Wednesday 12 May

Hello everyone,

I have been reading with interest this week a report just published by The Art Fund. They have been carrying out an interesting survey with Museum Directors all over the country. This survey is positive in nature in that it asked everyone to look forward to try and predict what changes we might see that will affect the cultural landscape in the future. Although of course there was real concern about the financial future - more than a third of organisations are newly in deficit in 2021/22, with a further third still unsure of their financial position for the year ahead. New deficits represent, on average, 25% of organisations' total operating budgets, but there were also positive signs.

The change in working patterns – more people working from home will give increased leisure time as commutes are a thing of the past. This extra leisure time could be spent locally – visiting your local museum during your lunch break or being free to attend early evening events where this was not possible before. The pandemic has made people so much more aware of their local facilities – we know ourselves that in August last year when we reopened we saw lots of new visitors who had never been to The Lightbox before. They literally lived within 15 minutes walk of us and had never visited but the lack of opportunity to travel had given them the incentive to 'look local'.

It is predicted that there will be a thirst to do things together as we have been starved of each other’s company for so long. Family activities will be popular and the chance to share experiences and join group activities – all good news for museums and galleries. We know there is also a real renewed interest in the countryside and nature and getting out. We have all had the chance to become so much more aware of what is in our gardens and along the routes, we have walked daily – this is great news for landscaped gardens and parks, and we know that local places like Wisley and Painshill have seen visitor numbers they have never experienced before. We will be putting together some local walks, using the canal, and walks to other historic sites so you can enjoy some heritage and nature combined.

The report concludes with some encouraging and heartening news. Museums and galleries will have the chance to develop three ways of working with their visitors, face to face and aren’t we all glad that will return next week, but also digital is now a recognised part of our offer to visitors and there will be a greater emphasis on the museum getting out to communities – something we have done for a long time with our work at Woking Hospice and local care homes as well as schools. Reaching people where they are and taking our service to them will be a focus for the future.

At The Lightbox, we have crucial months ahead when I will be leading the organisation back to financial health and ensuring that we return to our role as a major cultural organisation in the South East during the recovery period we are about to enter. We are so grateful to all those people who have supported us financially through the last incredibly difficult year and for all the supportive messages that have really kept us going when things felt at their most desperate.

We reopen to general visitors on 25 May and on Saturday 29 May we will open our next Main Gallery exhibition showing the work of Michael Ayrton, curated by renowned art critic Andrew Lambirth. Ayrton is one of the lesser-known artists from The Ingram Collection and his work certainly deserves to be better known. The exhibition is drawn from our own Ingram Collection but also from other galleries around the UK and the Ayrton estate. I am sure that you will find his work interesting and refreshingly different, we will be showing both sculpture and painting and items relating to the artist’s life and work.

As I stare out on grey skies, I can only hope the summer is going to be a good one weather-wise, I hear rumours of a heatwave in July, and everyone will be able to enjoy the garden and outside space, for lunch and afternoon tea. Like all caterers, The Tipsy Pigs have had an exceedingly difficult year and we so look forward to welcoming them back to serve their delicious food. Please do come and support them when you can. 

I know that for many people the loss of The Lightbox as a place of refuge, solace, and friendship during our closure has been very keenly felt. The importance of art to our quality of life is considerable and we strongly believe that 'art has the power to make you feel good'.

We cannot wait to open our doors again and welcome you back.

Wednesday 5 May

Hello everyone,

This has been a big week for me personally as, just in case you have not caught up with the news, I announced yesterday that I will be standing down from my role as Director of The Lightbox in November this year. I have had an amazing 20 years with the organisation which has given me so much personal pleasure but also great pride in what has been achieved. I consider that I have been incredibly privileged to have been able to develop a project from early stage right through to completion and then to have been able to create a successful cultural organisation, deeply rooted in its community. This is an opportunity not afforded to many and it is clearly one of the great achievements of my career.

I want to pay tribute to all of those who I have worked with during my time at The Lightbox – Trustees, volunteers, and above all fantastic staff who have been a constant inspiration. It is the people involved with this great organisation along with our partnerships and mutual support that has led to the success we see today.

Over the last 20 years, The Lightbox has achieved more than anyone ever expected and one of my proudest achievements is the establishment of a nationally recognised exhibition programme that features household names as well as the work of emerging artists and support for the local arts community. Our museum and its role to introduce the history of the town and create a sense of place is also something I am immensely proud of. Neither of these achievements would be possible without a dedicated team of staff and volunteers that I have been honoured to work with.

Many volunteers and supporters have become friends and I cannot over-emphasise the amazing contribution they have made to our success. I leave the organisation with a great sense of accomplishment and confidence that the charity is in a strong position to flourish under new leadership. I take incredible memories and unforgettable experiences with me when I stand down later this year, The Lightbox has an incredible future, and I will continue to support in whatever way I can.

I have, however, crucial months ahead when I will be leading the organisation back to financial health and ensure that we return to our role as a major cultural hub in the South East during the recovery period we are about to enter. We are so grateful to all those people who have supported us financially through the last incredibly difficult year and for all the supportive messages that have really kept us going when things felt at their most desperate.

We reopen to general visitors on 25 May and on Saturday 29 May we will open our next Main Gallery exhibition showing the work of Michael Ayrton, curated by renowned art critic Andrew Lambirth. Ayrton is one of the lesser-known artists from The Ingram Collection and his work certainly deserves to be better known. The exhibition is drawn from our own Ingram Collection but also from other galleries around the UK and the Ayrton estate. I am sure that you will find his work interesting and refreshingly different, we will be showing both sculpture and painting and items relating to the artist’s life and work.

In the Art Fund Prize Gallery, we are showing the work of Nagihan Seymour, her beautiful, detailed paintings have been shown at The Lightbox before, but this time Nagihan has used the last year of lockdown to amazing effect and her work is simply stunning. It is also for sale so if you want to add something of beauty to your home, please do take a look. In our Ambassador Room gallery – new for this summer  – we will be showing exciting work by MFA Photography students from UCA Farnham. In the Upper Gallery, the real talent of local Woking artists will be on show in our Victoria Place Art Competition exhibition.

We cannot wait to open our doors again and welcome you back.

Wednesday 28 April

Hello everyone,

The Lightbox is really full of hustle and bustle this week as we prepare for reopening. We are cleaning and smartening up like never before and making sure that we are ready for you all to return and have a safe and pleasant experience. Social distancing will still be very much in place, but we hope that The Lightbox will feel like the place you know and love.

Many of you will have received a survey from us this week. I am sure filling in surveys is not your favourite occupation, but this one is so important for us to hear about any worries or concerns you might have about coming back to visit, and it will help us to be able to take action to make you feel safer or make it easier for you when you return. I do hope that you can find time to fill this in for us.

I just wanted to run through again what our reopening arrangements are – we have had lots of phone enquiries over the last week, so we know that you are beginning to plan your trips which is so exciting. We will once again be limiting numbers in the building and you will be able to book a slot online starting at the beginning of May.   

On Saturday and Sunday 22 and 23 May, we will be open only for members, as a thank you to all of you who have taken out a membership or renewed during our closed period. Your loyalty and support have been hugely valued so we wanted to say thank you by giving you a preview weekend. We will have on display a new exhibition showing the prize-winners from the Victoria Place art competition held last summer, these are all local Woking artists showing the wealth of talent we have in the Borough. We will have a new exhibition space just opened – for the summer, the Ambassador Room will become a gallery displaying the work of a range of artists and artists groups who would have been on show in the Art Fund Prize Gallery last year. This will give us four great gallery spaces for you to see when you visit.

We reopen to general visitors on 25 May and on Saturday 29 May we will open our next Main Gallery exhibition showing the work of Michael Ayrton, curated by renowned art critic Andrew Lambirth. Ayrton is one of the lesser-known artists from The Ingram Collection and his work certainly deserves to be better known. The exhibition is drawn from The Ingram Collection but also from other galleries around the UK and the Ayrton estate. I am sure that you will find his work interesting and refreshingly different, we will be showing both sculpture and painting and items relating to the artist’s life and work.

Our programme of online talks has been continuing during our closed period but as we all get out and about more, we very much hope to return to in-person talks and Thursday Lates so we can fill the building with 'real people' once more. We hope the summer is going to be a good one weathe-wise and everyone will be able to enjoy the garden and outside space for lunch and afternoon tea and evening drinks on our late openings. Like all caterers, Tipsy Pigs have had an exceedingly difficult year and we so look forward to welcoming them back to serve their delicious food. Please do come and support them when you can. 

On that weekend we will be announcing the winner of the small sculpture donated by Julian Wild. Every member with a valid membership will be entered into the prize draw, so if you are thinking about joining or renewing please do it before 29 May to have a chance to win this lovely sculpture by the artist whose work has recently joined our collection, with his work Wallflower now sitting proudly on the gabion wall alongside Victoria Way.


Julian Wild, Element © Julian Wild

We will also be reopening Woking’s Story, now closed for over a year. Describing the history of our town is such an important part of what we do. Creating a sense of place, particularly for young people is so important to understanding the past and indeed what the future holds. We believe this is a crucial part of our role as a community hub. With many new residents coming into the borough the chance to get to know Woking is very much what we provide, and we look forward to being able to play our part again this year. 

Wednesday 21 April

Hello everyone,

I do hope that you are all well and really enjoying the sunshine and the spring-like feel. I have just returned from a long weekend down in Sussex. I must say it felt very strange to be outside Surrey for the first time since last year. There is definitely a renewed feeling of life everywhere with people sitting outside cafes and pubs and shops opening their doors again.

For a brief moment, sitting outside a café, it was possible to almost imagine that the last year had not happened at all as everything began to feel a lot more like normal. The countryside in Sussex was looking wonderful and I was lucky enough to book to visit Great Dixter, the wonderful gardens created by Christopher Lloyd surrounding the beautiful restored Wealden manor house which was his home.

  

The tulips were simply magnificent and visitors were enjoying the chance to just sit and luxuriate in the warm sunshine. I certainly realised how much I had missed visiting gardens and houses over the last year when our chance to do the things we enjoy has been restricted to just a few months last summer when we still had the prospect of another lockdown hanging over us.

We know that there are many of you who are waiting to come back and enjoy the visiting experience at The Lightbox and I can assure you we are waiting for that reopening moment just as eagerly as you are. Work has started on the big clean up – it’s sad to say that just like our own homes, even if you don’t use rooms or ever go in them, they still get very dusty so all the galleries are due for a big spring clean and we will at long last be removing the Christmas tree from the café with a big sigh of relief!

Please do remember to put our own reopening date in your diary – 22 May if you are a Member and our opening for other visitors on 25 May. On 29 May we reopen the Main Gallery with an exhibition of the work of Michael AyrtonThis show has been curated by art critic Andrew Lambirth and provides an overview of the artistic life of this renowned 20th-century artist. We have had so many calls about this exhibition we know that it will be popular. Ayrton is one of the lesser-known figures of Modern British Art but really deserves discovery so please do come along and join us for that exhibition.

So many members have renewed their membership without knowing when they will be able to walk through our doors again and many kind people have joined without having the enjoyment of being able to come in and see our exhibitions. To all of you we are so incredibly grateful – please keep renewing because 22 May is not that far away. We will also be reopening Woking’s Story, now closed for over a year.

On Friday 23 April, St Georges Day, and of course Shakespeare’s birthday, we will be holding some literary events not to be missed. I am especially looking forward to Alison Weir’s talk about her latest book in her wives of Henry VIII series. Alison is such a talented author and is always happy to give fascinating facts that are behind the creation of her latest work. Tickets are still available for Friday at 7.00pm so please do consider joining Alison for her talk. 

Wednesday 14 April

Hi everyone,

I hope everyone survived the very unexpected snow on Monday – hopefully, we are now back to warmer temperatures and enjoying spring. I felt sorry for all those pubs and cafés launching themselves back into life only to find deserted tables on Monday covered in snow. This was quickly put right yesterday as café culture hit Woking – there were many people sitting outside town centre cafés, enjoying the sunshine and just enjoying being out and about once more.

Please do remember to put our own reopening date in your diary, Saturday 22 May if you are a memberand our opening for the general visitors on Tuesday 25 May. On 29 May, we reopen the Main Gallery with an exhibition of the work of Michael Ayrton, curated by art critic Andrew Lambirth, an overview of the artistic life of this renowned 20th-century artist.

We will also be reopening Woking’s Story, now closed for over a year. It will be such a joy to be able to open our Heritage Collection once more. The privilege of being the keepers of the history of our town is always present for us and we take great pride in welcoming thousands of school children in a normal year to learn more about the place they live and to discover many unknown facts and stories. The delight they show in trying on costumes or handling WWII gas masks is great to see and the absolute best learning is done while you are having fun as well.

A less well-known area of our work is the support we give to other heritage sites in the borough, using our expertise to help in the preservation of the many places around Woking which have national significance. We were recently involved in the preparation of a masterplan for Brookwood Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Western Europe and of unique historic significance. The cemetery has the potential to become a major visitor destination because of its incredibly special history and the important memorials it contains and an ongoing restoration programme, supported by Woking Borough Council is underway.

We also support Woking Palace, the hidden Tudor gem in Old Woking and we worked alongside the Friends of Woking Palace to deliver a lottery-funded project which allowed three years of excavations to take place on the site and a new exhibition to be created in Woking’s Story in 2018.

We are particularly proud to have been involved in the research for the restoration of The Peace Garden, formerly The Muslim Burial Ground. This is still a relatively unknown feature in Woking’s significant Muslim history, soldiers from the First World War being buried here after returning from France, firstly to The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, where sadly many died. For many years, the site lay derelict but thanks to work by Horsell Common Preservation Society and Woking Borough Council an ambitious restoration has been carried out which we were pleased to play a part in. We believe that our role as a local museum is to support and encourage the preservation of heritage all around the Borough as well as in our own building – there is always something to do and someone who needs help!

I know that for many people the loss of The Lightbox as a place of refuge, solace, and friendship during our closure has been very keenly felt. The importance of art to our quality of life is considerable and we strongly believe that "art has the power to make you feel good".

Once again, I must also thank all those people who have donated, become members, paid for our online events. All these actions help The Lightbox to survive and to continue to provide services to our community. The support we have received financially has been unprecedented – so much generosity from so many of our supporters, which will allow us to face reopening with confidence.

We cannot wait to open our doors again and welcome you back.

Wednesday 7 April

Hello everyone,

My excitement about warm weather and sunshine has certainly been depleted since last week. The freezing temperatures of the last few days have definitely made us realise that summer is not here after all! However, we are thrilled to let you know that we will be reopening on Saturday 22 May  firstly with a Members' weekend to thank all our loyal members for their help and loyalty throughout the last year. We reopen to the general public on Tuesday 25 May.

So many members have renewed their membership without knowing when they will be able to walk through our doors again and many members have joined without having the enjoyment of being able to come in and see our exhibitions. To all of you we are so incredibly grateful – please keep renewing because the 22 May is not that far away.

We will be featuring a lovely new exhibition showing all the artworks selected as prize-winners for the Victoria Place Art Project. The standard for this competition which we ran in 2020 was incredibly high. Just to remind you, in order to enter you had to live or work in Woking and the winning entries would be selected to go forward for permanent display in the Victoria Place residential apartments or in the new Hilton Hotel. Our new exhibition will give an opportunity to see the fantastic range of work from photography to textiles which were selected as prize-winners.

On 29 May we reopen the Main Gallery with an exhibition of the work of Michael Ayrton  this show has been curated by art critic Andrew Lambirth and provides an overview of the artistic life of this renowned twentieth-century artist.


Michael Ayrton, Roman Window, 1950, Oil on canvas © Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

Today is World Health Day and, of course, for many people this year, their thoughts will turn to mental health, as well as to the pandemic, and the countries where cases are still rising. The impact of the pandemic on our mental health has been significant and I believe it will affect us long after we all return to social contact and travel once more. For many people, a year of their lives has disappeared and for young people, career and education plans have been changed with a fundamental impact on their lives.

This situation makes the existence of organisations like ours, which use art and creative activities to help wellbeing and mental health, even more important. I know that for many people the loss of The Lightbox as a place of refuge, solace, and friendship during our closure has been very keenly felt. The importance of art to our quality of life is considerable and we strongly believe that "art has the power to make you feel better".

All over the country, galleries and museums are struggling with the enormous financial repercussions of a year being closed and we are so grateful that Arts Council England has supported us with funding from the second round of the Culture Recovery Fund, announced at the end of March. This money will be vital in our reopening programme and help us to offset the impact of only being open for ten weeks during the whole of last year. Thank you, Arts Council, for your belief in us and your support.

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 31 March

Hello everyone,

I do hope you are all enjoying the wonderful sunshine, the magnolia looking beautiful everywhere and spring flowers appearing in your garden. The mild weather has certainly made everyone feel a little lighter in spirit and more optimistic about a real opening up of all the things we enjoy once more. May still seems a long way away for us but it does give us chance to clean and tidy after the long winter.

We are working a lot on The Lightbox courtyard so as we can welcome you back to sit in the sun with a lovely coffee and cake from The Tipsy Pigs. Seems an awfully long time since we have been able to do that, but we simply cannot wait! Sadly, many of our favourite restaurants have disappeared for now from Woking town centre, so places to sit outside are limited. Do remember The Tipsy Pigs and their delicious food if you want some outside eating when restaurants reopen in May. 

I wonder if you have had a chance yet to see the new Sean Henry sculpture outside the newly reopened Boots store. She is like her companion sculpture in Peacocks Centre, a larger-than-life female figure, striding towards the new Victoria Place development. When I saw her last week, I was reminded of the huge focus there has been on statues over the last year – the controversy surrounding statues of colonial figures prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, discussions around the general lack of female figures represented with statues around the country. It is not often that an art form generates so much interest.

I was pleased to see local Surrey sculptor Christine Charlesworth on Breakfast News last week discussing an important commission she has been given. Christine is the sculptor of the statue of Greta Thurnberg unveiled at The University of Winchester yesterday. There was discussion around whether a 17-year-old justifies having a sculpture made of her, but Christine was able to defend the choice of subject by the University, and of course, its place in the centre of the University means it will be seen by many young people of a similar age, for whom the sculpture will represent the important values which Greta embodies.

Christine is also the creator of a statue of Dame Ethel Smyth which will be set on-site in Woking town centre in May 2021. Christine already has a sculpture in Woking in the town square, Paralympian Ade Adepitan can be seen just outside the former Café Rouge building in Gloucester Walk.

We are very much hoping that during the summer Sean Henry will lead a walk around all his sculptures in Woking giving some background on what inspired each of the six works that are now in place from the station through to The Lightbox. We have the wonderful Sleeping Man in our own courtyard, and it will be good for him to be back on view when we reopen.

All over the country galleries and museums are struggling with the enormous financial repercussions of a year being closed and we can only be grateful for all the emergency funding which has been made available and all those wonderful people who have made donations and answered our plea for help. We must pay tribute to our local authority Woking Borough Council who continues to support us through these difficult times and to all our members who have renewed their membership and remained loyal and understanding to our difficulties.

Once again, I must thank you, your response to our own financial problems has been outstanding and we are so grateful. If you are in a position to help please consider donating whatever you can or booking one of our exciting online events. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term. The support we have received financially has been unprecedented – so much generosity from so many of our supporters, which will allow us to face reopening with confidence.

We cannot wait to open our doors again and welcome you back.

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 24 March

Hello everyone,

I am sure all the commemorations yesterday reminded us of how devastating the last year has been. The pandemic has impacted all of us, but I am very thankful that the wonderful Lightbox family has all stayed fit and well, and despite furloughing many of our staff we have all stayed together in spirit and kept in touch regularly through Zoom meetings.

I wanted to record my thanks to two members of staff leaving us soon. Maraiga Bailey, our Exhibitions & Collections Officer, is moving off to new pastures at The Millennium Galleries in Sheffield where she will be performing a similar role to the one at The Lightbox, but significantly closer to friends and family. Also, to Cordelia Wren, our Head of Development, who is returning to her previous specialism of marketing for a commercial agency in London. We wish her well in the big bad corporate world and hope she still keeps in touch and comes to see us.

In other staff news, Pru Shackley, our Operations Director, had a lovely baby girl Sofia recently. Both are doing well – Pru has her hands full at the moment but she will be returning to us in October. We hope that by the time Pru returns we will once more be operating under normal or near-normal conditions. As you know much of the time The Lightbox is buzzing, the café is full at lunchtime with people from nearby offices and local residents enjoying meeting friends, and the galleries friendly and calm with our wonderful volunteers always there to help.

During the summer, we will be staging one of the high spots of our exhibition programme, Lines of Beauty: Master Drawings from Chatsworthwhen will see some of this country’s greatest art treasures travelling from Derbyshire to Woking with an opportunity to see drawings that rarely leave The Duke of Devonshire’s collection. We are delighted that this loan, first discussed five years ago, will, at last, come to our gallery to be enjoyed by our visitors.

We know that many people who have traditionally travelled to London for their cultural fix will be looking for things to do nearer home and, of course, there are many who during our brief period of opening last summer, discovered the local gallery on their doorstep. We will welcome you all back at the end of May and we promise a thoroughly exciting programme throughout the whole year.

I keep thinking ahead to when the garden will be full of flowers and the galleries full of art, and we can once more open Woking’s Story which we have all missed so much over the last year. The exact details of our reopening will be released soon on the website, but we really hope to be able to make it an incredibly special occasion for everyone.

For those of you who visited from August to October, I hope you felt equally safe to visiting shops and possibly even safer than visiting a supermarket, so we will welcome you with open arms. It is a great time to renew your membership as our reopening is now in sight, be ready to come back and enjoy free entry to our exhibitions and your discount on all our events.

Before that great day when we reopen with special opportunities for members, our programme of talks and activities online will continue. Our Easter holiday children’s programme begins next week with all kinds of lovely activities – we hope for wall-to-wall sunshine but if that doesn’t happen do check out The Lightbox website if you need to find something for smaller people to do. Our talks programme continues online tomorrow evening with an in-conversation with Anne-Katrin Purkiss, a photographer whose work was featured in a great exhibition at The Lightbox in 2019, so if you have not yet booked for this evening please consider joining us.

We cannot wait to open our doors again and welcome you back! Please make a note to return to us once we reopen in late May.

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 17 March

Hello everyone,

Happy St Patrick's Day! This week feels very momentous for all of us as we look back to a year ago when we closed our doors for the first time. It has been a very tough year for everyone and the museum and gallery sector has seen galleries and museums closed for the very first time in their history. The National Gallery, for example, did not even close in the Second World War but kept welcoming people throughout the blitz to enjoy lunchtime concerts even if the art had been moved to safer locations.

As you know much of the time The Lightbox is buzzing with school children, the café is full at lunchtime with people from nearby offices and local residents enjoying meeting friends, and the galleries friendly and calm with our wonderful volunteers always there to help. To have only been open for 10 weeks over the last year has been devastating for all of us who love the gallery.

All over the country galleries and museums are struggling with the enormous financial repercussions of a year being closed and we can only be grateful for all the emergency funding which has been made available and all those wonderful people who have made donations and answered the cries for help.

We must pay tribute to our local authority, Woking Borough Council, who continues to support us through these difficult times and to all our members who have renewed their membership and remained loyal and understanding to our difficulties. I keep thinking ahead to when the garden will be full of flowers and the gallery full of art and we can once more open Woking’s Story which we have all missed so much over the last year.

On such a bright and sunny morning it feels wrong to dwell on the past and we are all being encouraged to look forward and I do indeed see many positive things that have come out of the last year. Our team has stayed together and become even closer than before, despite furlough and remote working.

We have all turned our attention to creating good digital content and keeping in touch that way. Our talks programme has continued online and this evening we have an event not to be missed. Sophie Ryder, who I interviewed in person in 2019, will talk about her work as a renowned sculptor – we are privileged to have some of her wonderful animal sculptures in the collection and I know her talk will be full of anecdotes and inspiration so if you have not yet booked for this evening please consider joining us.

The Lightbox team has been able to keep in touch with all our volunteers and check-in all year making sure they are all staying well. We have also been able to assist in the delivery of activity parcels to families throughout the borough – art materials to help young families in lockdown – providing a creative outlet to counteract the effects of hours spent staring at a computer screen. We continue this activity this month with support from Arts Council funding.

We do of course now know that we will be able to reopen in late May and we sincerely hope that this will be the end of closures for the foreseeable future – we hope in fact forever! The exact details of our reopening will appear on the website and in this blog, but we really hope to be able to make it an incredibly special occasion for everyone.

We cannot wait to open our doors again and welcome you back.

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 10 March

Hello everyone,

We have had a great start to our week with a lovely talk from Sarah Squire on Monday marking International Women's Day. The talk was interesting from two perspectives; Sarah spoke about her career and following in the footsteps of her father Colin, as she now runs the business which is an impressive range of 16 garden centres all over the South East.

She obviously referenced how she had found working in a traditionally male occupation and remarked that in her previous career as a lawyer she had experienced much greater prejudice than in horticulture, but she still championed the advancement of women in her own company, where she encouraged young women to take on senior management roles.

Gardening is perhaps more equal than many professions when we think of the number of high-profile women who have made gardening their life. This of course brings to mind the great Gertrude Jekyll, herself a famous Surrey resident, but in more recent times Beth Chatto, Charlie Dimmock who Sarah mentioned, and Rachel de Thane and Sarah Raven all well-known on television and in journalism.

It is important that young people become acquainted with diverse role models to encourage them to go into professions that might have been viewed as typically 'male' in the past. In my own area of museums and galleries, there was always a strong and stereotypical divide – all the junior roles were done by women, but all the museum Directors were men.

I am pleased to say that over the last 10 years there has been an incredibly welcome shift but there is still a way to go, in National Museums we currently have a woman director at Tate, at the Imperial War Museum, and at the Museum of London but in all cases, they are the first, and that leaves a lot of museums still very much a male province at Director level.

Sarah also spoke about the charitable role of her company and how her father has always believed that engagement with the community is vital for any business. We can only admire this approach. The support of Squires for The Lightbox has extended now for the last 14 years and their help with planting, Christmas trees, horticultural advice has been invaluable and has had a significant financial value for us.

This kind of corporate partnership which we enjoy with other Woking companies including Headline, Something Big, and Specsavers Woking is vital to our financial sustainability and we hope is an asset to their corporate image, in supporting a charity whose objectives they wholeheartedly support.

This week we have begun to contemplate reopening with more certainty following the various government announcements and guidance. We intend to reopen in late May following the opening of leisure facilities on 17 May. The exact details of our reopening will be confirmed on our website soon, but we really hope to be able to make it an incredibly special occasion for everyone. It is hard to think that over the last year we have only been open for 10 weeks so we sincerely hope that this time we will open our doors and they will stay open forever!

For those of you who visited from August to October, I hope you felt equally safe to visiting shops and possibly even safer than visiting a supermarket so we will welcome you with open arms. It is a great time to renew your membership as our reopening is now in sight, be ready to come back and enjoy free entry to our exhibitions and your discount on all our events.

I hope that you have all had a chance to look at the programme of digital events that is up on our website, we have many great talks coming up, as our whole programme has now moved on to digital. We have had highly successful talks which I know many of you have enjoyed and we are continually adding new events so keep an eye on our website for updates.

Once again, I must thank you - your faith in the organisation has been extraordinary and we can only say thank you many times over. If you are able please consider helping us, donate whatever you can, or attend one of our digital events. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term, so please do consider this. Your generosity allows us to face reopening with confidence.

We are confident that our enforced closure will not extend for too much longer, we cannot wait to open our doors again and welcome you back.

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 3 March

Hello everyone,  

I do hope you are keeping well and enjoying the lovely Spring sunshine we have been experiencing. This week we’ve begun planning for reopening in May, following the government announcement last week that museums and galleries can reopen from 17 May. We have really missed welcoming audiences and volunteers into our building so this timeline has given us a real boost of inspiration and positivity. Though we still have some details to finalise on the 2021 exhibitions and events, we are looking forward to sharing it with you all later this month. As a small thank you to our loyal Lightbox Members and patrons we will be offering first access booking (the membership team will be in touch with you all very soon with dates!).

I’m looking forward to International Women’s Day immensely, where I will be joined online in conversation with Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centre’s for a friendly discussion on the history of Garden Centre’s in the UK, and Sarah’s personal journey to working her way up to lead this thriving, family-owned garden centre group. Sarah will also be sharing some key insights on seasonal gardening so this discussion is highly recommended for those with green fingers.  

Find out more about the event and book your place here. I’m so pleased to welcome Sarah to our channels, as Squire’s believe that their garden centres should be at the absolute heart of the local community and welcomes families, friends and school visits to their community hubs. They support local activities and events and each centre selects their own charity of the year. In 2018, Squires donated 230,000 daffodil bulbs to local councils and 300 silver birch trees in 2020 as part of their 'Love Where You Live' campaign. Squire’s do so much good for the local community and it is truly inspiring.  

We so look forward to welcoming you back in May – if you love art and want to ensure that your local gallery is still there for your enjoyment then please do consider becoming a member or making a donation. We want to give back to our community so thank you for everything you are doing, and I hope to see you very soon. 

Stay safe and well, 
Marilyn 

Wednesday 24 February

Hello everyone,  

Unfortunately, this week my usual cheery demeanour of smile and keep moving on has been temporarily replaced by a very sad face! On Monday we were saddened to learn that museums and galleries will not reopen until at least 17 May, as part of step three of the government's reopening plan.

Many organisations in the sector have expressed anger and disappointment about this decision as it reflects a lack of understanding of the vital role that organisations like The Lightbox play in supporting the community's wellbeing. It is particularly upsetting as 'non-essential retail' and other public buildings such as libraries may open in April. The sector has also proved that it can adapt and safely offer an indoor experience with social distancing and other hygiene measures in place. There is no evidence that galleries and museums are sites of covid transmission. As tweeted by ALVA, the organisation that represents large museums and heritage sites, "If you can open H&M, you can open the V&A." 

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our lives and places, where we can safely relax and engage in restorative creative activities, are needed now more than ever. Despite this heavy blow, we remain optimistic, we ask our supporters and audiences to support us and other cultural institutions in lobbying to reopen in April. Please do write to your local Councillor or MP expressing your concerns and support sector campaigns on social media.  

I keep myself going by thinking of better days ahead when we reopen and can welcome our volunteers, supporters, and audiences back to The Lightbox. We will be announcing our 2021 programme of exhibitions and events very soon and have been working behind the scenes on our 'What's On' programme, which will be distributed later in the spring. Please do sign up here if you would like to receive one.  

I also take comfort in the new ways we've developed to keep in touch with our digital channels. This week we had a virtual coffee morning with our volunteers and will be hosting a quiz for all our volunteers on art and heritage very soon. We are incredibly fortunate to welcome wonderful artists and speakers to present workshops and events on our channels. We also have some great talks coming up in March so do take a look at our What’s On section on the website.   

I remain incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported us by purchasing a ticket to an event, giving a donation, or buying a membership. We hope our Lightbox Members have enjoyed complimentary access to online artists' talks in February as a small thank you for their ongoing support. We are so looking forward to welcoming you back in May when we're open and please do keep supporting us with your donations and by renewing your membership, it is such an incredible comfort to us to know that you are all still there for us. 

Keep safe and well and enjoy the spring sunshine!

Best,
Marilyn  

Wednesday 17 February

Hello everyone,

This week we have begun to contemplate reopening with perhaps a little more certainty as we anticipate the Prime Minister’s statement next week. One of the key issues for us is which sector museums and galleries belong to. We are of course on a national scale very small in number as organisations and therefore must be amalgamated with either hospitality or non-essential retail. After the last lockdown, we were joined with hospitality and therefore had to wait to reopen until restaurants could open – the very last of all groups.

This time many organisations have lobbied that we should be part of non-essential retail and therefore be early to reopen. The slogan 'If you can open H&M you can open the V&A' has been used in lobbying DCMS, and we really hope that the argument is accepted. For those of you who visited from August to October, I hope you felt equally safe to vising shops and possibly even safer than visiting a supermarket.

We anticipate that non-essential retail may reopen after Easter, so we have our sights set on an opening around that time, but of course, as we have learned over the last year, nothing is certain!   

I was interested this week to be contacted by the ONS to see if we could help with publicising the census which takes place in March. You may remember that I mentioned this in a previous blog when I quoted David Olusoga who was speaking about schoolchildren understanding why something like a census is so vital in understanding the past.

I realised that I did not know the history of the census except that they are vital for modern-day genealogy studies and how much fascinating information you can obtain from each census, tracking your ancestors around the country, often as they moved from place to place seeking work and following new industrial opportunities, rather than the relative poverty, for many, of agricultural life.

The census taken in 1841 is widely regarded as the first truly modern census, when the first Registrar General of England and Wales, John Lister, was made responsible for organising the count. The task of counting was passed on to local officers of the newly created registration service. For the first time, the head of each household was given a form to fill in on behalf of everyone in the household on a certain day. This system has stood the test of time, and it still forms the basis of the method we use today.

Since 1801 there has been a census every ten years except in 1941, during the Second World War. The basic principles of census taking remain the same, though new questions have been added and others have been omitted.

Up until 1911, the Government needed to introduce a new Census Act for every census held. This was changed by the 1920 Census Act which made it possible for the Government to hold a census at any time, once Parliament has approved the necessary 'secondary' legislation which lays out the details of a particular census, but no sooner than five years after the last census. From 1911 onwards, rapid social change, scientific breakthroughs, and major world events impacted the structure of the population.

A fire that destroyed census records in 1931 and the declaration of war in 1939, made the 1951 census hugely significant in recording more than 20 years of change over one of the most turbulent periods in British history. We hope to be able to provide more information on what the census of previous years tells us about Woking to help raise awareness through social media and our website of how important each census return is.

I hope that you have all had a chance to look at the programme of digital events that is up on our website, we have many great talks coming up, as our whole programme has now moved online. We have had two recent highly successful talks which I know many of you have enjoyed and we are continually adding new events so keep an eye on our website for updates.

Once again, I must thank you, your response to our own financial problems has been outstanding and we are so grateful. If you are in a position to help, please donate whatever you can or book onto our events and workshops. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term, so please do consider this. The support we have received financially has been unprecedented, with so much generosity from so many of our supporters, which will allow us to face reopening with confidence.

We hope that our enforced closure will not extend for too much longer, we cannot wait to open our doors again and welcome you back.

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 10 February

Hello everyone,

We have better news this week for those of us based in Woking. The very prompt response to the variant virus seems to have achieved testing of the area concerned efficiently, and having accompanied an elderly neighbour to the vaccine delivery at the McLaren building was really excellent as well. The way forward seems quite clear but how long it takes us to get there is the question.

We are all very frustrated at not being able to plan for reopening and so hope that post-Easter we might have a clearer pathway. Having secured our Raphael exhibition for longer, with the help and support of The Royal Collection, we do hope that we will be able to give you the chance again to see this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.

If all goes to plan our year will strongly feature wonderful Old Master Drawings as, in October, we will show one of the best collections of these drawings in the world. We are fortunate that the Chatsworth Collection has allowed us to borrow some of their greatest masterpieces. This exhibition is a partnership with Museums Sheffield and Chatsworth, and I can see that, in the future, the only way to stage these expensive exhibitions will be through partnerships. We have shared costs of insurance, transport, packing, and conservation which has made it affordable for all.

It is clear that with the financial constraints all arts organisations will face over the coming years, because of the huge deficits they have suffered due to closure, big blockbuster exhibitions may just not happen or can only happen if costs are shared. This may seem quite logical and perhaps we may question, why this has not happened before.

Our sector is naturally collaborative, and we have always worked in partnership with other organisations, but often the amount of time a precious drawing or painting can be on display, exposed to light and different atmosphere is limited, making exhibitions at multiple venues difficult. We have overcome this with the Old Master Drawings project by holding the exhibitions at the three venues with lots of time between when the works can rest back in the safety of their storage boxes.

It was incredibly sad for Museums Sheffield that their exhibition was staged last year and was only open for a very few weeks before the pandemic closed the gallery, we are hoping that the same fate does not befall our exhibition. Fingers crossed!

On a sad note, I wanted to pay tribute to Phillip Arnold who passed away last week. Phillip was dedicated to the history and heritage of Woking and was a great friend to The Lightbox. He wrote many of the walks leaflets which can be purchased from our shop each leaflet detailing a new aspect of Woking history. His knowledge of the Borough was outstanding, and his research skills would be the envy of many young historians. A prominent member of Woking History Society for many years and the Friends of Woking Palace, his enthusiasm for the establishment of a Museum in Woking helped our cause back in the late 1990s. Latterly he spent many years caring for his wife Marjorie when she became ill. Our sincere condolences go to his family.

I hope that you have all had a chance to look at the programme of digital events that is up on our website, we have many great talks coming up, as our whole programme has now moved on to digital. We have workshops for half term to keep smaller people busy and a great range of adult talks including a behind-the-scenes look at the Raphael exhibition with its curator Michael Regan. Many of you will know Michael well – he has been our Associate Curator now for many years and the range of exhibitions he has curated have been quite extraordinary – from Handbags and Heels, the wonderful show which brought one of the finest handbag collections in the world from Amsterdam to the beautiful Scottish Colourists in 2018 which proved one of our most popular shows ever. Raphael has been a triumph for him again and the result of 3 years of research and planning.

Please come back when we can open our arms in welcome once more, I miss you so much and hope to see you all there!

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 3 February

Hello everyone,

It is proving an interesting week for Woking – but perhaps not in a good way! The Lightbox postcode GU21 has perhaps never been in the news quite so prominently. We hope that all of you in our local area reading this – particularly Goldsworth Park and St Johns, are keeping well and keeping inside as much as you can. It is reassuring to know that testing is now underway and the news that the vaccine is effective against this variant could not have come at a better time for Woking.

It has also been an incredibly sad week as we learn of the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore. He lived in the next village to where I was brought up, so I always felt a connection with him, and his death is such an enormous blow, given the fantastic work he did in inspiring the nation. What I found interesting in all the news coverage was that his life was very much placed in a historic context, his war service and early life focussed on, which to me gave greater significance to his incredible age. Anyone who is 100 was born in the aftermath of WWI, lived through the economic difficulties of the 1930s, and then became embroiled in yet another World War all before they were 30. Most of our lives have been lived in much calmer times and this pandemic is the first time our liberty has been affected and that our freedom has had to be limited for our own survival.

I am and always have been rather obsessed with history, which is of course why I do the work I do. My father took me to museums and historic sites from around the age of 4 and encouraged my love of ‘old things’. This was not shared by my mother who would nevertheless accompany us – on one occasion to be found asleep on a bench at The Tower of London as she despaired of us ever coming back. That visit still stays with me every time I go to the Tower; I now realise of course having a professional interest in these things that it was the stories that came with our visits that fascinated me. To stand on the spot at The Tower where executions took place and to look from a window in one of the rooms out onto the Thames and imagine someone being imprisoned there for years really got my imagination racing.

The love of stories has stayed with me and is always my mantra when talking to our Exhibitions team. We always look for the hidden story which I believe makes our exhibitions just that little bit different. Storytelling does not preclude scholarship, it just helps people to identify and learn something different from every show, instead of often quite uninformative object labels.

Our Heritage team, who are all volunteers, come up with some amazing small displays focussing on topics of local history. The detail and stories they unearth from our historic collection are incredibly special and I am constantly in awe of their knowledge of a Woking long disappeared, but of course not forgotten.

It has been a great sadness to me that we have been unable to open Woking’s Story during the brief time the building was open, due to the cleaning issues with all our interactives. We very much hope when we can re-open in spring/summer that we will find a solution and that our collection will be open to view once more. Knowledge of our past is a guide to our present and our future and is such an important subject for young people that is often overlooked.

I was reading that the renowned historian David Olusoga is to present a programme for the BBC education series speaking about how important the census is and why we do a census every 10 years. For those of you who have ventured into genealogy to find out about your ancestors, you will know that every census since 1841 gives us fascinating detail about our forebears and in time the census from this century will give our descendants fascinating detail about the lives we live now. History informs the future as well as tells us about the past in ways we often overlook.

The support we have received financially has been unprecedented – so much generosity from so many of our supporters, which will allow us to face reopening with confidence. In the meantime, please follow us digitally, we have a lot of amazing content for you ranging from storytelling for little ones to adult workshops and more great talks.

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 27 January

Hi everyone,

It has been an interesting week for arts news, so I will just mention a few of the things I have picked up. Tristram Hunt Director of the V&A, who is, we hope, to be a guest at a fundraising event at The Lightbox later this year, has been in the press to publicise an amazing project that they have just completed. The Raphael Cartoons are a set of seven full-scale designs for a series of tapestries created by Raphael and are considered one of the greatest treasures of the Renaissance.

In 2019, as part of the project to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael's death, the V&A worked with Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation to carry out an ultra-high-resolution recording of the seven Cartoons in colour, 3D and infrared. The images from the project are crucial for the study and future care of the Cartoons, as well as offering us unprecedented access to these masterpieces. These huge, full-scale designs for tapestries were created by Raphael and commissioned by Pope Leo X, shortly after his election in 1513. The process of tapestry-making involves an artist-designer who draws the composition and a weaver who translates the design into a woven textile. The composition is supplied in the form of full-scale preparatory drawings, usually (but not exclusively) executed on paper.

The word 'Cartoon' is translated from the Italian 'cartone', meaning 'large paper'. When Raphael was commissioned to produce the tapestry cartoons in about 1515, he was, at this point, at the peak of his career and the most celebrated artist in Rome. The Cartoons depict key episodes of the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Of the ten original designs only seven have survived and these can be seen today in the Raphael Court in the V&A. The V&A project allows us to see the cartoons in unprecedented detail in a slideshow on their website. For each painting, you can click on points of interest to discover more about its characters, symbolism, and Raphael's masterly technique. This project is of course particularly interesting considering our current exhibition which features Raphael’s drawings for one of the cartoons and indeed a tapestry produced from one of the cartoons, now in our Main Gallery and on loan from Boughton House. We are very much hoping to be able to re-open the exhibition in the spring and retain it until mid-May, with the kind assistance of The Royal Collection.

There is also news this week that in the US arts organisations are looking to see what difference President Biden will make to the visual arts. There is no culture department in the US government and funding comes through The National Endowment for the Arts which the previous president persistently threatened to close down and the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board, made up of practising artists like Chuck Close, all resigned during Trump's presidency. It is therefore hoped that Biden will restore the role of the arts and will see that one of the ways to restore public health and wellbeing, post-Covid may be through a newly supported arts sector.

Here in the UK museums and galleries still struggle financially during this third lockdown. To put some much-needed extra funds in the pot, some of the UK’s leading artists have also joined forces with Art Fund to launch the 'Together for Museums' crowdfunding campaign which aims to raise £1 million by offering a range of artworks in return for donations.

"Museums were really important to me growing up, they were a very important part of my life and my artistic education—and they continue to be", says Jeremy Deller, whose limited-edition screen print of a giant golden pangolin on a pedestal is one of the latest series of works released for the campaign. Each one of the £400 prints is in an edition of 75 and will be personally inscribed by the artist to the individual donor. As well as Deller's pangolin, other rewards are Cornelia Parker's print of a Falling Tumbler with Ice and the limited edition A Small Thing Enlarged being offered by the estate of Howard Hodgkin. These works join those of artists already involved in the campaign such as Anish Kapoor, Michael Landy and Lubaina Himid, with rewards for donors ranging from £25 for a set of David Shrigley tea towels to £4000 for Kapoor’s print.

Your response to our own financial difficulties has been outstanding and we are so grateful. Your faith in the organisation has been extraordinary and we can only say thank you many times over; please help us again – donate whatever you can and pay for our events if you are able. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term so do consider this. The support we have received financially has been unprecedented – so much generosity from so many of our supporters, which will allow us to face reopening with confidence. In the meantime, follow us digitally – we have a lot of amazing content for you ranging from storytelling for little ones to adult workshops and more great talks.

Please come back when we can open our arms in welcome once more – I hope to see you all there!

Wednesday 20 January

Hi everyone,

It feels very strange to say this but last week was actually a really good week for The Lightbox. We have become so accustomed to gloomy news and indeed things in the country are very grave but in our Lightbox world there were some real highlights.

I hope some of you were able to join us on Friday evening for a great talk by Andrew Graham-Dixon, the renowned art historian. Andrew has a real passion for all things Italian and the Renaissance in particular so when I invited him to give a talk for us on Raphael his response was incredibly enthusiastic.

Of course, originally, we would have welcomed him in person, but the exhibition dates changed and then we realised, with the third lockdown, we would be closed so he readily agreed to move the talk online. Andrew has been a great friend of The Lightbox over many years and he has given truly inspiring talks on both Turner and Constable when we had those exhibitions in place.

I find his talks are always very personal and reflect his amazing knowledge of art history but also always contain interesting anecdotes or lesser-known facts about the artist which always fascinate me. He has a light and non-academic style which makes him easy to listen to and never dull! If you like listening to him many of his talks can be found on YouTube – a perfect break from watching television or addictive Netflix series.

His talk on Friday did not disappoint as he gave us a very convincing talk on why Prince Albert was so inspired and fascinated by Raphael throughout his life. Andrew showed us some amazing images and the talk raised significant and much-needed funds for us, so we are extremely grateful to those of you who attended and added a donation to your payment.

Earlier in the week, we had been delighted to read Apollo Magazine and The Burlington Magazine, extremely influential art magazines in which a good review is highly coveted. Each magazine featured a review of the Raphael exhibition which were fulsome in their praise.

"The Lightbox in Woking has earned a reputation for innovative exhibitions and this show about Prince Albert’s passion for Raphael does not disappoint" is how the Apollo review begins and goes on to describe the exhibition in glowing detail. It does not get much better than that!

However, The Burlington says, "given the frequent anxiety about the sustainability of local museums and art galleries in the UK, the success of The Lightbox, founded on local fundraising and opened in 2007 on a site donated by the Borough Council is something to be celebrated […]. Particularly admirable is the way that it has sustained a programme of exhibitions that, although relatively small in scale, are both ambitious and original".

We were all so delighted and encouraged at such a difficult time to have our efforts recognised and of course, the efforts of all of you to keep us going and many of you who had been involved in the early founding referred to in the Burlington.

Here at The Lightbox, we are looking forward and hoping that we will be able to bring you more great exhibitions and events, as we miss all of that so much. We know now that the situation we are in is long term and so our planning must be looking towards spring and summer when we hope that we will be able to re-open for you.

Your response to our financial problems has been outstanding and we are so grateful. This new lockdown brings us even more challenges as we never expected to have to still be closed at this point in time, so our financial situation does worsen every week. Your faith in the organisation has been extraordinary and we can only say thank you many times over, please help us again – donate whatever you can and pay for our events if you are able. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term so please do consider this.

In the meantime, please follow us on social media – we have a lot of amazing content for you ranging from craft tutorials for the entire family to highlights from our collection and more great talks.

Please come back when we can open our arms in welcome once more, I hope to see you all soon!

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 13 January

Hi everyone,

I wanted to wish you all a rather belated, but nonetheless, sincere Happy New Year!

I think we have all been rather reluctant to send this usual greeting to friends and family this year because it is hard to see any light at the end of a very long tunnel but we have to try to look forward with some degree of hope and trust that before the year is out we will be able to do all those things we enjoy again.

Here at The Lightbox we are looking forward and hoping so much that we will be able to bring you more great exhibitions and events, as we miss all of that so much. The end of last year was really upsetting for all of us as we opened again in December, hoping that we would be able to have a lovely festive few weeks with last-minute shopping and mulled wine and mince pies in the Café, but of course, the festive feel was short-lived as we entered a closure period again. We know now that the situation we are in is long term and so our planning must be looking towards spring and summer when we hope that we will be able to re-open for you.

I am delighted and hugely impressed by how our team has created online content so quickly to keep everyone engaged. My thanks to our Learning and Marketing teams for everything they are doing to still bring our programme to you at home. This Friday there is a real highlight for me as we welcome Andrew Graham-Dixon to the virtual Lightbox to talk about the Raphael exhibition. Some of you will have attended Andrew’s two previous talks with us – one during the Turner exhibition and one during Constable. Both talks were absolutely fantastic, and this time he will speak on a subject very special to him. As you know from his TV programmes, all things Italian are very dear to Andrew and Raphael is one of his specialist areas. If you have not booked a ticket yet, please do go and sign up – there is still time!

Your response to our financial situation has been absolutely outstanding and we are so grateful. This new lockdown brings us even more challenges as we never expected to have to still be closed at this point in time. Your faith in the organisation has been extraordinary and we can only say thank you many times over, but also now I have to ask if you will help us again – please donate whatever you can and book for our events if you are able. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term so please do consider this. The support we have received financially has been unprecedented – so much generosity from so many of our supporters which will allow us to face reopening with confidence.

I want to wish a special Happy New Year to all our volunteers – you will be back because, without you, The Lightbox could not function and would not be the wonderful friendly place it is.

It is incredibly sad that we must begin 2021 with a closed building, I have missed seeing many of you in person for the whole of last year, but I know we will be welcoming you back – we hope so much that might be at Easter and we are currently hoping that we might be able to retain Raphael for a little longer, as so many people were unable to see the exhibition in the very brief weeks we were able to open last year.

I keep myself going by picturing The Lightbox in the spring sunshine, opening our doors to greet you all again. We are so proud to be able to offer a national museum experience here in Woking – we know how much you value that opportunity, and we hope that when we reopen you will encourage friends, colleagues, family to visit because without your support we would probably not still be here, and Surrey would, I think, be a sadder place. The trend to get to know your local area better and to value what you have on the doorstep makes so much sense environmentally and for health and wellbeing.

So, the message is – please keep supporting us financially as we face another period with no income, if you are able – it is easy to donate through our website or take out a membership. Please come back when we can open our arms in welcome once more and don’t forget that great talk on Friday evening – I hope to see you all there!

Best,
Marilyn