At the start of July I had an online meeting (as is the norm now!) with the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The National Lottery were the largest funder of the Museum as it changed in project Aquarius several years ago, and they were keen to find out how we were doing during the lockdown.
After explaining the situation we were in, they recommended we apply to their emergency fund. So with just three weeks until the application deadline, everything else was put to one side so I that could focus on putting in a bid which would help us not just now in 2020, but in setting us up for the future.
As to be expected, finding out the results of the bid would happen whilst I was on my holiday, and so it was that I found myself on the phone to Ed Stannard (Fundraising Trustee), from the middle of a forest in Hampshire. But I was more than happy to be interrupted, as Ed explained that not only had we been award a grant, but the whole amount that we had asked for, all £120,800!
So, what is the plan for all of this amazing money?
Well, about £30,000 of it is for the running costs of the Museum over the next four months. This will make all the difference in the world to us as it means we don’t need to worry as much about our income as we don’t expect to return to our normal visitor numbers and income until summer 2021. It’s ok that we will run at a loss for a while as we build those numbers back up.
We have set aside £13,000 for the costs of reopening, everything from signs and barriers, cleaning equipment, family activities, getting the café ready, not to mention all the hand gel we will need!
But that still leaves about £78,000, and that money is to set us up for this year and the following next two years. For example, we had many plans that we needed and wanted to deliver this year, which have been put on hold. A much needed upgrade of the IT systems (our PCs are now running with unsupported software). We will bring in professionals to look over the buildings and the collection to see how they have fared during lockdown, and what we need to do next. New systems will be set up to help us manage the volunteer programme, and to help with fundraising. Inside, we will make a new changing exhibition space on the balcony for community exhibitions, and transform the upstairs office into a meeting space. We also will be making changes to the outside with money to replace some temporary fencing with permanent fencing, and money to fix the train track, something that was on the list of things to fundraise for this year.
This funding is not just a lifeline for now, to keep us going, but it will set us up ready for the next few years, as we bring ourselves back to once again being sustainable. And why is that so important? Well, opening the outdoor spaces over the summer, funded by the Arts Council, has shown just how important the Museum is for the community, and by becoming sustainable once again we can continue to make a difference to Brentford and the people who live there, as the pumping station has always done.