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Diss Corn Hall looks at options after shows given green light

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The announcement that live performances can return to stages across the country has been welcomed by an industry boss.

During his televised briefing on July 17, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that indoor performances could start to return to venues, as long as measures were in place to keep audience members a safe distance from one another.

Lee Johnson, operations manager at the Corn Hall in Diss, said: “While we welcome the news from the Government to allow indoor performances in theatres starting from August 1, we are currently reviewing the details of this next, exciting stage in getting theatres and art venues open.

Lee Johnson outside Diss Corn Hall, which is exploring how it can reopen its theatre. Picture: Mecha Morton.
Lee Johnson outside Diss Corn Hall, which is exploring how it can reopen its theatre. Picture: Mecha Morton.

“Reopening is not as straightforward as it might seem. We had to reschedule all the shows and we are still rescheduling.

“We are speaking with acts and asking them if they could come to Diss, but they have to make sure it’s worth their while.

“So, while we want to reopen to live performances on August 1, the likelihood is that it will be a while before we are in a position to welcome back audiences.”

The Corn Hall, which has been closed since March due to the pandemic, did reopen its café earlier this month, with strict distancing measures in place to ensure the safety of its customers and staff.

The St Nicholas Street site is also trying to reopen its galleries and has done extensive work to ensure its box office and customer and staff areas are covid-secure.

Since its closure, Mr Johnson and his team have been trying to establish how many people the venue could accommodate, given the need to keep audience members apart, when performances finally resume.

Early estimates suggest it may only be able to fit 60 people into its auditorium, which usually has a maximum capacity of 300.

He said: “We are currently discussing the announcement with other venues in the region, and are looking at how they are envisaging reopening and how they will get live shows back on stage.

“We do not get any public or long-term funding and we are solely reliant on strong ticket sales to continue, so providing a quality programme of shows and events for the people that come to see us is vital.”

To help with the new way of working, the Corn Hall is looking to increase its number of volunteers to make sure when they decide to go ahead with shows it is possible.

Mr Johnson said: “We are always looking for people to share their skills with us. Whether they are aged 16 or 96, they are more than welcome to come to help.

“We are looking for help in the box office, stewarding shows and events, helping to hang exhibitions, working in the café, administration and more; it’s a case of whatever people feel they can lend a hand to.”

For more information on live events or to volunteer, go to www.thecornhall.co.uk.

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