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View from: Lindsey Cook

28 May 2020

Part of Supercool's Arts + Culture In Lockdown series

Lindsey Cook

Lindsey Cook – Marketing and Communications Director, MAC (Midlands Arts Centre)


January 2019. I find myself at a summit exploring resilience in the arts sector. As part of it, we review the Government’s risk register.

Turning to my lovely companion, THSH’s Richard Loftus, we start unpacking the implications of a resistant virus sweeping the globe. After much laughter, sarcasm and unpleasant scenario-painting, we agree it would probably just be game-over.

Fast-forward to mid-March 2020 …

There are whispers of schools closing, and I’m incredibly tired. Having-a-nap-before-bed kind of tired. As I hastily start pulling together communications and scenario-planning, I reassure staff that we have a Pandemic Strategy.

But as I work my way through our plan, it’s becoming more obvious with each dry cough that the contingency I failed to consider was taking myself out of the scenario.

I’m now entering my 10th week of the virus plus ongoing infections. I don’t share this for sympathy (although I’ve been a brave little soldier) but to share the horror of being part of an executive team at a time of crisis; and to feel you are rendered useless.

Fifteen members of staff report to me across three departments. Despite fading in and out of lucidity while working between sick notes, I’ve had to consider their futures – and the future of this venue that I love.

I think what’s been hardest is that we aren’t really a producing house; so whilst many have switched to online distribution of back catalogues and even new work, we had to consider how to continue MAC’s brand

Most of MAC’s 200+ staff are now furloughed, and I will shortly join their ranks. In the last few weeks we’ve worked through countless scenarios without knowing when we will re-open MAC, and what form that re-opening might take.

Brilliantly, Spektrix provided us with a tool to ask audiences to consider a donation or credit rather than a refund. Over 50% of them did this, showing their faith in our organisation and desire to see us thrive again. It’s an incredible morale boost.

I think what’s been hardest is that we aren’t really a producing house; so whilst many have switched to online distribution of back catalogues and even new work, we had to consider how to continue MAC’s brand.

Our digital communications have become ever-vital as we signpost and connect people to art; continuing our mission to make art an important part of people’s lives – during a lockdown when they are turning to creativity more than ever.

One of the major challenges that lies ahead is marrying-up the expectations of returning audiences with the realities of what MAC will be.

We can’t just be the same. The machine was too big and the ongoing post-virus restrictions will challenge the economic model with reduced-capacity venues, and audiences understandably nervous of queues and throngs of people.

But it’s an opportunity to pause that MAC hasn’t had in 58 years of 9am-until-late, 364-days-a-year service.

So, whilst this enforced chrysalis is restrictive, I’m looking forward to seeing the butterfly that emerges.

Part of Supercool's Arts + Culture In Lockdown series

  • Lindsey Cook

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