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Phased reopening of libraries, galleries and museums as High Life Highland reveals plans to 'bounce back' from coronavirus crisis


By Gregor White

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High Life Highland chief executive Steve Walsh.
High Life Highland chief executive Steve Walsh.

High Life Highland has written to members advising how the charity plans to “bounce back” from coronavirus with provisional dates for the reopening of facilities.

High Life Highland (HLH) chief executive Steve Walsh said: "We care passionately about what we deliver to enhance the health and wellbeing our communities and are really looking forward to welcoming our many customers back to our facilities and services over the forthcoming weeks and months and I am delighted that our bounce back campaign is already taking shape across all of our services.

"In physically reopening our facilities, HLH will place the safety of its customers, its staff and its communities uppermost at every step of the way.

"This means that our bounce back will be a gradual process, where we will bring back services carefully, in a structured way that allows our customers to enjoy our facilities feeling safe and well protected at all times.

"The next phase of our recovery will see more of our staff returning to prepare venues and services for reopening.

"We have an increasing number of staff returning to their workplaces, working hard and making bounce back plans for the safe return of their customers and colleagues.

"Our bounce back programme will see many of our sites reopening over the next few weeks to offer services that will take into account the guidance in the Scottish Government’s route map.

"We have been in touch with members advising them of the measures put in place to offer customers the reassurance needed that it is safe to return to our facilties."

He added: "We will be introducing new booking systems at a number of our venues, where prior to the pandemic booking hadn’t been required.

"These bookable venues will include: libraries; archive centres; museums; art galleries and the Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery.

"We will also be introducing hand sanitising stations at key points throughout our facilities and encouraging increased hand-hygiene from our users.

"This will be in addition to increasing our cleaning staff and enhancing our cleaning regimes – with programmed cleaning periods before and after activities; measures which in themselves may impact on the public opening hours of our sites.

"As a precaution, it is our intention to monitor staff temperatures. We will also be implementing flow-management procedures in our larger and busier sites, as well as queue management processes being put in place.

"In considering the number of customers admitted to any one location, it is extremely likely that numbers in classes and activities will be reduced in order to accommodate appropriate social distancing.

"A vital part of our bounceback campaign will be to ensure the safety of customers when they visit our sites.

"We will be asking anyone that has any Covid-19 symptoms, or who may have come into contact with the virus, to stay away from our sites until they have completed the self-isolation and testing guidance in place at that time."

The charity which runs culture and leisure services on behalf of Highland Council is also planning on creating welcome videos and holding open days for its busier sites on a bid to help members and customers navigate the changes, as well as highlight some of the helpful measures put in place to support social distancing and improved hygiene.

Mr Walsh continued: "Given the importance of physical and mental health and wellbeing as people across the Highlands move out of lockdown, my team and I had been hopeful that we’d have received some news from yesterday’s First Minister’s briefing with regards to opening leisure centres and swimming pools. However, from the briefing it is clear that these locations look unlikely to open before the end of the month."

"I hope that the introduction of our bounceback campaign will offer all our customers and service-users assurance that we are doing everything we possibly can to get them back to ‘business-as-usual' and as soon as we can."

The initial phase of the bounce back programme for reopening is as follows:

The Ben Nevis Visitors Centre – July 15 (restricted numbers within the visitor centre along with the appropriate social distancing markers and wearing of face coverings mandatory).

Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery – July 27 (access to the gardens via an online booking service with timed slots and limited numbers. Drop-in will be allowed if there are spaces. There will also be cater pod catering provision at the entrance to the gardens for refreshments.)

Highland Folk Museum – July 29 (access via an online booking service with timed slots and limited numbers).

Nairn Library – July 23

Thurso Libraries – July 22

Inverness Library – July 27 (via a click and collect service using an online booking system).

Fort William Library – July 29

Far North Mobile Library – July 20 (This will be offering a door to door drop off and pick up service).

Dingwall and Portree Libraries – Early/Mid August. (This will be via a click and collect service using an online booking system).

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (IMAG) – August 4 (access via an online booking service with timed slots and limited numbers, with the appropriate social distancing markers.Wearing of face coverings mandatory.

Highland Archive Centre – Mid/Late August (visits by appointment only, which must be booked in advance with timed slots and with limited numbers).

Skye and Lochalsh and Lochaber Archive Centres – Late August /Early September (visits by appointment only, which must be booked in advance with timed slots and with limited numbers).

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