As an arts organisation, the Barn is a place where art is made, presented and discussed. We work with artists and regularly support, respond and amplify their concerns, connecting them with our audiences, networks and communities through our creative programme.
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 performances, workshops, events and private hires, including weddings, and issued refunds to everyone affected. During such difficult times, we have been very humbled by the number of people who chosen not to take a refund but to take credit or donate to the Barn instead. Despite this, our activity and our earning potential over this period has been and still continues to be considerably impacted.
We have been utilising the grants and schemes available to us. We have been successful in receiving support from the Business Support Grant, Third Sector Resilience Fund and the Job Retention Scheme. We were also delighted to receive a donation from the William Syson Foundation and significant donations from several individuals. The Barn is also fortunate to be part of Creative Scotland’s Regular Funding Organisations and this funding has continued during this period of uncertainty. Even with all this support, our organisation still faces significant financial pressures and considerations.
As we now move forward, we believe it will be a significant amount of time before we are able to host touring and live events and likely not before the end of 2020. We are cautiously optimistic about being able to run a programme of films and workshops to limited audiences towards the end of this year. We are also looking to open our doors to FOLD in the coming weeks. We continue to look to engage with wider communities through digital means and through social media.
We have been reflecting a lot on the precious, yet precarious ecology of the arts and cultural sector. We have been thinking deeply about how we sustain it and what its purpose is not only in relation to our locality but in relation to the future we all face. At the beginning of March, the Barn’s senior management team set up an arts and ecology taskforce, with the aim of developing a unique programme of work to support artists to develop their practice in relation to COVID-19 and the planetary emergency. We have developed unique artistic development sessions for artists called Becoming Earthly which explore and imagine new ways of working towards a future where both people and the planet can flourish.
Before lockdown, much of our learning and participation work reached many vulnerable and isolated individuals. Part of this activity featured regular workshops and events such as Third Stage Art and Dementia Friendly Classic Matinees. Now, many who benefit from these activities still face long periods away from cultural services. We have offered an Art by Post scheme, through the Southbank centre, to participants who are shielding, as a way of staying connected and creative when we are not able to meet them face to face.
We know that to remain culturally relevant, the Barn will need to develop its way of working beyond presenting a programme of live events. We already have a strong track record of long, sustained relationships with established and renowned artists such as John Newling and Newton Harrison, Helen Smith and Maja Zeco. Such exchanges have helped our organisation to develop and lead the conversation around arts in rural environments in the 21st century.
Over the coming months, the Barn will work towards more diverse modes of creative activity. That will connect our volunteers, audiences, networks and communities with a host of outstanding artists and thinkers to reflect and imagine new modes of coexistence, in particular ways of being creative together.
In parallel, we have been very thankful to receive Cinema Equipment Funding from Screen Scotland. This sizeable grant is enabling us to upgrade to digital film projection and screening equipment which will improve the cinema experience and enable us to curate a more innovative programme of films and special events than ever before.
The Barn is progressing cautiously but optimistically and can see the opportunity for many new partnerships and innovative ways to engage with audiences, artists and the community. We do not hold all the answers as to how the future will look for the Barn but we know that it is our sincerest wish to remain invaluable to the communities who support us.
We hope that the coming months will become a period of conversations, support, artistic exchange and creation.
Victoria Layt - General Manager
Simone Stewart - Head of Programme and Curator of projects
Cath Du Preez - Head of Operations