It’s been a year to the day since theatres across the country went dark, and whilst it has been an incredibly tough year for everyone in our community and in our sector – today we reflect on the positive moments and creative connections we have been able to experience together, as we look ahead to the future.
Over the last year, whenever safe and possible, we’ve reopened The North Wall for socially-distanced performances and exhibitions – we are grateful to have experienced some fantastic comedy nights with Jericho Comedy, and a beautiful and moving Christmas show, Little Gift. In the gallery, we marked Photo Oxford Festival with Philippa James’ 100 Women of Oxford exhibition. It was a joy to welcome people back to the venue, and we’ve been so grateful for our audience’s support and understanding about the changes we’ve put in place to ensure everyone’s safety.
We’ve also enjoyed meeting audiences outside The North Wall. In September, we staged an outdoor show for families in Cutteslowe Park – a first theatre visit for many young members of the audience. We loved reading the messages of hope for the future left on our “wishing line” after the show. During the second lockdown in November, we were able to work with pupils at Cutteslowe Primary School and other community groups to shine a little light in the darkness. Together we created a dazzling light display at the Cutteslowe Pavilion, to celebrate Oxford’s Christmas Light Night, whilst others across the city created window displays at home for passers-by to admire.
When it hasn’t been possible to share the arts in person, we have been finding new ways of connecting with our audiences – our team has learnt a lot this year. We’ve experimented with new digital formats that we’ve never tried before: live streaming our first ever shows from the theatre, hosting energising online exhibitions, talks and podcasts with artists, and commissioning audio dramas. We’ve welcomed children from all over the UK, from Perth to Brighton, for online workshops in everything from Kathak dance to comic book art.
When venues are allowed to reopen, The North Wall plans to continue to include these new digital formats in our programme – for us, it’s been a great opportunity to reach audiences that we might not connect with otherwise. But there’s nothing quite like the experience of watching live theatre and the electric atmosphere that comes with being part of a live audience. When the time comes, we’ll be here with our doors wide open, ready to welcome you back.