GIGS performed at a Darlington music venue will now be able to be streamed live into the homes of fans unable to attend in person.

The development is one of a several new innovations at The Forum Music Centre in Darlington, implemented during the difficult lockdown period.

The centre opened its rehearsal rooms and bar area for the first time since March this week, the first phase of a re-opening programme which will see live music and other events returning later this year.

Like many other similar venues, The Forum has been wrestling with how to cope with the loss of income during lockdown.

But funding from the National Lottery and Arts Council emergency fund – recognition of The Forum’s social enterprise status and services to the community – has helped it through.

And many improvements have been made to its Borough Road site.

“We’ve used the time productively in getting all of those things done that we didn’t have time to do before,” said managing director Allison McKay.

The bar area has been revamped, with television screens and new speakers installed to allow live music to be streamed from the stage next door.

Social distancing means the hall’s capacity will have to be limited, but those unable to get in will be able to watch gigs from the comfort of the bar.

And the upgrades made to the technical and production equipment gives The Forum the ability to stream the performances to devices in people’s homes.

“We’re doing it so people can access live music from a lot more areas, they don’t have to be confined to the hall,” said Allison.

“We’re looking how to get live music going again – with social distancing and all the restrictions it places on us – while being financially viable at the same time.”

Other measures include installing plastic screens in the rehearsal rooms to protect performers, entrance only via the rear through the car park, exit only via the front, enhanced cleaning, extra signage, advanced booking, limited capacity and reduced opening hours.

Musicians started returning to the rehearsal rooms on Tuesday, August 18 and it is hoped students will soon return for music school and song club sessions.

Allison said reopening is “a little bit scary” and like “walking into the unknown” but something staff at The Forum wanted to do.

As well as the live gigs, The Forum is aiming to restart other events that were regularly held there before lockdown, like Darlington Film Club and the jazz club.

Allison said: “We’ve got a lot of different ideas and we’re trying to be as creative as possible.

“ It’ll be a different picture for the next few months, but at least there is a picture there.”

She added: “The people of Darlington have been so creative and so supportive over the years and we feel we’ve got to make the extra effort to get something going for them.”

l For more information on what's happening at The Forum Music Centre call 01325-363135, check on its website at or visit its Facebook page.