With Love from Westgate Hall
Published on 14th February 2021
As we all celebrate a day of love for Valentine’s, our CEO Clare reflects on the passion, tenderness and devotion that makes Westgate Hall a venue full of heart, during Covid-19 and beyond.
People make our heart beat
I joined Westgate Hall in 2017 because it was a place with community firmly at the centre of everything it stands for and everything it does. That continues to be the case today, but the world around us and within our walls has changed following Covid-19.
During this time, I often ask colleagues “how are you today on a scale of 1 to 10? 1 being couldn’t be bothered to get dressed, and 10 being I feel I can smash that Joe Wicks work out and take this crazy Covid-consuming world head on”. Mainly this has helped me to open-up conversations, where once the formality of doing business took priority. It has been about breaking down those barriers to our humanity. We are all feeling something at this time, whatever it is, and it is better to share it. From this, great ideas and closer relationships follow.
We love bringing groups and communities together, it is our focus, what we were built for. We started as a Drill Hall for the territorial army in 1915, we fought for the Hall’s survival 10 years ago and we continue to be a place where different communities and generations can come together, feeling welcome, supported, and safe as they do so.
The pandemic has forced us to scale back, adapt everything under our roof, the number of events we can host, our team. The number of visitors dropped from 50,000 per year to less than 10% in 2020. This broke our heart, naturally, but despite everything, Westgate Hall remains a ‘pillar’ of support for our community. No heartbreak lasts forever…
We love our community
One of my fondest memories throughout the pandemic is when Bemix, the Kent organisation that supports people with learning difficulties and/or autism to speak up, make choices and become powerful and influential, returned to the Hall, socially distanced, in July 2020. We were so happy to have the group back. We did risk assessments, measured out the space between their tables, wore visors, masks and washed our hands – lots.
Yes, it was a strange return, they were nervous and so were we. But we made it happen and our relationship with the group is all the stronger for it. We have moved to online cooking sessions during the recent ongoing lockdowns. I made my first ever dough balls from scratch in the shape of a Christmas tree! That’s a virtual kind of love right there.
We enabled 15 representatives from community venues to meet in August, to discuss, share, open-up and action plan how our shared love of hosting people’s events and get togethers could create a sustainable future.
Right now, we are putting love and affection into our International Women’s Day virtual breakfast on Friday 5 March – a collaboration with our friends and colleagues at the Canterbury BID. We take our community focus seriously and this extends to our business community, where we forge not just working relationships, but long-term professional friendships based on mutual respect, confidentiality, and positivity. This enables us to enable, creating greater connections and conversations, allowing ideas to flourish.
We have felt sad, frustrated, challenged and exhausted throughout the last year, but we have also felt immense gratitude and pride – it has brought us closer to our clients, collaborators, local businesses and neighbours. For us, that is one of the great things about this time. The tenacity of our Business Improvement District – that is something positive.
With love comes care – Hall Guardians
Having spent a lot of lockdown watching Marvel Movies with my son, particularly Guardians of the Galaxy, I’ve reflected on my role as a Guardian of Westgate Hall. My team includes our superhero Events Manager, team of Trustees, our colleagues and neighbours.
We have stayed in touch with those we hold dear (everyone we do business with and welcome through our doors), kept our space safe and open, where permitted to do so. This was crucial for our Market stallholders, the small businesses that will disappear without a trace, without a place to sell and showcase.
In October we proved our status as a trusted and safe Covid-secure venue when we collaborated with Canterbury Festival to deliver family shows, stand-up comedy and a live music performance, all at a social distance and within the guidelines. We couldn’t dance, but it brought some love and joy back to the Hall. Helping to make that happen just before we went into another lockdown meant the world to us and to them.
We have upped our security, and we’re taking the time to love the building through maintenance developments. As guardians of this beautiful historic building, we are keeping it cared-for, safe, up to date, secure and ready for action when the doors are flung open fully once again.
Our own hearts have been filled by being able to continue to fulfil our civic duties. We have had the honour of hosting NHS blood donation sessions throughout 2020. Over 2,000 people gave blood under our roof in 2020. We have put ourselves forward as a vaccination and health service venue – it’s the least we can do right now. Our hearts are with those that have suffered, worked on the frontline and endured this pandemic at the coal face. We are forever grateful and in awe.
We have never lost heart
At Westgate Hall, we have planned, re-planned and planned again… we may have lost our mojo at times, but we have never lost our heart. We have taken this time to start new conversations, continue to listen and get a sense of the collective feelings around the city and its districts, adapting all the time. Every month has been an exercise in emergency response training. If anything, we are ready for anything now, bring it on!
Our heart beats for you
We love filling our Hall with people who share ideas, create new ideas and share their knowledge too. I feel we are getting stronger, to get through this and out the other side with our building still safe and ready to open its doors properly again keeps our heart pumping and our spirits high.
People and creativity make Westgate Hall’s heart beat. Making your ideas come alive is what we do!
Let’s plan for the future – contact us to discuss your event today.
- We are only human
- We continue to be open for you at Westgate Hall
- We will always adapt, evolve, and revisit our plans
Most importantly, we will have a conversation with you that is open, honest and one that will be fun and full of ideas. We move forward with love, respect, trust and within your budget of course!
From Clare and the Westgate Hall team