Special report by Luke Edwards.

AN APP to order drinks and snacks straight to your seat is one of the innovations being considered by an Oxford theatre as it reopens.

The North Wall in Summertown is also considering the use of electronic-only ‘e-tickets’ instead of paper ones.

These plans and others would be aimed at making the whole experience feel safer, to encourage people to come back to the theatre.

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Co-director Ria Parry said: “It’s our hope that we can reopen in the autumn.

“We’re looking at anti-bac [hand sanitiser] being available, we’re looking at more regular cleaning, we’re looking at staggered arrival times and staggered arrival points so we can support smaller groups of people arriving at any given time so there’s not too much contact in the foyer space.

Oxford Mail:

John Hoggarth and Ria Parry were appointed co-directors of the North Wall in 2017.

“We likely won’t have large group gatherings in the foyer either pre-show or post show.”

Other ideas being considered include creating an app to order refreshments.

Ms Parry added: “We know we have to be adaptable depending on what guidelines come out."

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The arts centre shut its doors on March 17, with the Covid-19 pandemic forcing most of its programming to be cancelled, and managers put 80 per cent of the staff on furlough.

Now the company is hoping to get back on its feet with new, creative measures being explored to maximise safety.

The theatre is tasked with operating at ‘reduced capacity’ to align with social distancing guidelines, among many other caveats.

Ms Parry said: “It feels like a lot of it is about audience confidence.

Oxford Mail:

The North Wall joined theatres across Oxfordshire on July 6, lighting up its exterior in red to highlight the funding crisis facing the sector.

"The most important thing is that the audience feels comfortable, confident and safe, and that the experience of going to the arts centre is a really wonderful, joyful one, as it’s supposed to be.”

She also welcomed the the £1.57bn grant for the theatre sector announced by the Government this month.

She said: “It’s a huge relief for the sector that these funds are going to be made available.

“It has been a really difficult few weeks watching colleagues being made redundant across the UK.

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“We have to give huge credit and gratitude to everyone who has been campaigning tirelessly for us to get to this point. It feels like it means we can hope that our industry will survive.

“We need to make sure as an industry that a large part of this money gets to everyone who needs it, and we’re still waiting on a timeline.”

The North Wall has already been forced to delay several initiatives until 2021, including its ‘flagship’ Catalyst project giving work experience to young creatives.

Ms Parry said she hoped the centre would be reopen in the autumn, but accepted this is far from guaranteed.

She said: “If we’re not reopening until spring, then that’s another huge amount of practical planning and financial planning that every venue will be facing.

"We need to know when the Government thinks we can open our doors, whether that’s with social distancing or not.”