Jobs to go at Ironbridge museums despite £1.86m windfall from government

One of the county's major visitor attractions has been given more than £1.8 million to fund its long-term recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic – as well as February's floods.

Nick Ralls chief executive of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust
Nick Ralls chief executive of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust has been awarded £1.86m by Arts Council England, but has also confirmed the "difficult decision" to make 50 redundancies as it faces up to a £4m shortfall in funding for the year.

The trust said the Arts Council money would be used to secure its future as part of a three-year plan.

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It comes after a nightmare 2020, which saw premises ruined by February's floods and then the pandemic hitting and closing its sites before repair work could even be completed.

Trust chief executive Nick Ralls welcomed the funding and said the decision over redundancies had been taken to ensure it could operate on a sustainable basis in the long-term.

He said: "We are deeply grateful to Arts Council England for this latest award, which will help us to cover the considerable operational costs of maintaining this nationally important collection of historic buildings, structures and collections.

“At the same time, the trust has been working to ensure the long-term future of our museums by drawing up a strategic plan that will ensure we remain sustainable for years to come.

“Like many cultural organisations, we are adapting to new circumstances and with this have had to also take very difficult decisions, taking steps to control our costs and having to make redundancies because of reduced revenues and the ongoing impact of the virus on our visitor numbers.

“I would personally like to thank all those staff for the tremendous contribution they have each made to the trust over the years and wish them well.

“But I would also stress we are determined the visitor experience at our museums will continue to be just as good as it has always been.”

'Dark days'

Mr Ralls said there had been "dark days" when the museum had been affected by the floods and then the Covid-19 restrictions, but the trust was among the first in the country to reopen after lockdown in July and has exciting plans for next year.

The trust – a registered education and heritage conservation charity which cares for 35 listed buildings in the Gorge – has also launched a Keep Ironbridge Running campaign.

Mr Ralls said: “The trust has always been independent – that is part of our very essence.

"We have been working throughout this most difficult period to ensure we can stand on our own feet financially and build even better attractions over the next few years.”

Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As part of our unprecedented £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, today we're saving British cultural icons with large grants of up to £3m.

"These places and organisations are irreplaceable parts of our heritage and what make us the cultural superpower we are."

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, added: "The Culture Recovery Fund has already helped hundreds of organisations, of all types and sizes, in villages, towns and cities across the country. It has provided a lifeline that will allow these organisations to continue to play an integral role in their communities and produce new artistic work that will entertain and inspire us all.

“This latest funding, which are the largest grants to date, will support some of the country’s most loved and admired cultural spaces – from great regional theatres and museums to historic venues in the capital – which are critical to the development of a new generation of talent and in providing work for freelance creatives.”

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