For many in the arts and entertainment industry, the restrictions posed by the coronavirus have caused many challenges. But for Rendra Freestone, founder of The Rhythm Hut in Gosford, the path forward is looking positive.
After shutting the doors back in March, the unique music and cultural venue will hold its first event back on Saturday, August 1.
The celebration will feature two ticketed events, both of which have been capped at 40 people to allow for appropriate social distancing measures.
The official Hut Re-opening night will be preceded by a PreParty during the day. The Hut Re-opening night will include a performance from Freestone (AKA Ren Stone), who will be debuting his new single, Hold Yourself.
The iconic live music venue is known around the Central Coast for its intimate gigs, exclusive live shows, art and music classes, and traditional drumming circles.
The Rhythm Hut has registered itself as a COVID safe venue which means safety measures have been put in place for the event. People will not be allowed to drink while standing; they will not be able to change seats; hand sanitizer will be readily available and signing in before entry will be required.
“We will make milk crates into little floor cushion tables for the front rows,” Freestone said.
“It will all be very beautiful, colourful and cosy with candles, flowers and handmade decorations.
“We will have specific seating throughout the venue, and we will have all the lounges spread out to help ensure appropriate social distancing.”
A donation-run online streaming service has also been set up as a result of the event’s popularity. All the money made from this streaming service will go to the artists and crew involved in putting on the night.
One of the biggest challenges Freestone has found in reopening the venue has been getting his head around the changing restrictions and laws.
“The numbers of people actually allowed is quite confusing with factors like floor space, outside/inside areas, staff and performers all being factored in,” he said.
“We don’t want to get a fine, and we want to do the right thing for the community.
“Also, a lot of people are still fearful of COVID 19. “The way we present ourselves as we re-commence business in terms of social distancing is tricky.
“We want to be warm and inclusive but still stress no touching.
“It’s just tricky to get the correct message out.” The roots of the Rhythm Hut run back to 2001 when Freestone started running two Tribal Rhythm Classes at Erina.
Over the years, he has engaged himself in the culture of rhythm, acquiring a variety of instruments to establish drumming circles and classes. He is also known for running some of the largest drum circles in the country, including at Splendour in the Grass and Peats Ridge Festival.
The Rhythm Hut also hosts art exhibitions, comedy nights, drumming and dance workshops among other things. The venue also acts as a place for backpackers to stay on a work-for-board base.
Even though restrictions still pose a threat to the future of the arts and entertainment industry, Freestone is staying positive.
“It has been really hard for us, financially…but we have been able to use the time to reflect and make the space more cosy and beautiful than ever,” he said.
Reporter Jacinta Counihan