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Culture Recovery Fund is good news for county venues

Grants of more than a quarter of million pounds to two locations

Many organisations and cultural venues across the county received good news just before Easter that they have been awarded cash boosts as part of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund (CRF). Among them are Tunbridge Wells’ Assembly Hall Theatre and Chatham’s Historic Dockyard Museum.

Tunbridge Wells first. The borough council’s Culture Service is to receive a grant of £271,500 from the Government’s £1.57 billion CRF to help its service recover and reopen, putting the organisation among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the latest round of awards.

More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund, the Culture Secretary announced on Good Friday.

The money will help the Council’s Culture Service which includes the Assembly Hall Theatre and museum and art gallery by covering some core costs and equipment purchases, and supporting programme delivery as the service adapts to the new requirements of these challenging times. It will help the theatre with its plans to reopen safely when permitted to do so and strengthens its chance of longer term survival in an increasingly difficult economic climate.

More than £800 million in grants and loans has already been awarded to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

The second round of awards will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead. 

J J Almond, theatre director, says: “We are delighted to accept the second significant grant from DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) in the latest round of awards from the Culture Recovery Fund. It further demonstrates support for investment at a national level in to the provision of arts and culture in the borough.  The grant will be used in the culture service, which is responsible for the Assembly Hall Theatre and the Museum & Art Gallery; The Museum & Art Gallery will in the future move into The Amelia Scott to be integrated with other customer-facing services like libraries, archives and registrations. We all remain hugely excited about the way forward with all of our cultural venues.”

Culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, says: “Our record-breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced. Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors – helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead.”

I’m a big, big fan of Fleetwood Mac and confess that I found the idea of a tribute band off-putting. But, having listened to this, I’m prepared to change my mind. They are due at the Assembly Halls.

Meanwhile, the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust has received a grant of £384,144 from CRF to help it reopen to visitors and support its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

As custodians of the 80-acre Historic Dockyard site at Chatham, a site of national and international significance as the world’s most complete dockyard of the Age of Sail, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust strives for excellence in achievement of its charitable purposes of preservation and learning. In December 2019, the charity stood on the cusp of revenue financial sustainability, but Covid-19 created an existential crisis, with seven of its nine income sources ceasing completely. Although the trust was able to restart its museum and visitor activities briefly in summer 2020, the combination of increased costs, reduced capacity and activity constraints, coupled with a delayed reopening for 2021 have all done little to improve the financial position.

The much-needed CRF award will help The Historic Dockyard achieve its reopening plans, supporting day-to-day visitor operations, as well as an enhanced family programme, digital engagement and collection care. In addition, it will support the trust’s sector-leading work with children and young people, and its community engagement work, encouraging engagement from a broad range of audiences. The grant will also allow wider promotion of a new temporary exhibition, Hidden Heroines: the Untold Stories of the Women of the Dockyard, helping to stimulate visits through the summer.

Richard Morsley, chief executive, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, says: “We are absolutely delighted and incredibly grateful for the support given to The Historic Dockyard Chatham through the Arts Council England-administered, Culture Recovery Fund.  We are rightly proud of our contribution as an independent heritage organisation in terms of our social, cultural and economic impact. The challenges faced as a result of the pandemic have been profound and this vital funding helps protect the Historic Dockyard Chatham as an important cultural asset, and more importantly, supports our financial resilience enabling us to thrive and grow in the long term. 

“This funding is crucial in enabling us to continue to tell the story of the Royal Navy’s 400-year connection with Chatham and the Medway Towns, helping us to drive our tourism economy and post-Covid recovery.  We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the site as soon as Government guidelines allow, and to delivering a brilliant and engaging visitor experience.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair, Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work. We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”

The funding awarded is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the CRF could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute. 

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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