In 2020 we worked on a case study with Siobhan Davies Studios to better understand the impact of COVID on studio providers and their tenants. Two years on we asked Development Manager, Carrie Anne Ratcliff how things have changed.
Everyone at Siobhan Davies Studios (SDS) remains grateful to the Mayor of London’s Creative Workspace Resilience Fund. The support we received from this fund enabled us to offer some of the artists from our community access to free studio space when we re-opened following the initial lockdown late 2020.
As things have further re-opened over time and life has returned to the city we have enjoyed having more studio users gradually returning to our space. Everyone we speak to has been really excited to come back to our studios. Independent artists and choreographers and smaller companies who use our space were unable to truly work from home. The confines of a living room are no match for a proper dance studio. Online or even hybridised classes whilst they served a purpose have been challenging. Some of our regular hirers stopped their classes completely whilst restrictions were in place as their classes simply didn’t work with an online format. We also noticed a build-up of “zoom fatigue” and many participants didn’t have the space to participate properly from home.
The majority of our regular building users from pre-pandemic have returned to using our space now things are approaching a “new normal”. The big change we have seen in our building users is that we no longer have people dropping in to use our common areas. Pre-pandemic our parlour and mezzanine were hotspots for studio users and members of our artist community to drop-in, meet, socialise, plan, work or sit in quiet reflection. Partly this shift is due to the fact that our building is still only open to pre-booked attendees and professional bookings, so we have lost some of our “open door” welcoming vibe. This policy was brought in as part of our Covid-safety procedures. We will be reviewing these measures and are generally looking at more ways to open up our building in the future – both to our dance community and to the local geographic community. As such, we hope to revitalise and reignite these spaces.
For a long time, we had policies in place whereby studio capacity was restricted. Initially, this was to comply with government rules around, for example, keeping two metres apart and limitations on numbers of people gathering. Afterwards we have retained some restrictions as they made studio users feel safer and more comfortable as things have slowly eased and opened back up. For example, our Adult Contemporary class traditionally had 25 spaces whereas it now has 15. Class capacities have been decided in consultation with the facilitators based on what they and their participants are most comfortable with. Most of the in-person classes taking place at the studios are now full and many are operating waiting lists. We are looking to re-review our capacities now that the risk from Covid-19 is lower.
Since January this year (2022) we have seen a big increase in our studio hire enquiries which are in a healthy state. This is hugely important to us as our studio hire income is invested back into our artistic programme and subsequently affects our ability to support artists and our other creative studio users.
Alongside restrictions on studio capacities, we have other safety measures still in place. These include, operating a pre-booking system for track & trace, a gap of 30 minutes between hires to allow time to air out and sanitise the studios, and the wearing of masks in the communal areas of the building. Studio users have voiced their appreciation of these ongoing safety measures. We have been analysing the environmental impact and costs associated with carrying out these safety measures. Going forwards, we hope to strike a balance between making studio users feel safe and maximising the building and its resources.
In addition to the impact of Covid-19 it’s been a period of immense change for us as an organisation. In April 2021, our founding Artistic Director, Siobhan Davies, stepped down from the role. Annie Pui Ling Lok and Kat Bridge were announced as the incoming Co-Artistic Directors and are job sharing the role. The new directorship marks a dynamic time for us, both artistically and organisationally. This change arose from Siobhan Davies’ desire to hand on leadership of the organisation and ensure a strong future, bringing the wealth of independent dance practice to audiences. In conversation with artists in the dance sector, SDS have had the opportunity to reflect on current practice and plan a future in which we can meet changing needs. We want to respond flexibly to the needs of a diverse community of artists pushing the boundaries of dance and choreography. This will involve a shift from producing toward a more flexible approach that redirects resources in support of a greater number of artists. This change is also reflected in the subtle change in our name from Siobhan Davies Dance to Siobhan Davies Studios. As we emerge from the pandemic we look forward to seeing what the future holds.