Blog: A very COVID summer

Walking around this empty building it strikes me that the Theatre is nothing without the people who breathe life into it. It is the people – the audiences, the cast, the crew, the front of house volunteers – who are the heart of the place. And, for the first time in months, life was breathed back into Westacre Theatre.

We had a wonderful season planned this year to mark 30 years since Andy and Isobel first asked the question “Shall we put on a play?”. Thirty years later and……… COVID struck! While it was disappointing not to be able to celebrate in the way we’d planned, we remained undeterred and managed to hold some successful events just as the last rays of the summer sunshine were fading and the weather was taking on a decidedly autumnal feel.

The first of these was a drive-in cinema experience. A very different offering for Westacre, but we wanted to have a trial run to see if it was something we could roll out in the future. There were many questions to be answered. Where do we put the screen? How do we stop it blowing away? Will people actually be able to see it? What time does the sunset??! And… the most pressing issue… how would we open the building to allow safe access to the toilets?! I don’t think I’ve ever been so occupied by the subject of toilets!

All the planning and worrying and the anxiety paid off – the drive-in cinema was a success and garnered a lot of positive feedback. I’m sure the freshly baked pizzas from the pizza oven helped tremendously! 

So… that was our first tick in the box. We then moved our thoughts and attention to the jazz picnic weekend. Once again, I seemed to be consumed by thoughts of toilets! Tickets sold out very fast and as a result we were able to add a third jazz picnic to the programme. The weather held for the first two but unfortunately the Great British Summer, deciding we were having far too much fun, lived up to its promise and it rained ALL day on the third jazz picnic date. Unfortunately we had to take the difficult decision to cancel. Nevertheless, the jazz picnic went down a storm (no pun intended). DixieMix proved to be as popular as ever and as the feet were a-tappin’ and the Prosecco corks were a-poppin’ there was a moment when I thought ‘Yes… we’re still here COVID. You haven’t seen us off yet!’

The final event of our summer season was the Summertime by the Lake event.

Under the firm leadership and direction of Matt and Sadie Grist the audience were entertained with songs, stories and sketches from familiar faces and some new faces. Faces we very much hope will return when we are back up to full speed next year. There really was something for everyone and the event proved very popular.

The final shout out for our all too brief summer season must go to the fantastic new outdoor stage – the Andrew Smith Stage, named for its tireless creator. It was well and truly christened and will be a fantastic asset to our offerings next year. Indeed, it quite poignantly took Westacre Theatre back to where it started with Andy and Isobel putting on their one show in the open air. Thank you Andy and Isobel for asking that question all those years ago.

As the last of our picnickers left on Bank Holiday Monday and the remnants of our event were cleaned and packed away, there was a renewed energy amongst the “caretakers” of this wonderful theatre. We will do our very best to ensure the longevity of the place so that next year we can say to all of you ‘the show will go on’.

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