Salford’s very own The Lowry theatre is set to become the first temporary ‘Nightingale Court’ in the UK after signing a deal with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
In an attempt to aid in the clearing of a backlog of cases accumulated due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the arts venue will host trials in three temporary courtrooms during the daytimes from Monday to Fridays.
In the evenings and weekends, the venue will then stage shows and open its galleries again using funds from the court deal.
The Lowry is the first arts centre in the country to have secured a contract as a temporary ‘Nightingale Court’ after the scheme was announced in mid-July, and the income from the deal is set to help ensure the organisation’s survival and safeguard hundreds of jobs.
The deal – which begins on Monday 28th September – will provide a “much needed source of income” for the art gallery and theatre, as the necessary social distancing measures that are currently in place make theatre performances economically challenging.
It’s also projected to help the government alleviate the pressure on courts and tribunals as a result of the ongoing pandemic, with judges based at The Lowry set to hearing civil, family and tribunal work, as well as criminal cases.
It’s been reported that pre-lockdown, the crown court backlog in England and Wales stood at some 37,000 and it is now at over 46,000.
Speaking on the new deal with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), 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 and 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.”
Two shows, Six – the musical about Henry VIII’s wives – and The Gruffalo will be staged at the main theatre – the Lyric Theatre – in evenings over Christmas and then during the day, trials will take place in the building’s two smaller auditoria – the Quays and the Studio – as well as a conference suite.
The galleries will also re-open at weekends from 1st November, when the court will not be sitting.
You can find more information via The Lowry website here.