Heritage sites across region handed slice of £103 million from Government cash pot

Heritage organisations across the Midlands have received a slice of a £103 million cash pot to help them recover from the impact of Covid-19.

The cash boost from the Government has been split across 445 groups nationally through the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

And it has seen hundreds of thousands being handed out across the Midlands – with the Severn Valley Railway, which runs from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster, handed a boost of £906,000 to help them recover.

The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire has received almost £300,000.

The money will pay for staff salaries and enhanced security measures to protect the heritage assets owned by the SVR. These will include CCTV and fire detection systems, as well as fire and intruder alarms.

As part of the SVR’s survival plan, the grant will help improve its digital and social media communications to better interact with communities and engage a wider audience.

The railway will also recruit a health and safety specialist to ensure it can operate to the best standards both behind-the-scenes and in customer-facing environments, with the additional safety demands that are necessary because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nick Paul CBE, chairman of SVR (Holdings) Plc, said: "This funding will play an essential part in the SVR’s survival through the pandemic.

"We expect to have lost around £2.5m in revenue this year, as a direct result of the lockdown and subsequent restrictions.

Dudley Canal Trust

"Although we’ve been running services again for more than two months now, we won’t be able to make up for such a severe drop in income.

"The Severn Valley Railway plays a huge part in the Midlands economy and is close to the hearts of the 250,000 visitors who come to us every year.

"Thanks to this generous government funding, we’ll be able to keep the railway running so it can continue to be a source of community pride in the future."

Staffordshire's National Memorial Arboretum is another to receive a slice.

The 150-acre woodland and garden site has been awarded £297,000 to ensure it can "remain viable" despite only being able to open to limited numbers due to the virus.

Shrewsbury Abbey

Philippa Rawlinson, managing director of the National Memorial Arboretum, said: "Throughout the summer months we welcomed many people to the Arboretum following our re-opening, many of them eager to enjoy the great outdoors.

"However, this year has still been financially challenging as we continue to suffer from the loss of income due to our period of closure and the continued limit on visitor numbers.

"This latest grant is invaluable support as we work to secure additional funding and make preparations for the long-awaited day when we can ease restrictions and welcome visitors back in their droves. Our whole team is determined to ensure we remain the nation’s year-round place to remember, freely open to all."

Boundary Way Allotments and Community Garden, based in Wolverhampton, received £27,000 to help support the development of a virtual learning programme.

Moya Lloyd, Boundary Way Project lead, said: "We’re thrilled to receive this award which will make it possible to forge new ways of connecting with people during social distancing – as well as supporting wellbeing by helping people to connect with the natural world.

Alice Lane at Boundary Way Allotments, Wolverhampton

"Boundary Way Project is supporting a cultural recovery in Wolverhampton by developing new ways of working online.

"Plans include a virtual artist residency and a learning resource that brings to life the interconnection between plants, trees and fungi."

Shrewsbury Abbey, meanwhile, will use its £98,900 share of the fund to pay for access and visitor experience improvements, including new doors and external pathways, and historical interpretation signage.

Vicar of Holy Cross parish, Revd Dr Tom Atfield said: "The abbey is a significant asset to Shrewsbury and we are delighted to receive funding to help people access and experience its remarkable history and develop the whole site's future capacity for expanded cultural and community use."

Birmingham Botanical Gardens has been awarded £188,000 from the funding pot – marking its largest grant the independent charity has received for 22 years.

A spooky event with Jailhouse Tours

Elizabeth Frostick, development director, said the move would help secure the short-term future of the heritage site in Edgbaston.

She said: "We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund for heritage.

"The award, which we won following a rigorous competitive process, gives us much welcome breathing space after losing most of our income over the past few months and gives us the funds for vital work, including the upgrading of our digital systems."

Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust Award was handed £309,800, with Walsall Council being given £32,700 from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund.

Other beneficiaries include Jailhouse Tours which runs Shrewsbury Prison tours, will get £74,300 and Shropshire Stone and Granite Ltd, which gets £41,000.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback post-Covid."

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England's chief executive, added: "It is heartening to see grants, both large and small, from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund helping heritage sites and organisations across the country which have been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19.

"These grants range from giving skilled craft workers the chance to keep their trades alive to helping heritage organisations pay the bills, and to kick-starting repair works at our best-loved historic sites.

"The funding is an essential lifeline for our heritage and the people who work tirelessly to conserve it for us all, so that we can hand it on to future generations."

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