We’ve missed you, but we have some good news!
We’re excited to be welcoming you back with open arms (not literally of course!) with a wonderful new exhibition programme and we hope you’ll grab a coffee and bun while you’re here. Some things will be different to how they were before; others, such as the quality of our welcome, will be just the same.
Before we closed in March 2020, we were celebrating our most successful trading year to date in terms of ticket sales, fundraising, venue hire and café bar sales – we had welcomed hundreds of thousands of you through our doors for the best in live events, visual arts, comedy, dance, music, or just for a coffee and a chat.
The MAC is nothing without you - the audience, and since opening in 2012, we’ve been honoured to welcome over 2.2million of you through our doors.
Naturally, the pandemic has presented us with many new challenges, and we know you’ll understand that some things will have to change, hopefully temporarily. We are really lucky that our beautiful building and its clever design gives us the space to safely open many areas whilst adhering to social distancing requirements. We will, of course, keep you regularly updated across all our communication channels on what the new customer experience will look and feel like so that you’re fully informed before you arrive.
We are aware that the NI Executive has stated that cafés and restaurants can reopen from 3 July and that some venues can reopen from 29 July. However, it is going to take us a little more time to open in a way that is safe and viable, so that we can play our part in the revival of the city, the recovery of our communities and the survival of the arts.
Our team has been busy behind the scenes and working from home on a completely reworked artistic programme that reflects the fact that all of us have been changed by the events of the last few extraordinary and unexpected months. We’re really proud of it and we think you’re going to love it.
The first exhibition to open our galleries will be presented in partnership with Ulster University’s School of Art. Sadly the pandemic meant that the BA Fine Art and MFA 2020 graduating students didn’t get to celebrate the conclusion of their studies in the usual way with the landmark final year shows. As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting the artists of the future, the MAC is delighted to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2020 by presenting a selection of graduates’ work. You'll be able to book for your gallery visit in advance in order to safely manage numbers in each of our galleries and to maximise your enjoyment without compromising your safety.
For now, sadly, our theatres must remain closed. Social distancing makes rehearsal and pre-production difficult and reduced seating capacity makes the economics of producing theatre and live performance almost impossible. We are, of course, an imaginative and creative organisation and our Creative Director is working with the best designers and artists in NI to create fun socially-distanced, live experiences by adapting our theatres.
Despite our commitment to reopening as soon as possible so that we can play our part in NI’s recovery, please rest assured that we'll resume our live theatre and physically present participatory programmes only when it's safe to do so because the safety of you, our audiences, customers, artists and staff is more important than anything.
So, what have we been doing during lockdown?
We’ve been talking to you, our customers, artists and friends, to find out how you feel about returning to our galleries and theatres as we emerge from lockdown. Thank you so much for completing our surveys, in partnership with Indigo and Thrive. You told us how you feel about coming back to the MAC and what you’ll expect from us when you do.
Here's a few things we’ve been prioritising based on what you've told us:
Social distancing is important for both our audience and our staff: We are currently working on a way to safely manage audiences and visitors around the building, considering everything from capacity, ticketing, queuing, seating and movement around the space. We’ll have a one-way system in place around the building from entrance to exit, adapted opening hours, hand sanitising stations and fully trained staff to help if you have any questions or queries.
Ticketing our galleries and flexible booking: To begin with we’ll be ticketing our gallery spaces to ensure that you have the best possible experience. Our galleries will still be free to visit - you’ll just select a visiting time slot, bookable online, so we know how many people we’ll have in our galleries at any one time. In terms of live events, we’ll continue to be as flexible as possible. If an event has to be cancelled, we will automatically contact you with your refund options - we’ll continue to develop this as we make plans to open our theatres, giving that extra assurance.
Staying true to our pricing promise: You told us you'd rather we didn't increase our ticket prices when we reopen, so we won't. We'll keep our pricing promise and continue to reward early booking. Your donations will be even more valued than before as they’ll help bridge the gap for our financial recovery (and a massive thanks to those of you who have already donated - you inspire us). Our galleries will remain free to visit and we’ll have your favourite coffee and treat options that won’t break the bank.
We will, as ever, continue to review all forthcoming advice from the Northern Ireland Executive and we’re working hard with artistic colleagues and professionals to create the best socially distanced experience we can offer. We’ve also been talking to the key decision-makers at Stormont as part of the NI Venues Group working with the Arts Collaboration Network, helping to make the case for urgent action to address the devastating impact that COVID-19 is having on our arts sector.
We understand the impact COVID-19 has had on all parts of society. We are acutely aware that longstanding and systemic inequalities have been exacerbated because of the pandemic. Some of us have been affected more than others. To those of you who have lost loved ones, we offer you our heartfelt sympathy and sincere condolences.
Reopening the MAC will allow us to once again contribute to the heartbeat of our city and the regeneration of our arts and cultural sector.
We’ve missed you - you make the MAC what it is.
We can’t wait to welcome you back to your MAC.
Please keep supporting us while we strive to get it right.
Thank you, your support means so much.