2020 was a year of new challenges and unexpected obstacles. Arts organisations around the world had to adapt in a spectacular fashion when suddenly faced with Covid-19.
Here’s a review of how we responded to 2020 at the Barn…
We welcomed in the new year as normal in 2020 and between January and early March we hosted 8 different genres of workshop including Life Classes, Silver Ring Making and Watercolours. We screened 8 films including Yesterday (PG) and the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake. Sticking with tradition we held our annual Burns Night Ceilidh fundraiser, opened an exhibition installation by artist group, Tendency Towards and had live music from the fantastic singer/songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich.
It was all going as planned…then, like most arts organisations across Scotland, we had to close our doors on 17 March with much uncertainty about the future.
We immediately cancelled and postponed all future performances, workshops, events and private hires, including weddings, and issued refunds to everyone affected. During such difficult times, we were very humbled by the number of people who chose not to take a refund but to donate to the Barn instead.
Since March, the Barn had to adapt to more diverse modes of creative activity whilst staying connected with our audiences, volunteers, artists and supporters during the difficult year that lay ahead. This has stimulated a transformative period of development, enabled in part by, Creative Scotland’s Performing Arts Venue Relief funding.
During lockdown, the Barn joined Art by Post, a network of national partners working in collaboration with the Southbank Centre to bring creative activity booklets to 4,000 isolated people across the UK through a new network of national art and health partners.
Over the period of April to August the Barn initiated Becoming Earthly, a learning space, for artists to reimagine their practice and work towards a future where people and the planet thrive. We know that artists can transform places and invigorate communities through the highly original work they create. In Becoming Earthly, artists used their distinctive skills and aptitudes to respond to lockdown restrictions and to begin to generate forms in a whole variety of ways: a conceptual framework, a process, a performance language that celebrates, interrupts and shifts perspectives, drawing out our awareness, experience and relationships with the environments in which we live day to day.
In terms of sustaining connections, we have been delighted that throughout lockdown Singing for Joy has continued virtually, and has been a brilliant example of adapting to the circumstances. It has been very uplifting and a lifeline for many in the group who have been singing together for many years.
In parallel, the Barn has also developed and shared lots of online content via our website, email and social media channels including many exhibitions from across the world which could be viewed online, several online theatre and musical productions including those from The National Theatre and The Royal Opera. We shared ideas of how families could get creative at home. We also tasked our team to write various blogs for our website to share their recommendations of various art forms.
At the end of May we held a plant sale outside the Barn with all proceeds going towards safeguarding the Barn during this unusual period of closure.
Whilst all the above was keeping us busy, there was also a lot of work happening at the venue thanks to various grants we received
A sizeable grant from Screen Scotland for cinema equipment enabled us to upgrade to digital film projection and screening equipment which has improved the cinema experience and will enable us to curate a more innovative programme of films.
The Vattenfall Unlock Our Future Fund facilitated Phase 1 of the progressive upgrade of all our lighting to LED - a fantastic step on the way towards our carbon reduction goals and still a key component of our Carbon Management Plan and commitments to Creative Carbon Scotland going forward.
Access in the Bar and Gallery was further improved with the purchase of an additional portable ramp and the installation of handrails.
Our beautiful outdoor spaces provided a welcome refuge and source of inspiration for many in the community. The allotments have possibly never been better tended than during lockdown! The Wild Garden tucked away behind the Barn has been a haven for people wondering up to site as well as for the flourishing wildlife.
Some good news came in July when we were able to re-open the doors to FOLD, our Craft & Design Store dedicated to presenting the best in Scotland’s contemporary craft and design from established and emerging designer-makers.
In September we were delighted to open our Gallery once again with a stunning exhibition by local artist Stevi Benson, Fragile Nature. Stevi’s hand cut paper pieces juxtapose the strength and fragility found in natural forms. Intricate studies of plant and animal structures connect us with their beauty, inviting us to slow down, reminding us of the meditative calm that comes with focussing on nature.
Workshops and film followed and during October to December we held 28 screenings at the Barn, albeit to a limited, socially distanced audience.
There were huge positives attached to our re-opening, and a lot of proof that we are loved and admired by many people locally. Audiences were very responsive with the workshops booking out in under 24 hours and the initial film screenings following a similar trend. Our wonderful volunteers were delighted to return to stewarding and front of house duties having missed the volunteering experience at the Barn.
November was a hugely busy month for us as we took our annual craft and design flock, ONLINE for 2020. This was made possible by utilising Crowdfunder and match funding from Creative Scotland, Business Resilience and Sustainability Scheme and some of the Barn’s own funds. We created a website to host 40 makers with a purchasing function. In addition, a series of 6 talks and workshops were held virtually. One of these events, included a SEFARI funded making and sustainability showcase called HEMP futures, in partnership with Aberdeen University. flock ONLINE was a great success with over 8,200 people visiting the website during the shopping event.
In mid-December our programme was then unfortunately cancelled as Aberdeenshire entered tier 3 government restrictions. We then took some time off over Christmas and New Year after what had been a turbulent 10 months.
Now here we are in 2021! Following the more recent announcement from the Scottish Government, Mainland Scotland is now back in lockdown. Unfortunately, this means that both the Barn and our Craft and Design store, FOLD, will need to remain closed at this time. While this saddens us, our priority as always is the health and safety of our audiences, volunteers and staff.
Rest assured that we continue to work behind the scenes during this time on various projects. Continuing our partnership with the Art by Post project, Aberdeen-based artists Bibo & Brian were commissioned to create the January 2021 booklet, titled ‘Growing Together’ which looks at nature, soil and how our future as humans depends on the natural world. To support this initiative, Bibo and Brian have created some digital works for the Barn and we can’t wait to share this with you online and via email over the coming weeks.
Becoming Earthly has connected us with some trailblazing artists and thinkers and this has enabled us to embark on some world class collaborations drawing inspiration from ecology, contemporary art, film, theatre, dance, music and philosophy. Over 2021, we will share the fruits of this work with you, working in close partnership with these artists.
These will include a special Becoming Earthly film season curated especially for the Barn by filmmaker Huw Wal, available through streaming on demand. Artist duo Marie Antoinette from Portugal, will be inviting you to participate in their Riffing the Archive project where they will be sharing artworks and initiating conversations with you through email exchanges. Christina Peake is working on a special Gettin’s Houseinstallation and programme which fuses her Bajan heritage with Doric folklore. All of these projects, will consider how we re-imagine our place in the world. In 2021 we invite to you to take notice of your surroundings and to discover new connections, and conversations with us.
We do not hold all the answers as to how the future will look for the Barn but it is our sincerest wish to remain invaluable to our communities. The Barn is a charity and your support has never been more important during this difficult time.
the Barn team