Artistic Director Emily Boulting reflects upon 2020 – a year that’s changed almost everything about the way the Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre operates.
As with all arts organisations, the global pandemic meant total lockdown earlier this year for Walton’s much loved Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre, a challenge that Artistic Director Emily Boulting tackled head on, by embracing technology and virtual opportunities.
“It’s been a tough time for us,” Emily shares honestly, referring to her dedicated team of staff, arts practitioners and volunteers. “As a community venue we needed to continue our service as much as possible, despite being physically closed as a building,” she explains. “However, we’ve been so lucky because all of the people we work with on a regular basis were really open to trying new things – so many of our courses immediately went onto Zoom and we set up our virtual choir very quickly so that we could all have a sing together too.”
“This time has inspired us to be creative in ways that perhaps we wouldn’t have considered before.”
Thankfully, the Riverhouse and its cafe were able to emerge from lockdown, gradually from May and under Covid secure guidelines, and thanks to a small amount of funding from the Arts Council, they’ve installed video cameras for the first time. “We started experimenting with socially distanced theatre,” Emily says. “Staging one-man shows and providing Zoom play readings. We just kept going.”
This year has been far from plain sailing and the arts centre has seen a huge drop in income but Emily is still keen to emphasise the silver linings. “This time has inspired us to be creative in ways that perhaps we wouldn’t have considered before. The online streaming is something that’s a real positive addition to Riverhouse’s online armoury of services, which wouldn’t have come about without us being forced into closure.”
While Emily and her team have been working hard to keep going, there’s been a growing wave of gratitude directed towards the arts centre from their neighbours, visitors and audiences too. “2020 seems to have made people think a little bit about the role we play in Walton and we’ve had voices of support where we haven’t necessarily had them before,” she says.
“Locals have really come out to support the Community Cafe which helps with our revenue generation, and one volunteer made a donation of £5,000 which was just wonderful, unexpected and beautifully cheering.”
And how can the rest of us support the great work taking place at Riverhouse? “Please go onto our website, view our events and sign up to our YouTube channel, as more viewers help us reach the stage where we can monetise the platform,” she explains. “And if you’re able to make a small donation to our Covid appeal, that would just be brilliant too.”
The Riverhouse Barn is a community arts centre – run by the community for the community.
If you can support their ongoing work by becoming a friend, for just £15 a year, visit riverhousebarn.co.uk.
Follow their work on YouTube