STAYING CLOSED: The doors of The Witham, Barnard Castle, will remain closed for a while longer
STAYING CLOSED: The doors of The Witham, Barnard Castle, will remain closed for a while longer

BARNARD Castle’s arts centre is to remain closed for the foreseeable future.
With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, trustees had looked into the possibility of opening the ground floor cafe and shop at The Witham.
However, they decided the lay-out of the building, social distancing requirements and the inability to offer any kind to entertainment or community events would make it impossible to attract enough customers to make it worthwhile.
Announcing a further easing of restrictions, Primer Minister Boris Johnson said that while arts centre could open, they could not put on any kind of live performance at the moment.
Shelagh Avery, chairwoman of trustees, said: “We thought if we might be able to offer something such as informal busking using the outside space and music hall, that would have brought in more people.
“It would not have been easy but we would have had a good go at doing it.
“Once I got my eyes on the document, then the current guidelines blew a hole in that. We could not make the numbers work.”
As a result, Ms Avery said she and fellow trustees had to make “really tough decisions” about what to do.
“For the moment we will remain closed in order that we can protect the longer term position of The Witham rather than squander resources in the short term,” she added.
As a result, staff will remain on flexible furlough, working as required.
“This means staff can do the work they need to do in order that when we get a signal to operate successfully we will be ready to ramp up pretty quickly – we just don’t know when that is going to be. We need to be able to have community events – U3A, pilates, singing for fun etc – or ticketed events, or ideally both.”
Ms Avery said despite the difficult decision to remain closed, the reaction from supporters had been positive and supportive.
“As a set of trustees, we are really anxious to see when we can open the doors.”