More than £2m given to help secure future for Portsmouth venues including Mary Rose Museum, Wedgewood Rooms, Kings theatre and Portsmouth Guildhall

CULTURAL venues in our region have been thrown a lifeline after securing more than £2m in government cash.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 4:12 pm

The establishments were forced to close in March when the UK entered lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some have recently started putting on live shows and allowing visitors again – but to heavily reduced numbers under strict Covid-19 regulations, while others have been forced to close their doors forever as money simply ran out.

It has been announced today that 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country have secured funding as part of the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund (CRF).

The Mary Rose Museum was been given £655,304, The Kings Theatre in Southsea has secured £345,861, while Portsmouth Guildhall is to receive £215,000, The Spring Arts Centre in Havant has been awarded £94,000, The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea has a grant of £147, 372, and Titchfield Festival Theatre has £113,497. Copnor-based music events hire company PKUK was awarded £55,000.

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Helen Bonser-Wilton, cief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust. Picture Ian Hargreaves (180218-1)

Hampshire Cultural Trust, which covers 23 sites across the county, including Ashcroft Arts Centre and Westbury Manor in Fareham, and Gosport Gallery, received £480,000.

The New Theatre Royal did not enter a bid for the money.

Operators have today welcomed the news after months of uncertainty.

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Portsmouth Guildhall has secured £215,000 from the CRF. Picture: Sarah Standing (131173-2005)

Chief executive of Mary Rose Trust, Helen Bonser-Wilton, said: ‘The Mary Rose was severely affected by Covid-19 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 CRF, 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 stars of The Kings Theatre's 2020 'Pompey panto', Dick Whittington. Picture: Andrew Searle Photography

Portsmouth Guildhall attracts more than 250,000 users with an estimated economic impact of £7m each year. This funding, along with support from other areas, will go a long way to sustaining the trust which runs the Guildhall until it can fully reopen.

Chief executive officer of the 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.’

Manager of the Wedgewood Rooms in Albert Road, Southsea, Geoff Priestley. Picture: Matthew Tiller

Paul Woolf, CEO of The Kings said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to receive this award. It recognises the important part The Kings, as an historic theatre, plays in the cultural scene of Portsmouth.

‘Before the award we had committed to staying open and staging our loved traditional family panto.

‘The attendant risks involved in that decision have been eased by the award and for that we thank everyone who has supported and believed in us.

‘Tickets for panto are selling fast so hurry and book now.’

The Wedgewood Rooms put on its last concert on March 13 and has been closed since. It held a successful online crowdfunding campaign which hit its target on the first day. They now hope to start putting on some shows again.

Manager Geoff Priestley said: ‘It’s just a massive relief, thanks to our crowdfunder we made it this far and could make it a little further, but it was starting to look a bit bleak.

Sophie Fullerlove, director and chief executive of The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre. Picture: Sarah Standing (230419-5851)

‘This will tide us over, and allow us to try and open at reduced capacity. We can’t afford to open at reduced capacity, so it is too subsidise that. It means we can get local technicians and local musicians up and working again.

‘It won’t be the same old, same old Wedgewood Rooms, and we’re not going to try and be that.

‘We’re going to try and put together a programme that at least gets the venue moving again, and people working again.

‘Normally we do a lot of rock’n’roll and a bit of other stuff, but for the time being it may be more of the other stuff and a bit of rock’n’roll, until we can do what we do best, which is a night of hot and sweaty rock’n’roll.’

Since lockdown began, The Spring has worked to deliver new ways for the community to engage with the arts and local heritage, from virtual book clubs to downloadable resources for local walking routes.

The grant will subsidise these activities so that people can continue to enjoy local arts and cultural events as well as a welcome break from the worries of the year. The funding package awarded includes additional support for Music Fusion, a youth music charity based at The Spring.

Part of the funding will be allocated to a special series of free Christmas celebrations to be announced shortly.

Chief executive of The Spring, Sophie Fullerlove, said: ‘We are so grateful to Arts Council England and the DCMS for this grant, which has ensured the survival of The Spring in such a tough year. The funding is a reflection of how important the centre is to the local area and gives us a fighting chance to keep going.

‘I know with the support of my dedicated team and the community, we can continue to provide a wide range of events.

‘None of us know how long this current situation will last, but we know that the arts and culture are a solace to many, so we’re delighted to receive this support.

‘We will also be continuing our Revitalising The Spring campaign until the end of the year as we focus on not just surviving this current crisis, but emerging stronger than ever.’

Hampshire Cultural Trust’s chief executive, Paul Sapwell, added: ‘We are delighted to receive this crucial funding. From July 4, in line with government guidance, we took a staggered approach to opening our venues safely.

‘This funding will not only allow our venues to remain open and operating safely, it will ensure that HCT can continue to provide inspirational cultural experiences to support health, wellbeing and happiness in our communities.’

The £257m of investment has been announced today as part of the first round of the CRF grants programme being administered by Arts Council England (ACE). The announcements had been due a week ago, but were delayed because of the ‘volume and complexity of the applications,’ according to ACE.

Further rounds of funding in the cultural and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan welcomed the money, but added: ‘I am delighted that The Mary Rose Museum and Portsmouth Guildhall Trust and others have secured much needed money from the CRF.

‘Arts and culture form part of the soul of our city. Coronavirus and the economic crisis risks thousands of redundancies across the country unless the government introduces sector-specific support.

‘This sector represents around a fifth of the economy, driving so much growth, yet account for less than one per cent of government spending. It is clear the scale of the challenge is such that help to date just doesn’t go far enough.

‘I will continue to stand up for culture in our city, lobbying for Portsmouth until ministers step up and act with tailored support.

‘Portsmouth expects the government to go further. If they don’t soon, we risk well-loved assets going under as a result of the coronavirus crisis.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, who also is Minister of State for Digital and Culture, and helped secure this funding, added: ‘Today’s announcement is good news for many of our cultural institutions across our area who have hit by the impact of Covid-19’.

“I'm very proud to be Minister responsible for arts in Government and to help secure this funding. I will continue to fight to save our cultural institutions and the jobs that depend upon them.”

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt had lobbied for the fund. She said: ‘I was pleased to see record funding awarded today in Portsmouth.

‘These organisations are vital to our quality of life and to ensure the economy can get back on its feet. Well done to all those working to keep going. It is not easy, but we are behind you and will do all we can to support you.’

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.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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