Lifeline grants have been thrown to a host of arts and heritage organisations across Cumbria grappling with the consequences of coronavirus.
Among the 450 heritage organisations across England to receive a much-needed cash injection is Lowther Castle which is to receive £200,200 from the first tranche of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
David Bliss, chief executive of Lowther Castle, said: “Throughout the months of closure and again during the summer, the Lowther team worked at full tilt to make the castle and gardens as safe as possible for visitors, to install screens for people’s safety, to create one-way systems and takeaway food offers and outdoor seating areas so that everyone could enjoy some semblance of normality.
“There is still plenty we can do however.
“Our booking system can be improved to ensure that as many visitors as possible can book online; turnstiles can be installed so that visitors can pass more efficiently into the garden; PPE can be improved and added; our cleaning systems can be perfected; and in the gardens, we can continue to expand our garden interpretation – so that there is more for visitors to enjoy in the open air.”
Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake was celebrating receiving £878,492 from the fund which was set up to provide financial support to safeguard cultural organisations badly affected by COVID-19.
The grant has been given to assist the theatre in remaining resilient for the period through to 31st March, 2021.
It has been badly hit by the pandemic and in early August it was announced that 38 redundancies were to be made following a two-month consultation process.
In a joint statement, executive director James Cobbold and artistic director Liz Stevenson said they were “very grateful” to receive this “extraordinary investment” to support the future of the theatre.
“This award will help to protect our role in helping the communities of Cumbria to rebuild after COVID-19, and our contribution to the tourist economy and cultural ecology of the county as the only year-round producing theatre,” they said.
Dalemain Historic House and Gardens, near Ullswater, has received £57,400; the Mountain Heritage Trust based at the Blencathra Centre, near Threlkeld, is getting £17,400 and the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society will receive £84,300.
Volunteers at the preservation society will use the money to help meet the costs of maintenance and rebuilding the steam locomotives which are a unique feature of the line, which runs between Alston and the village of Slaggyford.
It will also help the volunteers prepare for the 2021 running season, which is due to start in the spring.
No trains have run on the line this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, adding to existing cash pressure on the society.
The chairman of the society’s trustees, David Granath, said: “This funding gives us hope that we can once again welcome visitors back to the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to ride through the lovely South Tyne Valley on our trains.”
South Tynedale Railway Ltd, which runs the line, went into administration last month, with the loss of five jobs.
The preservation society is a separate organisation, which has run and developed the line since 1983.
And Way with Words, the organisation that puts on one of the north west’s leading literature festivals has received a £117,000 cash injection from the Government.
It organises the 10-day Words by the Water Festival of Words and Ideas at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick.
The annual festival, whose speaker list last year included famous names such as Great Brtish Bake Off judge Prue Leith, BBC editorial director Kamal Ahmed and former home secretary Alan Johnson, along with Cumbria-based mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington and poet Roger McGough, features more than 100 events celebrating writing in all its forms and also stimulates debate and discussion each year.
Way with Words has been hosting live literary events and festivals of words and ideas for the past 29 years in Keswick and at Southwold, in Suffolk, and Dartington Hall, Devon.
This year’s festivals in Devon and Suffolk were cancelled and the event in Keswick was cut short.
Director Leah Varnell said: “This award has really given us the lifeline we needed and we are really grateful to the Arts Council and friends of the festival who have been making donations.
“We will be able to bring new voices to our audiences in new ways and it allows us to plan for future literary festivals.”