Portsmouth Venues receive Culture Recovery Funding

The Guildhall Trust has been awarded £215,000 and The Mary Rose, at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, has been awarded £655,304 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure they have a sustainable future, the Culture Secretary has announced today.

The Guildhall Trust and The Mary Rose are two of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support. £257 million of investment has been announced this month as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England. Further rounds of funding in the cultural and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks.

The Guildhall Trust is the charitable organisation which manages Portsmouth Guildhall, one of the South’s leading Concert and Conferencing venues, attracting over ¼ million users with an estimated economic impact of £7million each year.

The Guildhall Trust also produces and manages events including the Dance Live! competition for schools and colleges and Portsmouth Comic Con – International Festival of Comics, and delivers a range of inspirational opportunities for the community through its ‘Get Involved’ programme.

This funding, along with support from other areas, will go a long way to sustaining the Trust through to when the Guildhall can fully reopen for live entertainment, conferencing and events and will help to secure the future of the iconic venue that has stood in the heart of city for 130 years.

Councillor and Deputy Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Steve Pitt, said “This is very welcome news indeed. There has been an enormous amount of uncertainty for months and the Guildhall Trust’s success in their bid to the Cultural Recovery Fund will help to ensure there is a brighter future for the city’s flagship venue. Let’s be clear, culture is critical to the UK economy and this is an investment towards securing local jobs and helping Portsmouth towards recovery from Covid 19.”

Chief Executive Officer, The Guildhall Trust, Andy Grays, said “We are delighted by today’s news which is a very positive step in our journey toward full reopening. Since closing our doors in March we have been proactively diversifying our income streams and reducing costs wherever we can, and while this support will go some way to helping us and gives us a huge boost, we still face a challenge ahead to secure further funds to fully get back to doing what we love.”

38 years ago (11 October) a dedicated team of divers and archaeologists raised the Mary Rose from the Solent, watched by an estimated worldwide audience of 60 million. Today, the award-winning Museum houses the remains of the ship and her collection of 19,000 Tudor artefacts which give an unparalleled insight into life 500 years ago. The story of the Mary Rose has unquestionable international appeal, but the local and regional impact has been extraordinary too. It continues to be a beacon of excellence in conservation, maritime archaeology and learning.

However, the Museum closed to the public in March 2020 due to COVID19, leading to the loss of 84% of its annual income, most of which is generated from visitors during April-August each year. Costs were cut where possible, but the costs of keeping the 500-year-old artefacts in the right environmental conditions 24/7, year round continue despite closure and are extremely high due to the need for specialist staff and complex systems and equipment.

Chief Executive, Mary Rose Trust, Helen Bonser-Wilton, said “The Mary Rose was severely affected by COVID19 and lockdown as the vast majority of annual income comes from visitors. Despite public closure, the vast costs of keeping the unique archaeological collection in climate controlled environments 24/7 continue, meaning that the very existence of the Mary Rose was in serious doubt. While we had raised significant funds to survive until December from major grant funders and generous individual donors, we still had a considerable gap in funding to survive the year. The grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, through Arts Council England, is literally a game changer. It recognises the Mary Rose as one of the crown jewels of British culture that the Fund was determined to save and means that the Trust will now make it through the financial year. We are immensely grateful to all those who worked to create this invaluable Fund and to invest in the future of British culture.’

“The Mary Rose reopened in August, offering joint tickets to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard with the National Museum of the Royal Navy and we are delighted to welcome our visitors again. Securing this grant gives us a vital lifeline, but visitor business is fragile and dependent on consumer confidence. We will continue to seek on-going funding to support our work during 2021 to ensure that the Mary Rose can be enjoyed by future generations.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said “This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery.

These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.”

Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”

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