Lifeline £230,000 grant for Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
One of Shropshire's most important tourist attractions is being given a lifeline £230,000 as it starts the recovery from the impact of the coronavirus crisis, and flooding earlier this year.
The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, which runs a series of heritage attractions visited by more than 1.5 million people every year, is being given the money from the Marches Investment Fund (MIF).
It comes as the museum is in the midst of preparations to reopen to the public, with tickets going on sale this week, after the government announced it was lifting lockdown restrictions.
The museum trust's chief executive Nick Ralls said the money was a much-needed boost given the impact of the enforced closure and the damage caused by February’s floods.
He said: “The lockdown and floods have been a really significant double blow to us and this funding could not be more welcome. As a registered heritage conservation and education charity caring for some internationally-important buildings in a World Heritage Site, every penny we receive in donations, bequests, fundraising and ticket sales plays a part in preserving our history and inspiring new generations.
“We are incredibly grateful for this funding and will ensure that it is used to continue the trust’s vital work and helps generate much-needed revenue for our tourism and visitor economy.”
The money is the benefit from a pioneering land deal which sees profits from land sold for development in Telford re-invested into key projects across the Marches.
Telford & Wrekin Council pays a portion of profits from land it sells under the deal with Homes England into the LEP’s Marches Investment Fund (MIF) to drive growth and regeneration.
The Telford Land Deal Board and Marches LEP Board have agreed that £230,000 from MIF can be used to support Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust after it appealed for external financial support.
The organisation said the money is part of a wider £1.58m injection from MIF for strategic tourism and business initiatives in the region.
The museum trust is currently working towards reopening Blists Hill Victorian Town, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and Toll House on July 4.
The Museum of The Gorge, which suffered damage during the floods of February, will open as a free entry visitor centre.
As well as employing more than 200 staff and 500 volunteers, the museum spends more than £2m each year on retail and catering stock, on maintenance and event contracts and other external suppliers, most of which is provided by local firms and many small business owners.
The LEP added that the grant will therefore also benefit many other businesses across Telford and the Marches.
Mandy Thorn MBE, LEP chair, said: “The Ironbridge Gorge is the single largest draw for visitors in the Marches attracting over 1.5million visitors a year.
“Around 40 per cent of visitors say the museums are the main reason for their visit and £60 million of visitor spend is generated in Ironbridge Gorge by the museums. It is of vital importance that the Trust is supported at this time – it is of strategic importance to the health of our regional economy.”
Councillor Carolyn Healy, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet lead for the Ironbridge Gorge, said: “It is great news that the unique Telford Land Deal which is a partnership with Homes England and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership can support the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in this way.
“It has been a tough year for everyone but particularly in Ironbridge with the combination of the worst floods for 20 years and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”