Published Monday, 30th March 2020

The Council has put the closed Harlequin Theatre at the heart of its coronavirus response to support residents in need.

We have repurposed the theatre as a community support centre to co-ordinate essential assistance for its vulnerable residents, distributing food, medicines and essential supplies to high risk and vulnerable residents needing to stay at home, as well as to those in severe financial need.

Staff redeployed

The operation is being run by an army of Council staff redeployed from other roles and community volunteers. The theatre itself has been transformed with rows upon rows of shelving filled with food and essentials, ready to be sent out to those in need.

Racks of shelving full of food in the Harlequin theatreThe community support centre has three roles:

  1. Supplying local foodbanks - local foodbanks are being invited to come and stock up, like they would do at a supermarket.
  2. Preparing emergency welfare packs for vulnerable residents, identified through the Council’s various frontline support services.
  3. Providing hot meals for those that would otherwise go without, cooked by the theatre’s and other catering staff.

We are also co-ordinating outgoing welfare calls to vulnerable residents and those who have contacted us needing urgent support, in what is a difficult and lonely time for many people without their usual support networks.

Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are helping to help fill the centres shelves, and traders from Redhill Market have stepped in to provide fresh produce direct from their suppliers. We are also in discussions with other food retailers and food producers, and local restaurants that have closed.

Council staff and vehicles have been redeployed to make the deliveries, along with volunteer drivers.

Number one priority

Cllr Mark Brunt, Leader of Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, said: “In these challenging and uncertain times, our number one priority is to help those in need in our community. Many of our vulnerable residents will have found their regular support networks drastically changed and reduced over the past week, and we have been working very hard to quickly put in place this essential provision.

“We are redeploying staff from other parts of the Council so we can prioritise this support. The in-depth knowledge of our communities that our teams possess, and their dedication to helping them in this time of need, puts us in an ideal position to be able to deliver this vital support. It really is fantastic to see such community spirit in our borough, with so many staff and local volunteers wanting to help support those in need.”

The Council has a close relationship with its local food banks and is working with Voluntary Action Reigate & Banstead (VARB) to mobilise and coordinate the volunteer response to Coronavirus.

Overwhelming response

Nina Porter, Chief Officer at VARB, said: “We are working with existing volunteer organisations, and with the many new groups that are establishing to help our local community, to place volunteers where they are needed so that vulnerable people in our community get the right support. We are also helping groups to get the information and guidance they need to run safely and efficiently. We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of local people who have put themselves forward to help; we are enormously grateful. Anyone who would like to volunteer can register with us on our website.”

The Harlequin is one of 11 local community support hubs across Surrey’s boroughs and districts, working with the County Council’s central support hub.

Need support?

The Harlequin is not open to the public. If you need support, see the 'I need help' page or call us on 01737 276000.

For more information on the Council’s response and updates on council services see the Coronavirus section of our website and follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

To find out more about Surrey County Council's services and coronavirus support see

If you know people who do not have access to the internet, please share this information with them.

For the latest health information for the public see