05:43PM, Thursday 13 May 2021
Helen Ballantine and Martin Denny from The Old Court in Windsor
A significant milestone is set to be reached on Monday as the country approaches another step out of lockdown – and theatres in Windsor cannot wait to get going.
From next week, COVID rules will ease further to allow hospitality venues to open indoors, and the reopening of places such as cinemas.
People will be able to meet indoors again in groups of up to six, or two households. Groups of up to 30 will also be permitted outside.
Announcing the ‘single biggest step’ on the roadmap to date, Prime Minister Boris Johnson added last week that people will be able to hug loved ones again – but should consider their vulnerability and use ‘common sense’.
The Old Court theatre, in St Leonards Road, is looking forward to welcoming people back to live events from next week.
It is also keen to let residents of Windsor know about its cinema, which it will be using to screen films from 7:45pm on selected nights.
Other live events are also due to take place at the theatre, including live music, dance and comedy acts, as well as exhibitions. The bar will also be reopening alongside the theatre itself.
Helen Ritchie, who works in marketing for the Old Court, said: “We are all really excited about it, we have been very much looking forward to getting back. I was in the building a few times helping get things ready and it felt surreal, really.
“I go back to a building I have worked in for nearly four years and it seems like a long time ago. It is all a bit odd.
“But I think that most people who work there have a love for not just the building, but also the arts and what we are trying to do."
She added: “It will be interesting to see whether people can be enticed back to the big screen, because it does not look like a cinema, as it is a multi-purpose auditorium.
"I think that is part of the problem - and people are just too busy with their lives. We really tried to make sure we were reaching as many people.
"We have got people that live round the corner and say 'I didn't know you had a cinema'."
Helen said that she and her team have been undertaking a drive to ensure as many people know about the cinema as possible, including delivering 15,000 flyers to Windsor households.
On what she misses most about her job, Helen added: "People. Social contact. We have got lovely regulars who come into the bar and support our events.
"It is really sad that we have not seen them and if we have then we are standing metres away with a mask on."
Interest has been growing as the return of live events gets closer, and Helen says that there is an increasing demand for these types of activities.
“I have been taking bookings are things are looking good," she said. "There is a pent-up demand for live music, cinema, and hopefully there is a sense of community. Come and support us, we need you.
“It will be interesting to see how people react. The people that really want to come, will come.
"Judging by the busyness of the pubs, that is one element that shows people have missed it. People I speak to, and friends and contacts, are looking forward to the day when they can go to a live event again."
The Old Court will be sticking to pre-lockdown hours (closing at 10pm in the week and 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays). It hopes to return to its normal operating hours after Monday, June 21, when the UK Government could announce that rules on social contact can end.
Another Windsor theatre, the Theatre Royal, in Thames Street, is not opening until June 21 but claims that it will be getting going again next month with a 'season like no other'.
Theatre co-directors Jon and Anne-Marie Woodley said: ‘‘We are delighted that after what has been an incredibly difficult year for theatre, venues are able to commence re-opening from next week.
"Theatre Royal Windsor will be re-opening on June 21 with a season like no other: a world-class company will star in two of theatre’s greatest plays: Hamlet and The Cherry Orchard.
"We cannot wait to welcome audiences to our beautiful venue next month for Hamlet – with stage and film legend Sir Ian McKellen starring as the eponymous character 50 years after first taking on the role."
There are a number of COVID safety measures in place and visitors will have to wear a mask when inside, while timed tickets have been introduced to reduce capacity and ease social distancing.
Also on the Government’s opening roadmap from Monday are museums, while the Government has also permitted people to travel abroad, although the list of countries on the ‘green list’ (which do not require travellers to quarantine) is small.
Hotels and B&Bs will reopen fully, while weddings will be allowed up to 30 guests. Another change will see funerals no longer capped to 30 mourners.
Billy Presbury, 21, of Moray Drive, and Kai Warwick, 19, of Whiteford Road, targeted a trio of teenage boys in Farnham Park on June 1, 2019.