The foundation, one of the UK’s largest and most respected charitable grant-makers, created the one-off Weston Culture Fund last year to support the arts and cultural sector with restarting its work, refreshing activities and re-engaging audiences following coronavirus closures.

Awen, the registered charity which provides opportunities for people and communities to experience, enjoy and be inspired by culture for the benefit of their wellbeing, will use the funding to improve customer experiences at the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl.

This will include: purchasing digital cinema equipment, to develop a new area of programming; redeveloping the bars and refreshment kiosk, to prevent overcrowding at sales points; purchasing digital advertising screens, to create more flexible and engaging marketing; installing an infra-red hearing loop, to make performances more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing audiences; purchasing a broadcast satellite to enable the live broadcast of theatre performances, such as National Theatre Live, to the Grand Pavilion; and the production of a video to provide reassurance to customers on the Covid-19 safe measures in place before their return to the venue.

Announcing the funding, Garfield Weston Foundation Director, Philippa Charles, said:

“Our cultural sector is at the heart of our local communities, providing not only entertainment but education and inspiration for many. Our Trustees were impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit shown across the arts in response to Covid-19 and it was a privilege to hear what organisations have been doing, to not only survive but also to reinvent the way they reach audiences. What really stood out was the level of collaboration and support they had for each other and the determination to keep going, despite the increasingly difficult situation.  

“We all want and need our cultural sector to thrive and, if anything, our time away from the arts has shown just how important they are to us – bringing much needed pleasure and enrichment to our lives. Arts organisations are desperate to re-open and get back to what they do best, and we hope that this funding will help many of them do exactly that.”

Richard Hughes, Chief Executive of Awen Cultural Trust, said:

“It is hard to believe it’s almost a year since we closed the doors of the Grand Pavilion, and our other venues, to play our role in preventing the spread of Covid-19 within our communities. The past 11 months have been devastating for the cultural sector but we are all committed to working together to do what we can to re-open our doors and encourage our audiences to return as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We are so grateful to the financial support offered by the Garfield Weston Foundation, which will enable us to make a number of practical and digital improvements at the Grand Pavilion, for the safety, wellbeing and accessibility of our customers. This grant helps us look positively towards the future and has given the team, who are finding new, creative ways of delivering high quality cultural experiences to the people of Bridgend and the wider region while the venue remains closed, a real boost.”

The Weston Culture Fund was open to UK-registered arts charities with a pre-Covid annual income of at least £500,000, spanning museums, galleries, theatres and dance companies, but excluding heritage sites and time-limited festivals. According to the foundation’s website, “the scale of need was evident with requests totalling over £128m”, leading trustees to boost the size of the original funding pot by £5m.