Impact of Covid pandemic on Arts Centre Washington revealed
Council chiefs have revealed the impact of Covid-19 on Arts Centre Washington over the past year.
The venue closed to the public on March 18, 2020 and briefly reopened in September before closing again in November, in line with Government restrictions.
According to figures revealed to councillors this month, visitor numbers between April 2020 and February 2021 were 5,708 compared with the previous performance year of 186,854.
As a result of the pandemic, the venue saw a ‘significant fall’ in income from room hire, weekly class fees, ticket sales, retail and the theatre programme.
In addition, the Courtyard Bar remains closed and council chiefs say it is unknown whether the tenant will reopen when restrictions are lifted.
During the pandemic, staff have been working from home developing an online/ digital programme, staying connected with existing customers and helping to support other areas of the council.
Sunderland City Council’s assistant director of culture and events, Victoria French, gave an update on the venue and visitor numbers at a recent meeting of the council’s Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee.
She said: “Arts Centre Washington closed and [there was] a stop start programme in the 2020 calendar year.
“With regards to the programme, we have got a Creative Age Programme that we have been able to put online and there were significant numbers who have reached it and new audiences, so it’s now how we build on that.
“So very similar to the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, [visitor] numbers as you would expect have reduced compared to the previous year.
“Obviously the difference at Arts Centre Washington is that there’s the pub/restaurant on site that attracts footfall that comes through.”
While admitting the stage programme will “take some time to recover” the culture chief noted the positives of two new creative start-up businesses leasing a studio on site since the pandemic began.
“It hasn’t been zero business at all and there has been the opportunities for some people to come in there with a new lease agreement,” Ms French added.
Arts Centre Washington remains fully closed to the public until further notice.
A presentation prepared for councillors, said that the venue’s digital participation programme is expected to grow throughout 2021.