Mayor marks next phase of Open for Business, Safely campaign with art gallery visit

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is today (19 July) launching the next phase of its Open for Business, Safely campaign, to help businesses bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

The campaign promotes the steps shops, cafes, gyms, beauty salons, transport providers and others have put in place to make their places safe to welcome back customers. Having first launched in April, Open for Business, Safely aims to help make visitors, shoppers, and workers feel more confident when venturing out following the gradual lifting of restrictions.

Today marks the final stage of easing Covid restrictions in England, with most legal restrictions on social contact removed.

Mayor marks next phase of Open for Business, Safely campaign with art gallery visit

Interior of gallery

Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, Andy Street, will be visiting The Birmingham Contemporary Art Gallery, which is based at Utilita Arena, later today (19 July) to mark the third phase of the campaign as the latest relaxation of coronavirus restrictions come into force.

He will be viewing the Midland’s first ever South Asian Heritage Month event and art exhibition, which features work by South Asian emerging and professional artists using a variety of art media.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Our Open for Business Safely campaign is there to promote local businesses as well as our region’s vibrant cultural sector, helping to give residents confidence to visit venues as Coronavirus restrictions ease.

“This is especially important now, as we look to welcome more visitors back with the majority of restrictions no longer law. However, the West Midlands still has a high number of cases, and we want people to continue to take the necessary precautions when travelling in or visiting venues in our region.”

The Birmingham Contemporary Art Gallery is the first hybrid art gallery in Birmingham, situated on the Utilita Arena complex (formerly Arena Birmingham and NIA) overlooking Brindley Place canal. The site exhibits contemporary and urban art from local and regional artists, and combines art and wellness and promotes community engagement through its not-for-profit arm, The heARTivism Project CIC.

The gallery reopened in May 2021 with its Spring Midlands Art Fair and will feature the Midlands’ biggest ever South Asian Art Exhibition until 17th August.

Co-director Albert Wallace said “We’re thrilled and honoured to welcome the Mayor back to the gallery as he’s a big supporter of the arts and he’s done some incredible work in the West Midlands region. The aim of the new exhibition is to create a community of togetherness while celebrating and promoting the diversity of South Asian voices through collaboration and creativity.

“We’ll have Covid measures remaining in place which include encouraging people to wear masks, using the venue check in, hand sanitising and social distancing.

“The last 16 months have been tough for us all and the arts sector in particular, but we’re excited to get things going again with an art exhibition to celebrate South Asian Heritage Month.

“We’re also excited to announce the launch of ‘Willard’s World of Wonder’, a permanent exhibition that will showcase 25 masterpieces from Dr Willard Wigan MBE, the world’s most renowned micro artist, from 23rd July. This is in addition to our heARTivism Project which aims to puts art at the heart of local communities while celebrating diversity, cultural festivals, mental wellness, women’s voices and creatives with disabilities.”

Using the hashtag #WMOpen4Biz local companies are being encouraged to join in the campaign and share on social media details of the preparations they have made so they can invite customers and members of staff back on to their premises, safely.

In addition, transport operators have stepped up cleaning on buses, trains and trams, as well as at stations and facilities across the network to help keep passengers and staff safe.

And from today passengers thinking of returning to buses as Covid restrictions lift will be able to save money with lower fares. Some fares will now be the lowest they have been in more than a decade. Bus operators and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) have agreed to reduce the n-bus multi-operator fares across the board – ranging from a 60p saving on a day ticket to £140 on the 52-week fare.

Cllr Ian Brookfield, WMCA portfolio lead for economy and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “Our region’s economy needs support and Open for Business, Safely is a great way of showcasing the wide variety of businesses and services within our region, and also the responsible measures being taken to keep everyone safe.

“I encourage organisations to join us and highlight the measures they’re taking to help visitors, customers and employees feel safe now restrictions are being lifted.”

Any businesses can get involved in the Open for Business, Safely campaign by using their social media accounts. They can use the tag @WestMids_CA and the hashtag #WMOpen4Biz to show what they have done to make their business or offices COVID-secure.

Measures can include social distancing floor stickers and hand sanitising stations. Local authorities, public bodies, business organisations and charities are also being encouraged to get involved by posting their support online.

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