BENGALURU: For the last three months, Anand Varadaraj, trustee, Suchitra Cinema and Cultural Academy, has had to pay rent, and take care of basic amenities as well as the space, all without any revenue. "We’ve been hit hard," he says.
These are the sentiments shared by Rebecca Spurgeon, artistic director of Jagriti, who says, "For a space like ours that has no outside funding, being closed has not just affected our present but will affect us for a long time."
As artistes behind theatre shows, music performances and stand-up acts have reinvented themselves during the lockdown, turning their living rooms into stages for online shows, the spaces they once performed at are struggling to stay alive.
Even as the reopening date of auditoria remains uncertain, spaces like Ranga Shankara, Jagriti, Suchitra Cinema and Cultural Academy, and Bangalore International Centre (BIC), are putting their heads together for a collective response to the COVID-19 threat. The result has been Collective of Arts and Culture spaces in Bengaluru, with one of their initiatives under this umbrella being B-SAFE (Bengaluru - Spaces for Arts, Films and Events).
"We understand the current circumstances, and why permission hasn’t yet been given to culture spaces to reopen. However, this puts strain on the livelihood of creative artistes and the financial sustainability of the physical spaces. The Collective will have uniform norms for all public spaces, making it easy for people to recognise and follow them," says V Ravichandar, honorary director, BIC.
Some of the planned measures are ensuring traceability of all visitors/staff to the venue through a register of name and contact number with entry and exit time, regular rapid tests for performers to ensure a safe stage environment, and setting up a revised seating plan compliant with physical distancing norms (likely to be at around 30 per cent of full capacity or 50 people).
In addition, rest rooms with hands-free operations wherever feasible, reduced seating capacity in cafeteria, disinfecting tables, chairs, cutlery and waste disposal bins, including a separate one for masks and gloves, are in the offing.
In these uncertain times, Spurgeon is heartened to know that Jagriti is not alone in this. "While each space is unique in many ways, we share a responsibility towards sustaining the arts in the city. This shared purpose has made it easier for us to ideate on the future and work on practical steps to make our venues safe spaces for the community," Spurgeon says.
Varadaraj, however, feels that physical distancing will be a challenge. "Watching plays and cinema is a community viewing experience, and to sit far apart and enjoy it might be difficult. They might just opt not to come," he says, fearing that sponsors might not extend support for some time.
"About 35 per cent of our regular visitors are senior citizens, and they might think twice before coming, even if we follow all the safety precautions," says Varadaraj.