A recent poll of Heritage Trust Network members reveals the effects the COVID19 pandemic and their resilience in dealing with them.
A majority of members (57%) say they have suffered delays to their heritage restoration projects due to the pandemic and the lockdowns.
“It’s really been about loss of momentum. We work on a range of projects with external partners and they have each been affected by Covid in ways specific to them. In combination this has resulted in projects being cancelled, delayed or left in limbo until the post-Covid world becomes clearer.”
However, 87% of those who have suffered delays say they have used the time productively.
“While the short term has been a struggle it has also got us to think more strategically about our long term and how we may need to adapt as public perception and choice will change.”
“On the positive side, it has actually given us a bit of a breathing space to deep clean and revamp our museum with new displays, ready for when we can open”
71% blame the delays on funders switching from project to emergency funding during the past year.
“Our attempts to save a significant church have been entirely frozen by the financial effects on our main sponsor, diversion of high-level expertise and support, and the lock down of voluntary colleagues. But hopefully frozen doesn’t mean finished.”
Nevertheless, some members reported significant achievements during the year:
“Despite the Lockdown we have been able to complete a vital first step in acquiring preserving an ‘at-risk’ building that is fundamental to our local history.”
“It’s exhausted us. Greater productivity was needed to complete our project, but home schooling, the strain of being furloughed, and suffering the disease itself has drained resources. Trying to get hold of many organisations has been incredibly difficult, so even fact-finding and checking has suffered. But we have benefitted from many useful and free webinars.”
As we know, digital technology has played a significant role in helping people cope during the lockdowns, but only for those able to use it:
“A big change in community engagement possibilities/challenges. Obviously no in person activity, and lack of capacity/skills in digital has impacted our ability to pivot quickly.”
“The use of technology has come to the fore, but this has both been an advantage for some and a disadvantage for those not able to cope.”
It is no surprise that members running visitor attractions or hospitality facilities have had to close them down for most of the past year. 49% of members report being in this position but given that many of our members are not currently managing facilities, this probably represents close to 100% of those who are.
“Our income has dropped to virtually nil as our visitor numbers have dropped to virtually zero. Hopefully 2021 will be better and we can welcome visitors back, only when it is safe to do so.”
40% of our members have been significantly affected by volunteers having to isolate.
“We are all volunteers and it’s been hard to maintain enthusiasm and keep up the same pace of work in our spare time without the physical support of others”
While one member reported that “Staff capacity has been very affected by having to home-school AND work from home.”
The delays and shutdowns have caused financial losses. 61% of Network members report losing money during the past year. Has Government and funder support helped? For more than half of those members the support on offer has helped but not fully compensated for their losses. 16% of members say that Government and funder support has more than compensated, and 11% of members report been unable to get any Government or funder support.
10% of our members have had to make staff redundant or not renew contracts. And there were indications that the difficulties were not over.
“Changes being made to business model. Expecting restrictions to last until end of calendar year so loss of another peak season for visitor income.”
“We have switched to semi-permanent homeworking and given up our offices. Worried that the true financial effects will only become apparent once we get back to normal and government financial support to tenants comes to an end.”
However, the resilience of the network is demonstrated by 78% of our members saying they will bounce back within a year from the effects of the pandemic and lockdowns. Of more concern is the 3% who say they may not survive.
For many it means rethinking their plans:
“A need to take a new look at priorities and see how the project can be tailored to be more in tune with the times.”
And for some members the pandemic has had positive effects:
“Income has remained much the same and expenditure declined due to cancelling activities”
“Our membership has increased by 50% since we started doing more on-line events.”
“Silver linings. It has provided us with a chance to draw a line in the sand and review our resilience”
The survey was carried out between the 12th and 15th February. 91 Network members responded from all parts of the UK.