We hope you are keeping safe and well!
As you know, on 17 March 2020 we had to close our doors in line with government guidelines. As we mark this one-year anniversary, we want to take this opportunity to update you on what has been an extraordinary year, and to outline our plans for 2021.
Closure has had a massive impact on us. We are an arts organisation that normally generates 82% of our income through ticket sales, classes, hires, café bar and other activity. The balancing 18% comes from Arts Council of Wales and is used to support our arts and education programme. Our capacity to earn income literally stopped overnight and that was profoundly scary.
In such dire circumstances we turned to you, our audiences and customers for support, and your kindness and encouragement has been overwhelming! Many of you generously made donations or selflessly agreed to contribute your pre-booked tickets. It’s difficult to describe how much these supportive acts helped us in the first few weeks of closure. In particular, we were able to demonstrate to public bodies how much you cared about us, which assisted our case for financial support. Collectively you provided a strong voice that was difficult to ignore. To all of you we say a very heartfelt thank you!
We also say a big thank you to Welsh Government, Arts Council of Wales, Cardiff Council, BFI and the numerous trusts and foundations that stepped up to support us and the wider sector during the early days of the pandemic and beyond.
We were able to open to the public for only five weeks last autumn/winter. Though short, we were again overwhelmed by your encouragement and the desire you showed to return. We were delighted to welcome you back and we can’t wait to see you all again soon!
When the pandemic hit, many of the freelance artists at the heart of our creative community found that their work also ceased overnight. While the last year has been enormously challenging for us, it has been even more difficult for them. We are delighted to have been able to remain for the creative companies and artists based here. This has allowed them to carry on with their practices and to continue trading. Prior to the pandemic we had 38 companies and artists based with us; including Theatr Iolo, Printhaus, Nelmes Design, ie ie Productions, Katherine Richards Framing, Cardiff Music School, Holly Davey and Taking Flight Theatre. This number has increased to a whopping 53. It’s been particularly pleasing to support and sustain local creative employment in this way at such a difficult time.
We’ve continued to curate an arts programme online via our digital platforms - and we’ve been working with the local community on a range of projects including the recent Canton Road Crossing collaboration with Cardiff Council. We’ve supported a range of theatre companies, performers and artists to provide space, time and advice around their work – and have been delivering workshops in schools around the Cardiff region. A highlight of our recent activity is our partnership with Artes Mundi which includes a new work by American artist Carrie Mae Weems that can be seen on the front of our building. Behind our doors, further works are waiting for you – including an exhibition by South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape. You can view the exhibition ahead of our re-opening at artesmundi.org.
We are currently getting ready to re-open again. As yet, we don’t know when this will be allowed but we hope that we can welcome you back outdoors sometime after Easter - we’ve been working hard to improve our outdoor catering offer to keep you dry and warm when you can return! Until we can share this with you, keep an eye out on our social media channels for information about our Friday pop-ups, where we’re bringing you delicious street food from a range of brilliant vendors.
We also have a BIG birthday to celebrate. On 5 April we officially turn 50! In ‘normal’ times we would have planned a year-long knees up of epic proportions! Instead, we'll be marking it in different ways with various events brought to you online and outdoors, when allowed. For full details, keep an eye on our website, social media channels or click through our regular email updates (you can sign up to our mailing list here).
We look forward to welcoming you back when we are able to. In the meantime, keep safe!
The Chapter Team