Reopening of arts and culture sector in Birmingham

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Birmingham’s cultural sector has been hugely impacted by the pandemic. But it has been given the green light.  The government announced plans for reopening cultural venues from early summer but some of the places are already welcoming guests. However, cultural enthusiasts might expect some change. Here is what you need to know. 

Rob Simmons. Unsplash

When will theatres be open?

The latest government announcement says that the reopening of the indoors theatres, cinemas, and concert halls will be allowed in the third stage of the roadmap on 17 May following social distancing measures. 

The plan for the safe reopening of indoor entertainment venues limits the number of attendees for up to 1,000 indoors, up to 4,000 people on outdoor events and bigger outdoor venues, a maximum of 10,000 places.

Larger events will be able to resume from 21 July. The UK Theatre organisation welcomes the news of reopening.

”We look forward to continuing to work closely with Government and industry partners, welcoming audiences safely back into theatres and playing a part in the national economic and social recovery”

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of SOLT and UK Theatre. 

Hannah Busing. Unsplash

 The Chief Executive also reflects on the year of theatres being closed.

‘It has also been a year in which we have truly witnessed the resilience, creativity and community-mindedness of theatre, from digital innovations allowing streamed productions to reach a global audience to theatres creating educational and wellbeing resources, and venues offering themselves as vaccine centres or hosting pioneering scientific research on measures to prevent Covid spread.

Birmingham theatres have already started preparing to reopen, with some of them selling tickets for shows and performances planned to go ahead this year.

More than 400 performances and events are planned for this year and the upcoming year. A list of all the live performances can be found here.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre was one of the first major venues in the city to announce raising their curtains for live performances this May.

Changes in museums and galleries 

Birmingham Museums Trust via Unsplash.

According to the governmental plans, public indoors and outdoors, museums and galleries will reopen on 17 May.

Commercial art galleries categorised as “non-essential retail” have been opened since 12 April, “particularly galleries in the Jewellery Quarter or RSBA gallery which show photography or the jewellery workshops.” said Ruth Millington, Birmingham based art historian, critic and blogger. 

While some of the venues are still closed, Birmingham Museums brings museums closer to the audience by offering talks, lectures, competitions for children, or virtual tours. Exhibitions and images from Birmingham’s collection are now freely available online.

As some of the audiences are eager to come back to art venues they might expect a few changes when they will reopen. 

There will be space limits; people would have to book their “time tickets “, adhere to social distancing and wear a mask. All safety precautions “might make for a pleasant experience in many ways”, says the art historian and explains that space “will be less crowded, which I think will be nice”. 

Moreover, she adds that museums and galleries “rethought their programming” and tried to engage with new audiences by supporting local artists. 

Birmingham Museums Trust via Unsplash

“I think (the pandemic) forced museums and galleries to think about their audiences and how they can engage people with art who perhaps don’t normally come to exhibitions.”

“I know, IKON has changed their programme to support local artists specifically; this first show is called icon for artists, a big art sale,” said Ruth Millington.

Millington says that the audience can expect smaller exhibitions and more “intentional shows, highlighting local and regional artists”. Museums and art galleries will engage more with regional audiences as “people aren’t going to be travelling to another city”. Also, the local artists will bring a local audience. 

One of the Birmingham artists, Cold War Steve, who had his work exhibited in a museum, brought many of his fans, some of whom had never been in a cultural venue, to watch his work there. 

Birmingham Museums Trust via Unsplash

Drive-in cinemas and indoor cinemas

Besides commercial galleries, outdoor drive-in cinemas have been opened since April 12, with the indoors cinema scheduled to reopen no later than May 17. The same participation restrictions will apply in indoors cinemas as in other cultural venues.

Karen Zhao via Unsplash

The British Cinema Association association “is thrilled” to open their doors to the public and shows that almost 59% of people chose cinema as their “most missed” outdoor entertainment activity in their latest survey.  

Iain Jacob, Cinema First Chair said:

“After a long period of lockdown, it’s great to see that such a large proportion of the public can’t wait to come back to the cinema. Our research has confirmed what we had hoped: after being at home on lockdown since December we are all keen to escape to the cinema to experience the magic that only comes from watching a film on the big screen. Cinemas across the UK are thrilled to be opening their doors again and safely welcoming back film fans and resuming the thriving culture of cinema-going.

Jona via Unsplash

For now, Birmingham movie enthusiasts can enjoy watching classics in their car in The Luna Drive-in cinema in the National Exhibition Centre. 

“Nothing Hills”, “Pulp Fiction”, or “The Greatest Showman” are just some of the examples of movies that are going to be on-screen until May 3.

The public can find all updates on the reopening of indoors cinemas and new movie releases on their social platforms.

Concert halls reopening

As well as all cultural venues, concert halls will reopen on May 17 with all safety procedures put in place.  

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has announced socially distanced live performances at Symphony Hall from May 19. As the seating capacity is restricted, the orchestra will perform each show twice to allow more people to join. 

William Hook vis Unsplash. Birmingham Arena


Concert fans can find all information on more than 800 upcoming performances, concerts, and events in Birmingham on the Songkick website.

Brining shows on stage

The sector, which was hit hard by the pandemic, starts opening its doors to the public, bringing its shows on stages and looks forward to welcoming its guests again. 

As Ruth Millington has said, some cultural places such as museums and galleries” are still going to struggle coming out of the pandemic because for all this time they haven’t been selling items in their gift shops and making revenue through their cafes.” She urges people to support their local cultural places.

“I would encourage people when museums and galleries open to, you know, get through the doors, buy something in the gift shop and support your local museums and galleries.”

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Freelance journalist writing stories for Birmingham Eastside

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