Wolverhampton Grand boss: This has been the worst period in our history

In its glorious 126-year history, there has never been a more testing time for Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre.

Adrian Jackson, CEO and artistic director at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
Adrian Jackson, CEO and artistic director at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

After the famous old venue closed its doors in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, bosses were forced to cancel dozens of shows and performances.

All plans were put on indefinite hiatus, and just when it looked like things were starting to get better, a second wave of Covid hit and the city was plunged into tougher tier two restrictions.

But just as bosses were preparing for a bleak mid-winter, light has finally emerged at the end of the tunnel.

It comes in the form of a grant of £1.19 million from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, which according to CEO and artistic director Adrian Jackson, will safeguard jobs and help the Grand plan for better days ahead.

“Without doubt this has been the worst period in the theatre’s history,” Mr Jackson said.

“Like all theatres in the UK, the Grand has been closed since March 17 and at the moment there is still no end in sight. We don’t know when we can reopen to full capacity, but we know it will be well into next year.

"This funding is the lifeline the theatre needed. I dread to think of the consequences had we not received this money.”

With no ticket sales at the box office, the consequences he refers to include the futures of 65 permanent staff and 60 seasonal and casual staff, all of whom he says are vital to the operation.

“The big challenge for a theatre like the Grand, is that it costs so much money to put shows on,” he says.

“We were keen to safeguard the talented staff we have, but the longer this was going on the more difficult it was becoming.

Destiny

"Whilst for the next six months or so the Grand could have limped along, with no income coming in you know that at some point there are going to be some very difficult decisions to make.

“This money has bought us the time and given us the freedom to plan robustly for what productions we might be able to put on for our customers and our city. It gives us the leeway to be able to control our destiny.”

Mr Jackson says he has spent weeks on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome of the funding bid, which was painstakingly put together over the Summer and submitted to Arts Council England in August.

Having found out the good news on Friday morning, he says his thoughts have now turned to bringing the theatre back in all its glory.

The Lichfield Street venue’s 1,200 capacity will be reduced to 300 with social distancing in place – ruling out putting on any big touring shows. Instead, Mr Jackson and his team are exploring options for smaller scale, in-house productions, with a show during Christmas week at the top of the wish list.

He said: “We’re looking at a festive offering of some description. The reality is that while we are in tier two it is highly unlikely that we can do anything.”

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