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Torch Theatre faces ‘longer term challenges’

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THE TORCH THEATRE will remain closed until at least the end of October.
The news came in a statement released by the Theatre’s management on Friday, July 24, just as the Welsh Government announced restrictions would be lifted on the opening of cinemas, theatres, and museums, subject to social distancing regulations.
The statement described the period of enforced closure during the COVID-19 pandemic as ‘incredibly demanding’ and said the Torch was ‘fighting to survive’.
Even though the venue hopes to reopen on November 1, uncertainty about the extent of social distancing rules has persuaded its management to cancel all of its remaining live shows for this year.

TORCH THEATRE FACES ‘LONGER-TERM CHALLENGES’

Besides the revenue cost to the Theatre from its closure, the ripples from its closure are being felt across West Wales. The Torch Theatre is more than a venue. It is a centre for community life in Milford Haven and a hub for Pembrokeshire’s thriving creative arts sector.
To keep afloat, the Theatre made successful applications to the BFI, Film Hub Wales and the National Lottery Resilience Fund, the Arts Council Wales Stabilisation Fund, as well as being eligible for two Welsh Government Business Rates Grants.
The statement reads: ‘This crucial support has given us the security to plan essential maintenance, maintain audience and community engagement, and develop new modes of working’.
While the support has allowed the Theatre to take the first steps toward recovery, the venue’s management says it ‘does not provide the solutions to the longer-term challenge of surviving the COVID-19 crisis’.
The Theatre will use the closure period to carry out repairs on the building’s fly tower, which was damaged during February’s storms.
Funding for the repair work will come from Pembrokeshire County Council Enhancing Pembrokeshire Fund and Arts Council Wales, who will each cover a proportion of the costs after the settlement of the Theatre’s insurance claim for the storm damage.

CONTINUING CLOSURE LIMITED REOPENING

This decision to remain closed takes account of the following decisive factors:
• Consultation with audiences suggests that there is no appetite to return while there is so much uncertainty over the reproduction rate of Covid-19. To open any part of the operation without an audience is not economically viable and would quickly lead to redundancies.
• Film distributors are unable to confirm release dates and producers of live shows are cancelling and rescheduling tours to ensure that their businesses remain viable. As such, the Company cannot deliver a theatre programme.
• Taking account of its civic responsibilities, the Theatre’s management believes that it would not serve audiences, staff, volunteers or artists well to rush into reopening before reassurance the Torch is a safe place to return to.
• The need to undertake essential maintenance and remedial works on the fly tower renders an immediate opening impractical.
Bearing in mind those factors, the Theatre’s management team made what it calls ‘difficult decisions’ about reopening after November 1.
The management team’s statement says:
• With social distancing in place, it is not viable for us to produce or present live productions. As such, all live theatre performances will be cancelled for the remainder of 2020 including our Autumn production and festive pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.
We are currently in the process of rescheduling our own productions and visiting shows into our 2021 programme and will be contacting affected customers over the next few weeks.
• Pending release schedules from film distributors, we will hope to open with a cinema only offer for the rest of 2020, at a limited capacity to maintain social distancing requirements. Operational staff would be required to work in bubbles under strict health and safety guidelines.
The ambition to return with cinema only for November and December is dependent on the threat posed at that time by Covid-19, Government directives, securing further financial support and commitment from the film distributors.
• From January 2021, should conditions allow, we should like to return to live productions. This would prove our best-case scenario, allowing wider operations to return to something like normal levels in the New Year; however, this scenario comes with the most financial risk attached and is subject to change.
Should social distancing rules remain in place from January, we would be forced to continue with a cinema-only offer into 2021.
• There remain a host of unknowns and whilst we are planning for our best-case scenario, we are also preparing for the worst: should even a socially distanced cinema offer prove untenable from November, then we may yet be forced to close for the remainder of the financial year.

JOBS UNDER THREAT WITHOUT MORE HELP

Whatever happens, when the UK Government’s Job Retention (‘furlough’) Scheme ends in October, and until ticket income returns to its normal level, the Torch will rely on financial intervention and support from the Welsh Government and other bodies to maintain its staff team and operations until things return to whatever ‘normal’ proves to be.
On July 5, the Westminster Government announced a £1.6bn package of support for the UK’s creative arts sector. Wales’ share of that funding is £59m for the whole of Wales’ cultural and creative industries.
Yesterday, Thursday, July 30, the Welsh Government announced it would allocate £53m of the £59m to the sector. The money’s distribution will be subject to an application process.
Speaking to The Herald this week, David Melding, the Conservatives’ Shadow Culture Minister, said: “While I acknowledge the support the Welsh Government has already given to the creative sector now was the time to demonstrate decisive leadership which they have failed to do.
“Wales rightly regards the creative sector as a strategic growth area and key to Wales’ economic success. It is also central to the nation’s ever evolving story and something we want to project worldwide. Rather than short changing the sector by £6 million the Welsh Government should have added to the funds now made available to Wales by the UK Treasury.”
Nick Capaldi, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Wales said: “These funds ease the immediate threat of a collapse in the creative sector.”
Siân Gwenllian MS, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Culture, said: “While I welcome today’s news that £53 million has been promised to the Arts industry in Wales, I would question what has happened to the £6 million – within the space of a month, £59 million has been reduced to £53 million and not a penny has reached the sector.”

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Ben Lloyd, Executive Director of the Torch said: “Our team are working tirelessly to secure extra funding to help us to avoid job losses from November. Every alternative option will be explored.
“Throughout these times of hardship, we remain committed to our mission to engage, inspire, entertain and challenge our audience, and supported by the Arts Council Wales Stabilisation Fund we will seek alternative methods of delivering opportunities to our community.”
Peter Doran, the Torch Theatre’s Artistic Director said: “Here at the Torch we try and cover all aspects of theatre and the performing arts but at the end of the day, we pride ourselves on being theatre-makers, producing our own work; consequently, if we’re not able to produce, it feels like the creative heart has gone out of the building and so we are determined to get up and running again as soon as it’s safe to do so.
“To that end, we aim to come back in the New Year with all guns blazing and producing great pieces of theatre. We are all looking forward to that. In the meantime, we are planning some interesting community projects for people to get involved in and we also plan something for the schools as a Christmas treat. So look out for us.”
Ben Lloyd continued: Away from the art, we are also planning new membership, guardian, legacy and sponsorship schemes allowing our patrons and business partners to become more connected with us and support different areas of community and artistic activity. Further details and the launch of these new schemes are planned for September.
“A great number of our patrons have kindly donated the value of their unused tickets to the Torch over the past months and there has been a high level of interest in other ways our patrons can be more involved. The kind support of our patrons is always hugely appreciated and will be more necessary than ever in the coming months as we seek to bounce back brighter from this crisis.”
Ben concluded: “As a business and like many others, we are going into the unknown. We have never been in a situation like this before and have been operating on a knife-edge over the past few months.
“We have managed to put in place the first building blocks toward our survival. We have reason to be cautiously optimistic and remain determined to sustain for our community, our staff, our artists and the audiences of the future; but our situation remains critical, with many factors beyond our control and we will be seeking support from all quarters to help us get through the challenging months ahead.”

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Pembrokeshire residents can quickly check symptoms for variety of conditions on NHS 111 Wales online

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NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker can save Pembrokeshire patients time by helping them find the right NHS service for treatment. Symptoms can be quickly checked for a variety of conditions and advice given on the best way to treat them by visiting www.111.wales.nhs.uk which is hosted by the Welsh Ambulance Service.

The way we access NHS services has changed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with more options now becoming increasingly utilised, including the NHS 111 Wales online service which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be used for both health information and advice and to access urgent primary care in Welsh and English.

In a recent YouGov survey, a third of Pembrokeshire residents had not even heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker and only 19% had used it during the past 12 months.

Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are asking everyone to help us by reconsidering the way you access NHS services. The methods available have changed but we are still here for you. It is worth getting to know the different ways you can access the NHS so you can be seen and treated quicker with your first port of call being NHS 111 Wales.”

According to the YouGov survey, carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign, only 67% of Pembrokeshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker. However, 86% said they felt it was important to have access to the service.   

NHS 111 Wales online can help if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. The way it works is: You answer questions about your symptoms on the website and depending on the situation you will:

  •           Get self-care advice
  •           Be told how to get any medicine you need
  •           Find out what local service can help you
  •           Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP
  •           Get a face-to-face appointment if you need one
  •           Be given an arrival time if you need to go to A&E – this might mean you spend less time in A&E

For those who don’t have confidence going online to seek advice, there is the NHS 111 Wales phone service. This is also a free service where patients can contact the NHS by dialling 111 to receive advice on the best way to manage their issue or gain further assistance if needed. The bilingual telephone service is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Eighty-four percent of Pembrokeshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales phone service when asked for the recent YouGov survey but only 20% had used the telephone service during the last 12 months.

 

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Trial date for son accused of killing mum

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THE SON of Judith Rhead, 68, who was found dead in her home in Market Street, Pembroke Dock on Feb 20 will now appear in Crown Court again in October.

Dale Morgan, 43, said to be a scout master, appeared in court only to confirm his name, date of birth and address – which was listed as Honeyborough Green, Neyland.

A plea and trial preparation hearing date was set for March 26 with a provisional trial date set for October 4.

He was remanded in custody.

In court papers it stated that the alleged murder took place between December 10, 2020 and February 21, 2021.

The paperwork demonstrates that the police are unsure of the exact date that Ms Rhead died. The large date range, two months, points to the likelihood that this will be a challenging case for all those involved.

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Launch of Haverfordwest Castle Conservation Management Plan

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help shape the future of Haverfordwest Castle as a draft Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is launched.

One of Pembrokeshire’s most important historical assets, the Castle is owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, which has produced the CMP.

The plan:

▪ sets out the significance of the castle and describes how the building will be protected with any new use, alteration, repair or management; 

▪ will help with the planning of maintenance, conservation and repair work and adaptation of the site to meet new or changing uses; 

▪ will help promote understanding of the site and look at improving public access and activities for local people and visitors; 

▪ will support proposals to conserve the castle and adaptations of the site in response to climate change; 

▪ and underpin funding applications to support improvements

An engagement exercise has been launched alongside the Plan, giving members of the public with an interest in the historic and/or environmental significance of the castle an opportunity to comment on the document and share their views.

To take part in the engagement exercise, please click on the following link: 

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/regeneration-communities

The deadline for responses is Sunday, March 28, 2021.

 

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