Highland arts centre forced to close due to number of staff self-isolating

One of Scotland's biggest arts centres has been forced to close for more than a week and put its summer festival on hold due to the number of staff needing to self-isolate.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 26th July 2021, 6:04 pm

Eden Court, in Inverness, has been forced to pull the plug on live music events, cinema screenings, plays and workshops, as well as shut down its cafe, bars and bistro, after a “high proportionate” of workers were forced to stay at home.

The move has been ordered even though no members of staff have had Covid symptoms or tested positive following an initial case at the venue.

The venue’s outdoor festival, Under Canvas, which has attracted more than 3,000 people since the beginning of the month, has also been suspended until Eden Court is able to reopen, on Wednesday, August 4.

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Eden Court will be forced to remain closed until Wednesday 4 August due to a high number of staff having to self-isolate.

Chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman said around a third of staff had been identified as close contacts under the current public health guidance, making it “impossible” for Eden Court to open this week.

Eden Court has been one of Scotland s few cultural venues to get up and running again in recent months following the easing of restrictions due to the impact of ongoing social distancing rules.

The venue, which reopened in May, has had 70 staff working on site in recent weeks, including at Under Canvas, a three-month music festival showcasing Gaelic, folk, trad, jazz and world music acts.

It has been one of the biggest outdoor events to go ahead in Scotland since restrictions were relaxed in May.

Eden Court has been staging an outdoor festival in its grounds since the start of July.

An official announcement from the venue said: “It is with regret that we announced that Eden Court’s buildings, and Under Canvas Inverness, will be closed until Wednesday, August 4 due to a high-proportion of our staff needing to self-isolate.

"We are very sorry for the disappointment this will cause. Our priority is the safety and protection of our customers, staff and artists and we thank you for your support. Our ticket sales team are currently working through contacting all affected ticket holders.”

Mr Mackenzie-Blackman said: “I personally took advice from the NHS Highland public health team and that advice has meant we need to require a number of our staff to self-isolate.

"At the current time, beyond an initial case none of our staff who are required to self-isolate are displaying symptoms or have tested positive.

"We had planned for when this might be the case, but it’s no less disappointing to have to put this plan into action.

“Over the course of our closure period, we will lose 27 cinema screenings, ten Under Canvas events, five theatre performances, 19 workshops and projects for young people, and all the associated income from our cafe, bars and bistro.

“Despite this we will fully honour all fees to independent artists, and pay to our staff, over our closure period.

"NHS Highland Public Health team have defined who we should classify as a ‘close contact’ and that’s about a third of staff working. We’re still working to determine how many staff need to self-isolate, but it’s enough to make opening this week impossible.

"Clearly the definition of ‘a close contact who needs to self-isolate’ will need to change in the coming months if we’re going to have the conditions to deliver a meaningful programme through the autumn.”