Hi everyone,

I wanted to send Christmas greetings to all of you. It definitely will not be the Christmas we had in mind, but I am comforting myself that the vaccine is coming – two elderly neighbours of mine are already booked in this week and by March I hope the situation will look quite different. It has certainly been a year to remember and of course, there have been good things.

The year started with our fantastic Hockney exhibition – it seems a lifetime ago now, but I can still remember the thrill of seeing the colour and variety of work and enjoying the public acclaim that the exhibition received.

I was delighted and hugely impressed by how our team created online content so quickly during the first lockdown 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.

Your response was equally impressive – we received donations, new memberships, many of you paid your memberships for 3 years to help us with our cash flow. All of this has been so heartening and has helped us to survive through many months of no income. Your faith in the organisation has been extraordinary and we can only say thank you many times over. The support we have received financially has been unprecedented – so much generosity from so many of our supporters which allowed us to face reopening with confidence.

I wanted to say an incredibly special thank you to all our volunteers who kept in touch during those long months – for many it was a sad time, I was speaking to one of our regular volunteers the other day and he was telling me what an important part of his life The Lightbox was and how much he missed us when we were closed. We are like a big friendly family and it made me realise that volunteering is not all one-sided, volunteers often get out of their time with us as much as we benefit from their help.

We were so appreciative back in August when so many returned to us with a real sense of bravery and community spirit and, of course, great confidence in our ability to keep them safe which we are so grateful for. I want to wish a special Happy Christmas 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.

The Raphael exhibition has been another high spot of this year. Just making sure it actually opened was quite a feat and I must thank my colleagues in Exhibitions for all they did to make it happen and to The Royal Collection for all the co-operation and partnership they have shown in bringing the exhibition to Woking.

I am only sorry that it has now opened and closed twice in such a short space of time – we will have to hope that for at least some of January we are able to open once more to give you one last chance to see this fascinating and unique exhibition. It is a visual delight but also has so many fascinating stories interwoven throughout the show, from the amazing talent of Raphael from a young age to the close relationship between Victoria and Albert with a shared love of art, particularly of the Renaissance artists.

It is incredibly sad that we must end the year with a closed building, so unlike previous years when The Lightbox is buzzing with shiny lights and last-minute Christmas shopping. I have missed seeing many of you in person for the whole year, but I know we will be welcoming you back – in February we plan to open our tribute to Bridget Riley who will be 90 next year. I keep myself going with a picture of 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’re open you will encourage friends, colleagues, family to visit because without your support we would probably not 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.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything that you have done for us this year, please keep supporting us financially as we face a period with no income once more – it is easy to donate through our website or take out a membership. Do come back when we are able to open our arms in welcome once more.

Have a very Happy Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year.

With very best wishes,