Portsmouth people are 'crucial' in battle to save National Museum of the Royal Navy, heritage boss says
HERITAGE chiefs at a naval museum almost crippled into closure by the coronavirus crisis are today pleading for city families and sailors to come to their aid in a desperate plea for help.
In a shock announcement yesterday, the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) admitted it had been days away from declaring itself insolvent next month after losing £6.35m during the pandemic.
In a dramatic last-minute rescue, chancellor Rishi Sunak stepped in and approved an emergency rescue fund of £5.3m from the treasury’s coffers to save the struggling museum.
The move has given the national attraction, which has sites in Portsmouth and Gosport, a stay of execution for the rest of the financial year.
But the head of the NMRN has now warned The News the battle to stop the museum from falling into financial ruin is far from over – and that city residents have never been more critical in its survival.
Professor Dominic Tweddle, director general of the NMRN, said: ‘Visitors have always been crucial to us. They’re a symbol as to what extent people are interested in what you’re doing.
‘But I think they’re importance will increase now. Everybody is going to be fighting for visitors harder than ever before in the coming months and years. They are key to our very survival.’
The bailout by the chancellor means the NMRN now has enough cash in place to finally reopen sites across England.
All the organisation’s sites across the UK have been in hibernation since lockdown was announced in March, with a large number of staff furloughed.
The closure crippled the NMRN’s revenue, effectively wiping out the entire summer season where the vast majority of its yearly cash is generated.
Speaking of the treasury cash windfall, Prof Tweddle added: ‘I cannot express the relief we all felt when we were told that additional funding would be made available to us.
‘It has been incredibly difficult over the last weeks and months with so much uncertainty around the future of the museum.’
Plans to throw open the doors to the treasured heritage sites based in England are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
It is not clear when the money will be handed over to the museum or if it forms part of the government’s £1.57bn rescue package for the UK’s arts and culture industry, announced earlier this month.
But the NMRN said the money had saved the organisation from financial oblivion
‘The museum – which without this support would have had to declare itself insolvent within the next month – is now able to begin the investment it needs to remobilise its sites in Portsmouth, Gosport, Hartlepool and Yeovilton and will be making announcements about dates for reopening, in the coming weeks,’ a spokeswoman added.
A financial impact report revealed the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where the NMRN is based, brings in £110m to the regional economy every year.
Belfast-based HMS Caroline will remain closed for the rest of the year due to different funding arrangements in Northern Ireland which aren’t covered by the treasury.