Friday, 03 December 2021

£800,000 to help festival and arts venues recover

£800,000 to help festival and arts venues recover

THE Henley Festival has received £220,346 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, which suppports arts organisations that were hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The River & Rowing Museum in Henley and the Mill at Sonning theatre have also received grants.

The festival was pushed back from its usual July slot to September this year due to the uncertainty over the end of the covid restrictions.

Despite this, up to 6,000 people attended each of the five nights.

Chief executive Jo Bausor said: “The money won’t go on anything specific, it is to enable us to keep going. We’re coming up to our 40th anniversary and this money will help us carry on for another 40 years.

“We are delighted that the importance of the festival has been recognised and, from a cultural point of view, the positive impact it makes on the local community and economy.”

The museum in Mill Meadows was awarded £151,134 which it says will help it become a community “hub”.

It was closed during the three coronavirus lockdowns and
re-opened to the public in May.

Director Cathy Pütz said: “We’re absolutely delighted to receive this vital grant.

“This will enable us to protect the museum’s future, growing our invaluable supporter network through an essential customer relationship management system and through investment in the training of our wonderful volunteers.

“We look forward to working closely with our communities, opening our collections wide, sharing more objects and their stories and together facilitating a community space for wellbeing, creativity and celebration of the river and the natural world.”

The museum is planning to display a “significant” medieval pendant, part of a major local treasure discovery, in a new exhibition in the spring.

The Mill theatre was awarded £423,580 on top of the £448,580 it received in April as part of an earlier round of grant funding.

It was closed during the coronavirus lockdowns before
re-opening with a reduced capacity.

Its first tranche of money from the fund in April was to help the venue operate with fewer numbers and to reassure visitors who might be nervous about returning.

Sally Hughes, the theatre’s artistic and managing director, called the funding “wonderful” and said it would be a “buffer” in case the covid restrictions were brought back in.

She said: “It gives us help with extra covid safety precautions, such as testing for all our staff and actors, as we have to order these tests privately. It will also allow us to have some money in reserve for the new year in case covid comes back in a big way.

“It is incredibly heartening to receive it as we really needed it. We can keep all of our 60 permanent staff, which rises to over 100 when we have the creatives employed with our shows.”

The Mill is currently staging performances of the musical Top Hat, which was delayed from last year, to critical acclaim.

Ms Hughes said: “Putting on Top Hat was a bit of a gamble because it is an expensive show to run but it has paid off. It has been the most wonderful feeling to see the theatre full and people have said to me that they are so happy to be back and the show has been really uplifting for them. I never thought that we would get to this stage.”

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