will mean for us all…it certainly will involve reaching out to the local community, being kind and thoughtful to all our tenants, staff, volunteers, hall users and visitors - and the wildlife on site. We are all looking forward to the next stage and will keep you fully up to date as things move into the new day.