Northern Ireland news

One of Ireland's most popular aviation museums set to re-open its hangar doors

Ray Burrows of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) beside the Puma helicopter as preparations are made to remove the protective shroud it has worn since the coronavirus lockdown. Picture by Alan Jarden

AT a time when less people are able to fly, one of Ireland's most popular aviation museums is about to re-open its hangar doors.

Tours of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) at Lisburn are due to begin on Monday, five months after it was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The two large hangars at the Maze/Long Kesh development site contain around 40 historic aircraft, as well as a rich assortment of aviation artefacts and special displays.

More than 600 members belong to the organisation with around 100 volunteers providing the work on aircraft restoration, maintenance and guiding.

Six tours will be available every day, which will be limited to family 'bubbles' of no more than six people. All tours of the museum are free, but must be pre-booked.

UAS chairman Raymond Burrows said: "We're responding in a safe and positive manner to this crisis.

"Our guides are keen to demonstrate that a fascinating tour of our museum is still possible."

A one-way system with appropriate floor markings, signage and barriers, as well as a separate entrance and exit at the hangars are in place as well as hand sanitising stations.

Visitors' details will be recorded to allow for any subsequent tracing, with people encouraged to wear face masks.

Pre-booking can be done by contacting Ernie Cromie on 07974 502319.

Meanwhile, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said audiences at arts and entertainment venues may be asked to wear face masks and undergo temperature checks when they reopen.

It is among a number of measures suggested in guidance produced by the council to "support the safe reopening of arts performance venues, closed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic".

Venues such as theatres, arts centres, galleries, studios and arts hubs are still awaiting the go ahead from the NI Executive to reopen for indoor performances.

To enable them to reopen to the public again, the council has produced a 76-page guidance document called 'In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland'.

It sets "protocols, adjustments and equipment that will be required by venues to maintain social distancing and protect the health and wellbeing of audiences, performers, staff and participants".

Venues will also have to consider whether audiences will have to wear masks or face coverings when they reopen - as they are "enclosed public spaces".

Roisín McDonough of the Arts Council said: "There is an enormous appetite for a return to live, in-person, arts, and we want to make sure that our venues have the most up-to-date guidance that will allow them to safely open their doors and welcome back audiences.

"We are also keen to see arts organisations continue to develop the astonishing aptitude they have shown during the lockdown for adapting to circumstances and finding novel ways of reaching out to audiences."

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