The charity warns that the end of lockdown does not end the financial struggle for the future of the well-loved visitor attraction.
Creswell Crags has been closed since 17th March, due to COVID-19. In this time, the charity which runs the site has had no regular income. Shortly after closure, it was one of the first heritage organisations in the country to sound the alarm, breaking the news that it might not survive the lockdown period.
With most staff furloughed, and a rent holiday agreed by the landowner, Welbeck Estate, as well as a successful fundraising campaign that has already raised over £20,000, prospects begun to look brighter in May. On 29th May, the Trust announced they had been successful in obtaining £25,000 in emergency funding from Historic England, and they are awaiting the announcement of emergency funding allocation from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. With lockdown easing, and the prospect of being allowed to open in the summer, short term survival is more secure. Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “Our emergency grants are providing a much-needed safety net to organisations and businesses that are helping to save our most precious heritage such as Creswell Crags. Our historic places bring us together, boost the economy and revitalise local communities. It is vital that they survive intact.”However, the Trust offers a stark warning of how precarious finances still are. In common with other independent museums and visitor attractions, staff are not sure the museum and visitor centre can afford to re-open. Despite the easing of lockdown, the car park and cafe remain closed: at the current time, it is not cost effective to reopen safely, as the cost would be more than the income from visitors. Visitor numbers, spending, and behaviour, will be unpredictable for some time to come: meaning that the Trust will need to be very cautious about spending money to re-open and bringing back furloughed staff. New social distancing measures will also mean smaller capacity for visitors in the café and shop, as well as limitations on cave tours, and there will be costs involved in making staff areas safe to work in. School visits may be well below previous levels; this is a major concern as school trips were formerly the main income stream for the organisation
The focus of the fundraising campaign is now looking ahead to the future, and the Trust is clear that donations are still very important, especially as staff will need to be taken out of furlough in order to allow the site to reopen, and rent payments will begin again once lockdown ends. Dr Tim Caulton, Chair of Creswell Heritage Trust said: “Creswell Heritage Trust is incredibly grateful for the generous donations from our supporters and for the emergency funding support from Historic England and others. This has enabled the Trust to offset any immediate crisis. However, our financial situation remains perilous as we restructure the organisation to operate safely for what we anticipate will be far fewer visitors in the foreseeable future.”
You can donate to Creswell Crags here: www.justgiving.com/campaign/supportcreswellcrags