2020 – A Year in Review

2020 was the most challenging year for the arts. From March onwards, live gigs were postponed, rescheduled, or modified to become socially-distanced. From a 200 capacity venue (350 if standing), we temporarily became a 60-seat venue (no standing allowed). The loss of ticket sales, and the impact on all performers, was immense, yet through it all a lot was achieved.

Take a look at what went on behind the stage, and on the scenes.

She Shore Live

At the end of 2019, we launched a competition to promote new music from unsigned female artists living within 20 miles of Ropetackle. The response, and the range of talent, was huge, with Sadie Horler selected as the winner from the four finalists who appeared on our stage on January 31st. Because of the pandemic, Sadie is still patiently waiting to appear as a support to one of the bigger live shows, and we look forward to welcoming her back as soon as we can.

Launch of live-streaming 

In a year where everyone looked set to stay in, we teamed up with comedian Mark Thomas to promote recorded shows of mirth and banter, along with live intros and Q&As from him. Mark generously donated 20% of ticket sales to Ropetackle. We were also chosen by songwriter Chris Difford as one of only five venues in the country to be supported via an exclusive live gig from his writer’s shed in Sussex. That raised more than £800 and went directly to the centre. Having investigated more options behind the scenes, we are now looking to live stream more events directly from Ropetackle.


As well as the partnerships mentioned above, we benefited from a series of fundraisers organised by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, in partnership with Wordfest and the CPRE. These were educational talks on the importance of nature and wildlife and marine life projects taking place locally, which we hope to resume in 2021. Local jazz musician, and South Coast Jazz Festival co-founder Julian Nicholas performed a fundraiser for Ropetackle in October, which brought in £300.

Coping with Covid 

Despite being locked down for the best part of four months, the staff and volunteers spent the time organising a varied summer programme and making sure the Centre was Covid-safe. This involved a new seating plan and ticketing system, social- distancing provisions, drawing up and implementing risk assessments with performers and staff/volunteers, new cleaning rotas and being extremely flexible with shows.

The good relationships we have with local and national musicians and other performers – and of course, the loyalty of our audiences – meant we could organise (and sell-out) small events at very short notice. We negotiated with and successfully supported all our regular acts (Barnstormers, Treason Show, Mike Hatchard’s Jazz Breakfast) to ensure  they could carry on working and performing within the new guidelines. In particular, Hannah’s Short Stories Tall Tales garnered an even greater take-up than normal as we wanted to plug the gap for children missing nursery and pre-school.


We secured a financial boost of £50k from the Arts Council’s Cultural Recovery Grant to keep us going during the Covid crisis. We also launched a crowdfunder under #saveourvenues which raised £800.

Increasing audience engagement and support

Although the audience capacity went down by a quarter through necessary social distancing, we managed to achieve an average audience capacity of between 80 and 90 percent, which shows strong trust and loyalty. Despite some trepidation at the beginning, audience numbers grew as the weeks went on.

Volunteer support

We continued to stay in contact with volunteers, even if they were shielding, to ensure they felt safe, supported and an important part of the team. The benefits of volunteering for well-being and to prevent isolation was highlighted on a national scale this year and we can be very proud of those who are part of the Ropetackle family. The other side of this coin is that without the volunteers turning up and effectively “retraining” to steward differently, put on a full film programme during August when only cinema was allowed, and serve customers refreshments at their seats, we would not have got through this at all.

Children’s Events and Panto

We made sure children had access to events that could safely go ahead, such as family films, toddler films, the aforementioned Short Stories, Tall Tales and live puppet shows and theatre through the summer. The feedback from teachers, parents, carers and performers was extremely positive.

The annual Shoreham Pantomime went from being a full spectacular (Aladdin) to a children’s Christmas show (Santa and the Pirates), to the two-man “Almost a Panto” to the three-person “Oh Yes It Is” it became – all in the space of two months! The final result was a socially-distanced, fun, and imaginative show, and a very clever Covid-related script, that got excellent reviews in the press and great audience feedback. This took an enormous amount of courage, flexibility and humour to put on and deliver…and demonstrates once again the confidence people have in Ropetackle. We also made a small profit, despite having to close down at the end of week 2. (Oh yes we did.)

Local and Live Festival Partnership

This was an extremely successful venture done in partnership with Shoreham Wordfest. Together, we organised a comprehensive itinerary of poets, speakers, theatre, workshops and music over three weeks in October/November. We managed to distribute 5,000 copies of the brochure and had some good coverage in the media and support from local businesses.  Sadly, the November lockdown meant some shows were postponed but the feedback and attendance were very positive. The essence of this was to promote the wealth of creativity and talent that we have on our doorstep in Sussex and was really valued by the local performers and audiences alike.

Hiring out facilities

We supported the local community by offering a “Covid-secure” venue for various groups to use, including yoga, Pilates and children’s drama clubs. We also supported the Ropetackle choir that had to carry on via Zoom and offered rehearsal and recording space for professional musicians to use.

Giving back

Ropetackle has always been at the heart of our community and this year was no different. During the Panto run, LP Creatives and Ropetackle “donated” one performance to NHS workers and their families to say thank you. We launched a ballot, which was positively shared on social media. This was well received and we have made good links with the health authority that we can use to promote future shows/offers as a result. We also offered free pantomime tickets to disadvantaged children and their families; take-up was excellent and local families and schools grateful.

During the November lockdown, we organised a Community Meals Appeal via our newsletter subscribers and Friends and Patrons, to raise funds that would allow us to cook, freeze and distribute healthy meals to those in need over the winter months. We raised more than £6,000 and have linked up with the Gateway Hub, Turning Tides, Adur Community Cafe, local food bank,  Worthing Community House and Age Concern. Special thanks to Lesley Ward for her menus and supervision (all provided for free), and the volunteer cooks for their time and hard work.



  • star rating  Attended the venue for a gig by the Kubricks, this was our first visit to the Ropetackle and it will not be our last. Excellent staff on arrival being extremely... read more

    avatar thumb sarahbrooks18
    October 28, 2021
  • star rating  A great local venue, always something on that appeals to all people. Lovely to have a local arts venue and not to have to go to Brighton

    chris b
    July 28, 2019
  • star rating  This venue is great for a night out. They have an assortment of entertainment, we mainly see bands or tribute bands. The one in July was Eagles tribute and the... read more

    October 10, 2019
  • star rating  This venue is great for a night out. They have an assortment of entertainment, we mainly see bands or tribute bands. The one in July was Eagles tribute and the... read more

    avatar thumb SHAZZMO
    October 10, 2019
  • star rating  Attracts great diverse acts from nostalgic 1970s acts to new local talent as well as great comedy. Bar and informal restaurant there as well with good ale and appetising home... read more

    August 18, 2019
  • star rating  Another great Sunday Jazz , just love the place, great place To go Sunday jazz is just a delight once a month

    February 2, 2020
  • star rating  Just returned from our first visit to this place to see a band. The refreshment prices were good for a venue, half the price of places like the o2 or... read more

    Marc H
    October 14, 2019
  • star rating  Lovely little place for a relax and chill in a morning! Coffee cake and a magazine. Meeting friends and family - or just a little working morning on my own!

    January 19, 2020
  • star rating  Fabulous friendly award winning venue run almost entirely by volunteers. Films.,bands, recitals talks you name it you can experience it here. Lovely cafe and bar and fab staff.

    August 8, 2019
  • star rating  We have been to the panto at the Ropetackle several times and this year it was as good, if not better than ever. It had all the ingredients we... read more

    December 29, 2019

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