The Lowry in Salford has signed a deal with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to become a temporary ‘Nightingale Court’.
The deal, which begins on Monday 28 September, will provide a much needed source of income for the art gallery and theatre while social distancing measures make theatre performances economically challenging.
It will also help the Government alleviate the pressure on courts and tribunals resulting from the pandemic – with judges based at The Lowry hearing civil, family and tribunal work as well as criminal cases.
The Lowry is the first arts centre in the country to have secured a contract as a temporary Nightingale Court and the income is set to help ensure the organisation’s survival and help safeguard hundreds of jobs.
Julia Fawcett OBE, chief executive of The Lowry, said: “Like arts venues up and down the country, we simply cannot operate our building as normal in the current climate. And with no regular source of income since March, this partnership provides vital funds to enable us to relaunch our programme.
“This includes online, open-air and community performances by some of the UK’s most creative dance, circus and theatre companies as well as creative engagement activities that will improve the mental health & life chances of more than 2,000 young people in Salford.
“Furthermore, we hope to spread the benefit of this partnership across Greater Manchester by commissioning new work from local artists specifically designed for the post-COVID audience environment.”
Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice & Fire, Baroness Bev Hughes has welcomed today’s announcement saying “The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the courts system, both nationally and here in Greater Manchester, resulting in a significant backlog of cases and long delays.
“The delays have led to frustration and real distress for people whose lives have been put on hold while they wait for justice to be done. It is particularly difficult for the victims of crime, but it also affects those who need decisions from civil or family courts.
“So I’m pleased the Ministry of Justice has set up this ‘Nightingale Court’ at The Lowry theatre and art gallery. It will also provide an important source of income to the Lowry and help to support it during this very difficult time.”
The MOJ partnership supports the venue’s plans for Christmas – with performances of the hit musical SIX and family favourite The Gruffalo set to go ahead in the venue’s Lyric Theatre, which does not form part of this partnership. The galleries will also re-open at weekends from 1 November, when the court will not be sitting.
Securing a Nightingale Court contract isn’t the only imaginative scheme The Lowry has enacted in a response to COVID. In June, it announced plans to launch its own Job Retention Scheme for contracted employees when the Government’s ends on 31 October.
With 90% of staff enrolling on the scheme or working as part of a skeleton crew throughout the closure, The Lowry is working to avoid a wide-scale compulsory redundancy programme.