A MULTI-MILLION pound refurbishment of Barnsley’s historic Civic building is planned to resume next month, after it announced details of its phased reopening.

The Grade II-listed town centre gallery and events space put all its activities on hold in March, with months of cancelled events costing upwards of £300,000 in revenue as most staff were put on furlough leave.

But with lockdown measures easing, the trust that runs the building has hit a significant milestone in reopening for bookings and welcoming back some of the groups that call it home.

Chief executive Helen Ball told the Chronicle there was still ‘a lot to think about’ before the public were invited back into the gallery and its attached theatre and cafe-bar - not least welcoming back the staff to put those plans into action.

Helen said The Civic expects to revive its ‘significantly reduced’ workforce back to pre-lockdown levels within five weeks - the same time when large-scale redevelopment plans initially announced in January are set to resume.

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“We’re starting very gradually, and we’re pleased to be able to start with the groups that use us on a weekly basis and let them get settled back in,” she said.

“It’s a big step, of course, but there’s a lot more work to be done from now until the end of the year.

“We have a number of functions and groups that use us, and all have different requirements and use the space in their own way.

“We need to ensure the customer journey is absolutely safe but also as enjoyable as possible.

“We don’t want to take the joy out of coming to The Civic.”

Renovation of the building, which reopened in 2009, will cost an estimated £7.2m, including a £1.6m facelift as part of Eldon Street’s selection as a ‘Heritage Action Zone’ through Historic England.

Three unused lower floors - totalling 22,000 sq ft of space - are due to be developed, with private apartments, a new 150-seat theatre and the removal of the balcony facing onto Mandela Gardens all key features.

“The project is still there, but we felt we had to focus on getting through this first,” said Helen.

“We’ve revised what we’re going to do, and we’re looking to get people back to work first before we look forward.

“Seeing how quickly the building work around us is happening, we’re keen we don’t miss our opportunity to be part of Barnsley’s redevelopment.”

The box office opened on Tuesday and will operate from 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday, for face-to-face sales and from 10am to 5pm over the phone.

TWO of The Civic’s major partners, the Barnsley Music Service and Cross The Sky theatre company for adults with learning and physical disabilities, have also been welcomed back.

Community engagement officer Jason White said while Cross The Sky had been able to continue its work online over the lockdown months, those behind the group were pleased to meet in more normal circumstances.

“Over the last five months, our lead artists connected with its members via weekly Zoom sessions, which were an essential lifeline for them,” said Jason.

“It was a new way for them to stay in touch with each other and to join in with weekly singalongs.

“As part of our phased reopening, we can now announce that we have been able to create a new space within The Civic which is Covid-compliant and allows the group to meet together again in person, while taking into account essential social distancing measures.

“Each week, group members will now be able to choose from one of two smaller sessions, which they can attend in person with our lead artists.

“They can also choose to attend our weekly Zoom session, which we will continue to run.

“We are so pleased that our lead artists have been able to create a fun and much needed programme for our members and deliver it in a safe way.”

Lead artist Becky Newbould added: “We are so pleased to be able to deliver a creative and much needed programme for our members and deliver it in a safe way, for both them and us.

“While it is still unclear that singing in small groups is safe or not, we will be focusing on poetry and visual art and we hope to share some of that work online in the future. ”