With many North East public attractions and cultural venues facing financial struggles during the Covid-19 crisis, NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) is encouraging residents to do all they can to support these much-loved organisations.
Ian Thomas, Director of Leisure Tourism and Research at NGI said: “Our North East attractions, hospitality venues and cultural organisations tell a unique story about who we are as a region. They provide us with so much more than something to do in our spare time. They create jobs for local people, provide learning and educational opportunities and they truly enhance and enrich our lives.
“But this sector relies heavily on tourism and attendees, which is why the Coronavirus crisis is especially difficult for theatres, restaurants, hotels, museums, music venues and many more to sustain what they do.”
In 2018, the North East saw 90.6 million visits to the region, with an estimated spend of £5.7bn*. Additionally, the North East tourism sector employs 59,000 people so its sustainability is critical to many local households.
One North East actor who is a big advocate for supporting the local cultural scene is Charlie Hardwick. She said: “If it wasn’t for the regional arts scene I would never have had the opportunity to perform in theatres across the country and the privilege to work with the Emmerdale cast for so many years.
“Growing up in Wallsend, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Geordie actors – until I got involved with a local youth theatre and saw a Live Theatre production.
“We are a region of great story-tellers but at the moment every play has been cancelled and no actor is working. I can’t wait for this crisis to end and for productions to burst back into life when I hope we can all pack our theatres and halls to the rafters.
“But it’s good to remember that these organisations are about much more than a night out. They’re a training ground for our artists, writers, performers and practitioners of the future. As residents, we owe them a lot.”
Ian added: “To come together to save our venues and attractions we don’t have to flout important rules or donate large sums of money – there are so many different ways we can support these amazing and inspirational businesses during this time.”
With this in mind, NGI has provided a list of suggestions of how residents and ambassadors can support the sector:
Become a friend
Many organisations in the heritage and cultural sector offer Friends or Supporter’s schemes. These schemes cost very little to sign up to and provide you with ongoing benefits throughout the year including priority booking, discounts on shows/food and drink and special event invites. Examples include the Sage Supporter’s Scheme, at just £40 per year, Live Theatre’s Friend’s Scheme from as little as £5 per month, the Tyne Theatre and Opera House Friend’s Club from just £25 per year, The Stand Comedy Club membership scheme from just £15 per year and The Tyneside Theatre Friends Scheme from £45 per year.
Buy an annual pass
Museums such as Beamish and attractions such as Auckland Castle offer annual passes that cost the same as one entry fee. This means that, when you sign up, you have 12 months’ in which to use your pass, for as many times as you like, and the advanced income will play a much-needed role in helping these attractions to sustain their venues during the lockdown.
Buy vouchers or gift cards
We all want something to look forward to at the end of this difficult period. Plus, we’re probably spending a bit less on socialising right now, so it could be a good time to invest in some restaurant vouchers to be used at a future date.
Leave great reviews
Once we emerge from the lockdown period, venues will be keen to attract new customers and visitors. One way to support venues – and something that is especially good for restaurants and hotels – is to leave positive reviews on Facebook pages or websites such as TripAdvisor.
Share your memories
Another way to keep the nation buzzing about some of our favourite venues is by sharing memories on social media. Did you get married at an unusual North East venue? Have you got wonderful childhood memories from a beautiful coastal location? Were you there at the opening of an iconic North East venue? Get sharing your stories on Twitter (tagging @Altweet_pet and #NewcastleGateshead) and your pics on Instagram (tagging @mykindoftoon and #NewcastleGatesead) to keep the region’s hotspots front of mind.
Take part in virtual activity
There’s still loads to take part in during lockdown. From Life Science Centre’s #LifeGoesONline at-home science activities to The Alnwick Garden’s Blossom Watch, and the new Coronavirus Theatre Club, founded by three North East actors, which livestreams theatre on Twitter every Sunday. There’s also some great televised sporting moments being re-played by Newcastle Eagles basketball games and Newcastle United’s YouTube channel.
To find out more about activities like these, check out NGI’s ‘Stay at Home’ what’s on e-bulletin for April.