A gallery director has described how a “buzz” returned to her city as businesses from hairdressers to coffee shops reopened their doors to the public on Monday.
Dulcie Humphrey, 37, who runs the Fairhurst Gallery in Norwich, said that after the latest easing in lockdown restrictions in England: “It just feels so joyous being able to be open and welcome people.”
She said the city felt “normal” on her walk to work, and that she had seen “so many people walking by”.
“There’s a buzz, and seeing people around and hearing that ‘ding’ that goes off when you open a shop door, hearing those as I go down the street,” she said.
“And all the cafes had their awnings out and people were sitting out having coffee.
“It feels really nice.
“It feels a world away from where we were.”
The gallery has been limiting visitor numbers and offering private views with groups of six people.
“At the beginning we tried quite a few exhibitions online with virtual gallery spaces but I really do think you need the person, you need the human in the space with the work for that magic to be able to happen,” said Mrs Humphrey.
“Without that it does seem a bit soulless, a bit dry.”
She went on: “We just have to be flexible throughout the year and see how it goes.
“I’m hoping we’ll be able to welcome people and people will feel comfortable to come into the gallery space.”
Rocio Pajuelo, 50, co-owner of the Flint Hair salon in Norwich, said that it was “exciting” to welcome clients back.
“It feels a bit like the first day back at school as obviously we’ve done it before, we know what it’s like,” she said.
“We haven’t got those nerves of ‘oh God, what’s it going to be like?’.
“It’s really exciting to be able to come back, be with our team, see our clients and look after them again.”
Lynn Crombie, the salon’s first client on Monday morning, said: “It’s just so fantastic to be back, it’s like the whole world’s woken up as you walk here, it’s like we’ve waited so long.
“I was so excited to get my appointment today, it’s just wonderful to be back.”
Marlon Fernandez, 31, who works at Dogfish men’s casualwear shop in Norwich, said: “Everyone’s just really happy to be back in the shop, seeing lots of friendly faces, it’s just nice, it seems like everyone’s enjoying it.”
He said Covid-secure measures were already in place including a one-way system and hand sanitiser.
“Everyone kind of gets what’s going on, I haven’t really had to enforce it too much,” he said.
“It’s pretty straightforward to be fair.”
Carla Whitehead, who was shopping there, said it felt like she had “freedom” again.
“I feel fine coming out,” she said.
“I’m just grateful to be able to come out.
“I feel safe, everything’s in place, I’m just enjoying it.
“It’s nice to be out.”