The Science Behind Hugging & The Show Goes on For Theatres

Group performance in Blood Brothers

Our experts share their insights on one step closer to normality.

Reported in the media as ‘happy hugging day’, May 17 was a day that millions across the United Kingdom reunited with loved ones, returned to their favourite venues (indoors), and perhaps even boarded a flight to sunnier climates, as we took one step nearer to normality in the fight against Covid-19.  

Theatres and other creative venues have suffered heavily since having to close the curtains for the best part of the last year. From cast members to the backstage crew, admissions, promotions and right through the supply chain to costumiers and writers – it goes without saying the industry has longed for the day they could return to entertaining audiences up and down the country.

The good news has sparked lots of optimism at the university too. Elen Mai Nefydd shares her insights on what this means for the industry and Wrexham Glyndŵr University students. 

As a degree, we understand how unsafe it has been for theatres to remain open and function as normal during the Covid-19 pandemic, due to social distancing and safety measures. However, it is such promising news to learn that the theatres have reopened, and we are delighted to hear that theatrical activity will take place again. Our students are training to work in an industry that has been in a dark place for months, so this news will be welcomed by all of our theatre students. This news will be particularly refreshing for our students in their final year, as the re-opening will hopefully provide many employment opportunities for them to enter the working world and embark on the next step of their careers full of hope.”

Elen Mai also commended the agility and creativity of the staff team and current students who have adapted to new digital learning practices throughout the pandemic. She said “…our students have embraced digital platforms over the past year and have still, regardless of barriers, produced an excellent range of work. Despite looking forward to the buzz of a live audience again in the near future, they’ve still produced a collaborative verbatim digital production called ‘People of the Pandemic’ which uses real interviews with key workers to illustrate the unfolding of the virus from March 2020 until present day.”

In addition to seeing your favourite musical at the theatre, the new easing of lockdown has also legalised hugging again. Placed at number four out of ’30 things Brits are looking forward to post-pandemic’, so many of us have craved the human contact of a friend or relative as opposed to chatting via Zoom or FaceTime.

But why is this? Dr Neil Pickles, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, explained the science behind hugging:

When you hug a relative, a chemical is released called oxytocin. This chemical is associated with happiness and has stress-relieving properties, which is why many of us look for comfort through the means of a hug. Some research studies have shown that these benefits are particularly powerful in females and that in some instances, the power of a hug can even contribute to lower blood pressure. Of course, individuals who have been vaccinated will be at lower risk from Covid-19 and less likely to transmit the virus when in close proximity to others.”  

Like with most changes, the easing restrictions has divided opinions, with some feeling anxious ahead of socialising and mixing again. Guidance on how to ‘hug with caution’ has been released to help those who may feel hesitant about the new rulings.

We have a wide variety of courses available within the Faculty of Arts, Science & Technology. If you're wanting to feel inspired by leading scientists on our Biochemistry and Forensic Science programmes, there are courses to cater to a variety of interests here at Wrexham Glyndŵr University.


Written by Alice James, Faculty Engagement and Liason Officer at Wrexham Glyndŵr University.