Morecambe Winter Gardens receives lifeline Covid grant from Government’s £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund

Morecambe's Winter Gardens is among almost 450 heritage organisations in England to be awarded a lifeline cash windfall from the government.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Friday, 9th October 2020, 9:31 am
Updated Friday, 9th October 2020, 9:34 am
The volunteers from the restoration team have thanked the DCMS for their support.
The volunteers from the restoration team have thanked the DCMS for their support.

Morecambe Winter Gardens Theatre is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

The organisations will share £103 million, including Morecambe Winter Gardens to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.

The grant of £20,800 will cover essential overheads and monthly costs for the organisation and will provide a lifeline for when the building is closed for essential heating work and restoration.

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Morecambe Winter Gardens.

Like most historic venues the Winter Gardens has monthly costs, which the volunteers have previously found through revenue and events.

The monthly running costs of the theatre are more than £3,000 and this funding secures future of one of Lancashire’s most stunning theatres by providing necessary security for the organisation going forward

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund - funded by Government and administered at arms length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57billion 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.

433 organisations will receive a share of £67m from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage to help with costs for operating, reopening and recovery.

This includes famous heritage sites across the country, from Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Blyth Tall Ship to the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire to the Piecehall in Halifax.

The funds will save sites that are a source of pride for communities across the country.

Twelve organisations, including English Heritage, Landmark Trust, Historic Royal Palaces and the Canal and River Trust, will receive £34m from the Heritage Stimulus Fund to restart construction and maintenance on cherished heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and protect livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has also been awarded a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund through Historic England.

The AHF will use the funding to support charities and social enterprises occupying historic buildings to develop new business plans and strategies for organisations affected by the pandemic.

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.”

Prof Vanessa Toulmin, chair of the Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust, said: "This is just tremendous news – as a small voluntary group we are dedicated to the full restoration of our beautiful building. Our volunteers who have poured their heart and soul into the building will sleep a little bit more easily today."

The Morecambe Winter Gardens is a Grade 2* listed theatre. Run totally by volunteers, the trust is embarking on an essential plan of restoration and plan to re-open the building in May 2021 with a restored ceiling and a new heating system.

As we reported earlier this week, the theatre is on course to hit its £50,000 target of fundraising needed for the heating installation work.

This latest support will provide essential running costs while the restoration starts over the winter months.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive, said: “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.”

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support by Government is crucial. Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live.

"All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time.

“Our heritage is still facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet. But this hugely welcome funding from Government, and the money we continue to invest from the National Lottery, has undoubtedly stopped heritage and the organisations that care for it being permanently lost.”

Kate Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “This support for our nation’s heritage is fantastic news. Over the last few months, our teams have been working hard to welcome visitors back safely to the great castles, stone circles, abbeys and historic houses in our care.

"This funding will help us invest to safeguard the historic fabric of these much-loved places, which everyone can learn from and enjoy.”

Lucy Worsley, chief curator, Historic Royal Palaces, said: “There’s no truer way to experience the past than to walk in the footsteps of those who have lived it – that’s why preserving our built heritage is so important.

“At Historic Royal Palaces, we care for six nationally significant buildings, opening them to the public and preserving them for future generations. Sadly, the pandemic meant that we had to stop some of our critical conservation work.

"The grant we have received from the Culture Recovery Fund will enable to this work to resume – so we can give some of Britain’s most historic buildings the care and attention they deserve, while supporting the specialist craftspeople who are vital for the future of our national heritage. We are enormously grateful to the Government for this support.”