Creswell Crags, on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border near Worksop, has received a grant of £279,766 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, to help the organisation recover, reopen, and rebuild stronger and more resilient than before lockdown.
Just a year ago, staff and trustees at the well-loved prehistoric site were facing the prospect of permanent closure when the COVID-19 lockdown cut off any visitor income for months. Most staff were furloughed and the future for the charity looked bleak. However, a successful fundraising campaign, including support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, Bolsover District Council, alongside this very welcome government support, and a lockdown rent holiday from landowners Welbeck Estate, have ensured its survival into 2021.
More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country, the Culture Secretary announced today. Over £800 million in grants and loans has already been awarded to support cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations deal with the immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. The second round of awards will help organisations look ahead to the spring and summer, and plan for reopening. It is a much-needed lifeline.
At Creswell Crags, the news of this funding has been met with relief and gratitude. It confirms the organisation’s ability to set in action its reopening plan: which starts with the car park on Easter Monday, a takeaway service from the café on 12 April, and the museum, gift shop and private cave tours on 17 May. In order to be ready for this, staff will be brought back from furlough and essential work undertaken around the beautiful limestone gorge and visitor centre, as well as spreading the word to returning visitors. Then planning the programme for the rest of the year can commence.
Creswell Heritage Trust is determined not to waste the opportunity of funding and will look to grow a stronger and more resilient organisation. Therefore the team will also be working on reviewing access at the site, further digital programming, including development of a virtual cave tour, improvements around the site, a new events programme, and a new emphasis on the importance of the site in the story of humans and their interactions with their environment over the millennia. The site is home to the only Ice Age cave art in the UK, over 13,000 years old, and this is front and centre of the long-term goal of confirming UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Executive Director, Paul Baker said: “The lockdown has provided us with the opportunity to reflect upon how we can better serve our visitors and online audiences and this funding will not only enable us to survive but will also provide us with the time to make improvements, be more strategic, and offer an experience that has a real impact with our audiences. We are looking forward to lots of repeat and first-time visitors this summer. We are immensely grateful to everyone who has supported us throughout the pandemic, from the large funders such as the DCMS to every one our friends and supporters who has donated to our campaign. We can’t wait to see Creswell Crags come back to life with happy visitors, and to share more stories of our Ice Age past.”
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “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.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, and who visited Creswell Crags in 2019, 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 is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund 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.