The retrofitting home improvement project helping redundant art workers in Manchester stay busy

A group of workers in the art industry are swapping the lights of the theatre stage for solar-panel roofs in order to keep working throughout lockdown.

A new project set up by climate activists called Retrofit Get-in is encouraging Manchester’s art workers made redundant by the pandemic to stay active and get back into work by taking part in retrofit work.

Retrofitting is the process of making modifications to existing buildings to make them more eco-friendly and carbon-neutral.

For the last few weeks, eight art workers have been based at a semi-detached house in Whalley Range where they have been replacing bay windows, installing insulation and removing old floors.

Freelance theatre technician Andrew Glassford co-founded the project and said the pandemic had been devastating for the arts industry.

Redundant arts workers in Manchester are being kept busy with a home improvement project in Whalley Range

“When Covid-19 hit, I was 12 hours away from the get-in of a show I had spent two months working on,” he says.

“Within two weeks, the rest of my work had been cancelled or postponed until 2021. It was a truly devastating blow.”

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He says the idea for the project, which was set up alongside Charlie Baker at Red Co-Op, grew out of his two interests in the arts and the environment.

“I’m a tech and I’m a climate activist and I thought these two things could really go hand-in-hand,” he added.

Retrofit was co-founded by Andrew, who is a theatre technician and climate activist

“I thought it could bridge that gap for people who don’t have jobs in the city who are really highly skilled and we can take on the climate crisis at the same time.

“Many live events workers for instance are skilled in carpentry, construction, decorating, electrics, hydraulics and plastering.

“Our goal is to support these skilled workers while theatres and venues are closed because of Covid-19.”

Rebecca has been working on the retrofitted property after being furloughed from her role as a lighting technician.

“I was working full time before Covid, but I wasn’t employed soon enough so I wasn’t able to get proper furlough,” she explained.

Arts workers have been replacing bay windows, installing insulation and removing old floors at a home in Whalley Range

“I’m very hard working, very good at the graft and a very hands-on person.

“I like the idea of creating something and making a beautiful piece happen.”

Before the pandemic, Kevin was a technical stage manager and, similarly to Andrew, found out moments before the start of a show that things were shutting down.

“I found out literally half an hour before curtain was going up that we were going to pull the show and from then on, everything stopped,” he says.

Charlie Baker at Red Co-Op co-founded the project

“Retrofitting is brilliant and it pulls together all the skills that backstage workers have already.”

Co-founder Andrew says he hopes the project will become a long-standing opportunity for arts workers to keep busy while out of work.

“We envisage Retrofit Get-in being a place for theatre workers to come whenever they are between gigs, a place which supports them while helping protect the environment,” he adds.

“It’s a super common sense plan. Why not do it?”

To express interest in joining Retrofit Get-in, you can sign up for more information here.

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