Staff at Theatre Severn and the Old Market Hall (OMH) in Shrewsbury have been providing critical support to frontline COVID-19 testing by helping to run The Lantern testing site.
Barry Tench, Operations Manager at Theatre Severn, said, “At the end of November last year, Shropshire Council put into action the setting up of the testing site based at The Lantern in Shrewsbury. Theatre Severn were asked to provide staff to help run it. Very quickly wheels were in motion and staff identified. An online meeting arranged, and a brief outline of duties was discussed, but no-one was really sure what lay ahead. The theatre was still running a programme of Christmas shows and screenings throughout December when the testing site was in full flow, full lateral testing flow you might say.”
Theatre staff made sacrifices to give the time to support the testing effort at The Lantern. They combined evening and weekend work at the theatre with daytime shifts at The Lantern. They faced logistical problems, dealing with their own family’s needs, especially as it was Christmas, childcare and their own health concerns. Some also had difficult journeys to get to the testing site and don’t forget its mid-winter and transport isn’t easy for the staff who live out in the country.
The early days brought challenges for the organisers, who had to sort out complicated rotas and brought challenges for the staff who had a new scenario to deal with.
Barry added, “But the council could not have chosen a better suited group. The staff at the theatre and Old Market Hall are used to engaging with the public, we have a great rapport with our customers and audiences. They are also used to dealing with questions and issues as front of house staff and they plunged into their new roles with enthusiasm, just like wild swimmers breaking the ice on a New Year’s Day dip.”
The staff from theatre and OMH have a wealth of experience and skills they have learned from a lifetime’s journey through various jobs and positions. They took their knowledge and experience with them into these new roles and quite quickly became a vital, if not essential part of running the site. Some were moved into supervisory roles and others as natural leaders stepped up to lead by example.
The theatre and OMH are extremely proud of the contribution of staff throughout this crisis and as new challenges face us even more staff have been recruited to work at other sites and to support our customer services.