Tuesday 26 May 2020

I do hope that you all enjoyed a lovely Bank Holiday weekend – the weather was glorious in the latter part and it so helped to be able to sit in the garden and realise that whatever is happening within society, nature remains the same. The birds sing and all the beautiful peonies still bloom.

I had the best start to my weekend when I heard late on Friday that we had received Emergency Funding from Arts Council England. We are so incredibly grateful to receive support from this lottery fund and we are above all grateful to everyone who purchases lottery tickets - the funds of which support creative arts all over the country. ACE have been long-time supporters of The Lightbox through project-funding since all the way back in 2003 when they gave funding to our project 'Radiance' which funded the ground-breaking ceremony before construction of our beautiful building began. Through a scheme called Art+, they also funded the beautiful light installation by artist Peter Freeman which created the coloured lights and glass which now grace our ground floor window. Since opening, they have funded a number of our projects including our community support work and a major piece of audience development research looking at how we engage younger audiences. Thank you, Arts Council England.

I think what has become very obvious to me over the last months is that all the partnerships we have forged, sometimes over long periods, have become even more important. Trust between organisations and recognition of shared aims is key when times are hard, and we really recognise the value of long-term support. Many of our supporters, both individual and companies, are sticking by us and renewing memberships and making donations, realising that only through their support can we continue to operate with no income coming in.

The Lightbox owes its very existence to partnership, from our early beginnings, when Woking Borough Council had the foresight to create the right conditions to allow an arts organisation to thrive in the town. Local organisations like Woking History Society and Woking Art Society threw all their support behind us to make sure the project happened. We have gone on to build on those partnerships to include local companies like Squires and Ewbanks, who provide financial and in-kind support and in return enjoy seeing their name associated with an acclaimed local project.

We are working very closely with the arts and attractions community in Surrey to make judgements about reopening. Our friends at Painshill will be re-opening this coming Thursday in line with government recommendations on ticketed gardens. They need to make their income through the summer when their main paying audience comes. Once the chilly Autumn winds start, their visitor numbers naturally decline. Our task is slightly different in that summer is quieter for us, apart from the school holidays when we usually run our workshops and garden activities.

Our challenge is greater as we are working with a largely indoor space, so our precautions must be doubly stringent. We are currently working on all our precautions and will be ready to welcome you all back as soon as it is deemed safe. We also have to judge when you would feel comfortable about coming back again - whether this is when restrictions are lifted or later, so we are watching carefully the mood of the country as shops and hairdressers and more reopen - much to the relief of many of us. However, the need to protect and keep everyone safe is still the reality and that must be uppermost in our minds.

I wanted again to stress how amazing our staff have been during this time, supporting me 110% and being so flexible, stepping up to complete tasks they might not usually undertake. We are just so glad that everyone has remained well (apart from computer screen overload and a wish to never attend another video conference call!) Thanks, team.

All the best,

Marilyn


Tuesday 19 May 2020

Good morning, everyone. The forecast is for a fantastic week of weather ahead – warmer than Malaga, so for those of us who love the sun that must be a good omen. I must confess to trying not to look at the news so much as I have previously, as it is alternately confusing and depressing for those of us trying hard to look to the future and make plans for our organisations. The current debate about return to school is a case in point where there are so many differing views. In the end it will come down to the common sense of parents and their own particular situations and feelings. Once again, I want to reassure everyone who usually, at this time of year, would be sitting in the courtyard enjoying a lovely cappuccino, that we have your health and safety very much in mind as we plan for reopening. We have a very clear end game in that we need to be up and running and back in business well before the opening of our Raphael exhibition in October so we are working back from that to ensure we have social distancing measures and precautions well in place. However, the need to protect and keep everyone safe is still the reality we must live with and that must be uppermost in our minds.

I was reading an interesting article today from the much-respected arts journalist Charlotte Higgins. She was speaking about the future of the arts in the UK and how in her opinion the exceedingly difficult time that we are all having might see a change of attitude. We all know that both visual and performing arts will do well to come out of these months of closure with a skeleton of our arts offer still in place, but she does see some positivity creeping in. She says of the arts organisations at risk:

"Losing them would mean not only losing an extraordinary arts infrastructure, in which so much of British national identity is bound up, but the network of education, social care and community work that the organisations provide."

She speaks specifically of museums and very much echoes what myself and my colleagues have been thinking when modelling a scenario of reduced visitor numbers due to social distancing, and says:

"In fact, for some museums the experience of visiting could be considerably enhanced for those who actually get in – though the extra hurdles may deter the tentative or first-time visitor, and those in fragile health are likely to stay away altogether. But this kind of model will be financially crippling, especially for museums that depend on being busy, extracting as much spend from each visitor as possible. Income from shops and cafes will plummet."

However, she then goes on to say that following WWII - and we are hearing that rather inexact comparison a lot, the arts thrived. The Arts Council was born out of the belief that people needed something to make their lives better and give them pleasure after the years of war, and so perhaps after the lockdown, people will really appreciate what they have been missing and financial support for the arts and culture will be reinvigorated.

I just wanted to say a huge thanks to all team Lightbox for their fantastic work over the last eight weeks to keep things running – from keeping our building safe and secure to making sure everyone gets paid, all the vital jobs have continued, alongside our amazing marketing team who have been sending out content like this every week. Also, a big thank you to our trustees who have given up time using their new found Zoom skills to support me and my team with wise advice and support. I also wanted to thank The Tipsy Pigs who have been producing meals for the NHS, and have been working hard to keep their business afloat. They have a lovely home-delivered barbeque offer for this coming Bank Holiday weekend – do support them if you are considering some al fresco dining!

I hope everyone reading this stays well, safe, and secure and we look forward to seeing you again quite soon! Please keep in touch via the website where we will post news of when we might reopen.

Best wishes to you all,

Marilyn


Monday 11 May 2020

I hope you enjoyed the sunshine over the weekend, aside from perhaps the plummeting temperature yesterday! Like many of you I am sure, I watched the statement from the Prime Minister last night. I must confess to very mixed feelings following on from the broadcast. We all want to get back to our normal lives; we are missing our families and colleagues and doing the things we enjoy and jobs we love. However, the need to protect and keep everyone safe is still the reality we must live with and that must be uppermost in our minds.

All the staff at The Lightbox are anxious to be able to resume their work and to welcome you, our visitors, back again, but only when we can be certain that we can do this safely and with the ability to make you feel cared for and protected.

We are currently looking at all the precautions that will be necessary both for our staff, volunteers and for visitors, and planning how we will implement these. Not until we are sure that we have achieved these to the highest standards will we feel able to reopen. There were indications in the Prime Minister's speech that July might be a time when public buildings can reopen. We all appreciate nothing can be exact and everything depends on how well contained the pandemic is, but we will begin to look forward in anticipation of when this might be possible. Please rest assured that your safety is our paramount concern above any financial considerations, and we will keep you informed as plans develop.

We will hope to reopen with our usual range of exhibitions in all three galleries and of course Woking’s Story. We will also be having discussions with Seasons about the re-opening of the café – we may well look to moving to continental-style outside eating – let’s all hope for a lovely late Summer, weather-wise. One of the important things about The Lightbox experience is the warm welcome given by our volunteers. They are such an integral part of who we are that we will be paying particular attention to how we enable them to return safely to us. We keep in touch but we miss them all!

In the meantime, we continue to deliver all our activities online. There is a fantastic array of different activities, from keeping your children entertained to joining our weekly photo challenge and looking in-depth at one piece of artwork each week, which is a calming and relaxing experience.

We know that when we re open there will be a real need for the swift resumption of all our valuable community work. Our Art in Mind participants are missing the regular stimulation and comfort of meeting as a group, and the care homes we visit will need the creative activities we provide even more as they try to rebuild the lives of all their residents after such a difficult and frightening time.

We know that we will need funds to extend these programmes when our own financial situation is incredibly challenging so please do help if possible. If you can help by donating or extending your membership, we would be so grateful for anything you can do. To all those very generous people who have already helped we are so incredibly grateful, all your donations will go towards bringing our community support programmes back on the day we reopen.

All the very best,

Marilyn


Monday 4 May 2020

Welcome once again to my Monday blog! Like everyone else, all our staff are very frustrated at being stuck at home as there is so much to do and to get on with at The Lightbox. This week would have seen the opening of our Raphael exhibition which we have worked so hard on over the last three years. Fortunately, we have been able to reschedule for October, so all is not lost!

We are now entering our seventh week of closure and I have started to feel a real sense of separation anxiety - I so miss my colleagues, our lovely volunteers, our visitors and my regular cappuccino at Seasons, as well as - of course, our beautiful building with the light flooding in. However, any frustration we may all be experiencing pales into insignificance beside the extraordinary work of our health and care workers, and the impact COVID-19 has had on so many people, either personally or through friends and family. We have been thinking particularly of our friends at York Road who have done a magnificent job of protecting the homeless in our community and of course our own Art In Mind participants and all those in care homes and the hospices we regularly support through creative activities. Our role at The Lightbox as a place of refuge and recuperation will be so needed in the future and really does reinforce the need for nurturing and healing spaces with creative opportunities, for people who have suffered emotional and health challenges in their lives.

The impact of COVID-19 on The Lightbox has been considerable. Financially, this year will be pretty disastrous in terms of cancelled or postponed events and, like everybody else, we are praying for as early a resumption of normal life, whatever that proves to be, as possible. We have had to furlough a lot of our team to conserve much-needed funds and expenditure to keep the place running is being kept to the absolute minimum as we cannot earn an income. It is a time both for survival through such difficult circumstances, but also an opportunity to plan for the future. We know that when we're open, there will be a natural nervousness about public spaces. This is particularly sad for us as we have always prided ourselves on being a safe space for all and a place of great welcome. We would really welcome your thoughts about what might help for you, and what you would like to see in order to help you to return to us once more. Naturally, people will feel worried about socialising again and coming to galleries. We will do all we can when we re open to think creatively about keeping our visitors safe so please email me if you have ideas you would like to suggest, or even just to let us know how you are feeling about visiting us again.

When we re-open, we want to be able to start delivering all our community programmes again as soon as possible, as we know they will be much needed. To do this, we will urgently need funds to kickstart everything. If you can help by donating or extending your membership, we would be so grateful. To all those very generous people who have already helped, we are so incredibly grateful. All your donations will go towards bringing our community support programmes back as soon as we re-open.

I hope everyone reading this stays well, safe and secure and we look forward to seeing you again quite soon! Please keep in touch via the website where we will post news of when we might re-open and the programme of exhibitions we have in store until the end of the year.

My very best wishes,

Marilyn


Monday 27 April 2020

Welcome once again to my Monday blog! I am sure we are beginning to think – albeit very tentatively – to the time when we all might venture outside our homes once more and return to normal life.

Many people are writing about how things may never be quite the same again and how we will have a quite different approach to some parts of our lives - for example, how we enjoy culture and the arts. For many, encouragingly, they feel that the appreciation of the arts and creativity will be even greater after the pandemic comes to an end. At The Lightbox, we are not really surprised by this positive message as it is one we had been advocating for a long time in the pre-COVID-19 world.

But how will things have changed and how can we make our beautiful building welcoming and safe for everyone to enjoy? I can assure you we will be thinking extremely hard about that in the weeks to come as we really want everyone to be able to enjoy all the great things The Lightbox has to offer as soon as possible. Naturally, people will feel worried about socialising again and coming to public places. We will do all we can when we re-open to think creatively about keeping our visitors safe.

In an inspirational article in The Evening Standard last week Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, said:

"Natural nervousness will surround future social interaction, and so museums can help us appreciate, in the balm-like presence of great art, the vital, human importance of being present together. Well-visited and well-managed museums must serve as energetic and meaningful institutions in this fraught and isolated age."

We cannot wait for the day when, once again, we are able to provide these very special experiences for you – we know The Lightbox holds a very special place in many of your lives, so to reassure you – with your help – we will be back!

We are adding new activities to try at home to our blog every week - including these therapeutic zentangles - and more insights into what our staff are doing in their gardens – building sculptures from the photographs I have recently seen!

I hope everyone reading this stays well, safe and secure and we look forward to seeing you again quite soon!

My very best wishes,

Marilyn


Monday 20 April 2020

Hello on a bright but very breezy morning!

I am seeing increasingly, in the press, reports of how the current lockdown is benefitting wildlife and the environment –people noticing more bees in their gardens, clearer skies, fewer smells of fumes and pollution for those who live in town centres. I am sure when all this ends, we will value the things we take for granted so much more. I realise how much the Lightbox community means to me – the chance to come and have a chat with volunteers and visitors, hear people's comments about how much they love the latest exhibition or how much they have enjoyed a talk or tour. It all makes our work so worthwhile and when it isn’t there, you realise how much of a motivator it is for all of us.

My work now is very much focused on raising money and applying for funding. We are lucky in that we have some small reserves which will help to keep us going while we have no income coming in, but we are well aware that as the months go by, this will dwindle into nothing. Our problems will get even more serious when we open again and have all the running costs to pay, from what we expect will be a much-reduced income. Naturally, people will feel worried about socialising again and coming to public places. We will do all we can when we re-open to think creatively about keeping our visitors safe – we know many of our older visitors will want to take things slowly and only visit again when they feel ready.

This makes it even more necessary to raise some funding now, which will sustain us through the difficult times ahead. Please do all you can to help, even if it is only by buying a membership if you are not currently a member, or if you are, please consider upgrading your membership to a Supporter, which carries lots of other exciting benefits.

Thank you so much for your support, well-wishes and ideas so far.

My very best wishes,

Marilyn


Tuesday 14 April 2020

Hello again everyone, I hope that you were all able to enjoy a lovely Easter weekend even if it was a little different for all of us.

I do hope that you are all keeping well and safe and finding new things to do or reviving old hobbies that you usually don’t have the time for. We are trying to provide as many resources as possible to keep you and your families busy. Our teams are still working away at home so please look at a selection of our digital programmes that they are creating:

  • Art for Normals is for everyone - you don't need to be an accomplished artist to enjoy this bi-weekly blog.
  • Operation Entertain-my-Kids is a series of weekly crafts using bits and bobs at home to keep the kids entertained.
  • How to Draw provides bi-weekly drawing tips and techniques for anyone who wants to improve their skills.

One of the things that I miss the most is our beautiful Lightbox building. Having seen it emerge from the ground way back in 2006 and seen every part of it created from scratch, it holds a very special place in my heart. Walking through the ground floor on a sunny summer day has a very special feel as the sun streams through the glass and creates beautiful patterns on the floor. I began to think about this a lot sitting at home and I thought it might be a good idea to share some of the insights into the creation of the building with you all. I will be writing about the building on the blog, for your interest, over the coming weeks.

We also hope to bring you more content around our past exhibitions and indeed will be launching a new online exhibition for you very soon so keep watching the website and our e-newsletters for all this online content. We have a virtual tour of the Hockney exhibition now online and more insights into our exhibitions will follow.

We are all missing each other and you, our visitors, a lot and will really value a friendly face and a familiar smile when we return. I hope everyone reading this stays well, safe and secure and we look forward to seeing you again quite soon!

My very best wishes,

Marilyn


Monday 6 April 2020

Hello again everyone. I do hope that you are all keeping well and that you were able to take advantage of the lovely sunny weekend in your garden or on your daily walk.

Thank you so much for all the messages of support we have been receiving and to all of you who have been making donations, an enormous thank you. There are lots of ways to support us – through the Donate page on our website but also schemes like Names In Glass which you may remember allows you to have your name displayed on the glass panels throughout the building. At £150, it might be a nice idea to think how you can make your mark in the building on our return. Please also keep supporting our lovely Tipsy Pigs team who are keeping busy preparing meals for NHS staff at their Guildford Cathedral kitchen! Great work, guys - we are all hoping you stay well and a big thank you for everything you are doing.

Our Marketing and Learning teams are keeping busy putting lots of fun, creative content on the website. As Easter approaches, we would have been looking forward to lots of lovely activities around the building but we will just have to content ourselves with creating and making at home. We are also trying to bring The Lightbox to you in your homes – just so as you don’t forget us! We have a virtual tour of the Hockney exhibition now online and more insights into our exhibitions will follow.

Please make use of our resources and watch the website and blog. We are all working at home so can respond to you if you just want to keep in touch. We are in regular contact with our volunteers – many who live alone. We are all missing each other a lot and will value all our friendly chats so much more when we return.

We have had to regrettably accept that our summer of events will not go ahead as planned, so please email us if you would like to obtain a refund for your tickets or to donate the cost of your ticket if you are able. This will help us so much in these difficult financial times and we can claim gift aid on your ticket price if you donate to The Lightbox.

I hope everyone reading this stays well, safe and secure and we look forward to seeing you again quite soon!

My very best wishes,

Marilyn


Monday 30 March 2020

Hello again, everyone.

Firstly, I wanted to say a very big thank you to all those people who have shown their real support for The Lightbox in these difficult times. Many of you have renewed your membership for three years rather than one – have renewed early or simply given a donation. This is absolutely vital support at a time when we have lost all our income from our visitors. You have also been great at supporting Seasons Café through our "have a virtual coffee" campaign. Please keep this support coming – we need you now more than ever.

In return, we are delivering, via our blog, our e-newsletters and on social media, lots of ideas to keep you - and especially your children - busy at home. Our message about art, health and wellbeing seems even more appropriate now we are all having to deal with the anxieties of these troubling times, and when a new problem seems to present itself every day. Please make use of our resources and keep an eye on the blog for activities and information.

We are all working at home so can respond to you via email if you have suggestions or just want to keep in touch. All our staff are working their normal hours and we have pledged to look after them all – as I am sure you would expect. We are in touch with all our volunteers, checking up that they are safe and well and looking after those for whom The Lightbox is a much-needed source of friendship and human contact.

We are trying hard to look to the future and the day when we can re-open. As I mentioned in my previous comments, we have now confirmed that our Raphael exhibition can go ahead in September – fingers crossed for re-opening by then – and our Literary Festival will take place in October. We promise to bring you even more exciting things this Autumn, which makes it so important to try and plug our financial gap as much as possible, now.

I hope everyone reading this stays home, stays safe and secure, and we look forward to seeing you again at The Lightbox in the summer sunshine.

My very best wishes,

Marilyn


Monday 23 March 2020

Hello everyone. This is the first of a regular blog that I will be writing to keep you up to date with everything we are doing to keep The Lightbox in touch with you over the next difficult months.

As you know, with a very real sense of sadness, we closed the building on Wednesday 18 March at 5.00pm along with many arts and heritage organisations. To have to do this in the middle of such a successful exhibition as David Hockney: Ways of Working was a huge blow for us, as so much work had gone into that wonderful show and so many people were still intending to visit.

We are creating as much online content as we can so keep an eye on the website and particularly, look at the opportunities to help us financially at this time, as well as our catering partners Tipsy Pigs.

It seems hard to look ahead when we are all so uncertain of the future, but we are trying to keep positive and plan, including rescheduling what we can and also trying to rescue our much-anticipated Raphael exhibition, which was originally due to open in May.

Last week was an extraordinary week for us all as we raced against time to do as much as we could before closure hit. We are now all working from home – not the same for any of us, being in a business where human contact is so vital. But we are trying very hard to adapt and be creative at a time when that is so needed.

Please keep supporting us – and in return we will keep supporting you with as many resources and as much inspiration as possible. Keep safe and well.

My very best wishes,

Marilyn