As the UK continues to roll out its Covid vaccination programme, many theatres, conference centres and sporting venues have stepped up and offered their spaces to be repurposed as vaccination centres, courts and hospitals.
As widespread delivery of the vaccine began at the beginning of the year, the NHS hired out hundreds of new locations to administer the vaccine to communities nationwide, including performing arts venues, conference centres, sports clubs, libraries and racecourses.
Theatres in Lancashire, Hertfordshire, Hampshire and North Wales are among those that turned dormant spaces into local clinics, and more than 700 venues across the country, in addition to hubs at hospitals and health centres, are being used to boost distribution of the vaccine, providing a new purpose for venues that would otherwise be closed to the public.
The list includes Hertford Theatre, which operated as a flu vaccination centre during the autumn and is now being used for the Covid-19 vaccine. The NHS has set up a secure vaccination clinic in its studio space, which runs entirely independently to the theatre and can continue to run once the venue reopens. Front-of-house manager Ben Cannell said “We are really delighted to be able to support the local NHS in the delivery of the vaccine, and it works for us because we know it is guaranteed income. We would have done it anyway and it’s a great thing for us to do for our community, so it hasn’t been driven from a business point of view, but it has helped in this current climate.” While the centre is staffed by NHS workers, many of the theatre’s 70-strong team of volunteers are helping out as stewards and cleaners, which also has its benefits, Cannell said.
Many large sports venues and conference/exhibition centres are operating as vaccination centres, including:
Excel Centre (Nightingale), London
Centre for Life, Newcastle
Etihad Tennis and Football Centre, Manchester
Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey
Millennium Point, Birmingham
Etc. Venues are one of the latest venue groups to work with NHS England to transform its venue at Garfield House, Marble Arch, London into a Covid Vaccination Centre, opening on 8th March.
Emergency Nightingale Courts have been set up in England and Wales to help cope with the backlog of criminal and civil cases built up during the pandemic and once again, conference and event venues have given over their space to be used as Courts. Last summer Magistrates Courts in England and Wales faced an accumulation of around 480,000 cases whilst Crown Courts were dealing with a backlog of 41,000 cases. The temporary venues created space for existing courts to hear serious jury trials which were temporarily paused as lockdown took effect. Participating venues include Cloth Hall Leeds, Middlesbrough Town Hall, CCT Venues Barbican, Winchester Guildhall and Jury’s Inn Hotel Croydon.
Last year etc. venues entered into an agreement with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) for Prospero House in South East London and Maple House in Birmingham to become Nightingale Courts. Prospero House has been operating as a Court since August 2020 and Maple House opened on 3rd March 2021. Dominic James, Venues Director at etc. venues said: “etc. venues has a long-standing relationship with the NHS going back to 1992 when we created our first venue by converting Avonmouth House in London to host NHS training courses. During a period when its core conference, events and training business has been suppressed, etc. venues has taken a 360 degree look at how its portfolio of 400,000 square feet of space could be temporarily repurposed. Nick Hoare, Chief Operating Officer of etc. venues said: “It is testimony to the ability of our team to be able to adapt our venues to meet the needs of organisations that are carrying out essential works in the current environment”.
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