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Swapping stage doors for kitchen floors: Redundant theatre workers use skills to retrofit homes

Written by on 9 January 2021

Manchester theatre staff have swapped stage doors for kitchen floors in a bid to tackle the climate crisis and make homes more energy efficient during lockdown.

The decision to become a co-founder of a project, called Retrofit Get-in, came after former theatre technician Andrew Glassford was made redundant at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before then, Andrew had been working in the arts industry for 12 years.

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Mr Glassford is the founder of Retrofit Get-in

“For me, being made redundant was like being told I wasn’t useful anymore. People who work in the arts like making things, and being useful. So, when your boss says I don’t need you and your 30 colleagues anymore, what does one do?

“So much of working in theatre and the arts is organisation, and bringing people together.

“It’s been similar to arranging crews to come into houses, getting materials and planning ahead. The downside is, the music is not as good.”

Retrofitting is the process of making modifications to existing buildings to make them eco-friendly and carbon neutral, such as installing insulation and fitting bay windows.

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Professor Will Swan, director of Energy House Laboratories at the University of Salford, says by making these changes you can aim for a zero carbon home.

“A house leaks energy through walls or through air gaps. You can make this less conductive by putting in insulation on doors or windows,” Prof Swan said.

“Then you can think about moving from fossil fuel gas or oil to zero carbon forms of heat. On the plus side there are additional benefits to reducing heating costs such as improving the quality and comfort of a home.”

Andrew Glassford, the theatre technician who was made redundant who set up the housing project has sent me the below photos of him in action when he was a theatre technician (before he was made redundant).
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Mr Glassford says being made redundant was like being told he ‘wasn’t useful anymore’

This year, the government introduced a £3bn green homes grant to kick-start retrofitting in the UK, but the scheme ran into trouble.

Households had to find an accredited builder or installer to do the works required, however, many were reluctant to invest in the time and money needed to gain accreditation. This means many were put off by the complexity of the process and there were few sign-ups.

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Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham believes theatre worker Andrew and his colleagues deserve full support.

“It’s ingenious and inspiring,” he said. “In dire circumstances, some have taken the initiative and been inspirational.

“I will continue to support people in creative industries who have been largely excluded from help this year.

“2038 is our target for zero carbon in Greater Manchester. My aim is to have a retrofitting programme that trains a generation of young people in these skills because they’ll be set up for life.

“They’ll be able to go to other parts of the country where they catch up on the zero carbon agenda. But the point is that people might need to take a career shift to move from one sector that has been hit by the pandemic to another that might open up in the recovery.”