There has been a wee gap in bulletins for two reasons: firstly I have been distracted by the birth of my beautiful grandson and secondly because we are moving towards another stage, and like many organisations from small enterprises up to government we have been – and very much still are – on ‘thinking time’.
Our spreadsheets guru Annie describes the model well known in business circles of the V (down to the bottom and bounce up again to normal), as against the U (down, bump along and think, recover). Despite screaming headlines from parts of the media, V isn’t realistic, and where we are is currently at the bottom of the U – and some economists are saying the bottom of the U is quite wide, even bath-shaped.
This bulletin is mainly going to start thinking about how we grapple our way out of this and start to climb back up the sides.
But first – recap and funding. An update of the practical stuff: we have been concentrating on firing out links and advice on how to get funding, and we will continue bringing you information about potentially useful sources.
Thus far it has all been about emergency funding to prevent closure. Just about everything that is likely to be available is now out there, with some going into a second phase, notably:
1. Furlough scheme – if you were eligible before just go back and extend. If you managed to keep staff working but now need to furlough then apply: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme. Lots of organisations are flexibly changing how they manage their staff all the time, so it is not a question of having missed the boat.
2. Third Sector Resilience Fund – this has opened a second phase. https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus/funding/scottish-government/third-sector-resilience-fund. Perhaps you failed first time round – people involved with the scheme tell us that many organisations across the third sector missed out because of problems of having some reserves. A few things to consider:
a) Firstly you can have another go.b) Your reserves or other circumstances might have changed.c) You can talk to someone at Just Enterprise before you apply and note that people who do this are having a much better rate of getting help. On the SCVO weblink given above they give this guidance:
‘We strongly encourage potential applicants to read the fund’s guidance notes and FAQs prior to starting an application. If organisations are unclear whether they meet the revised criteria or would benefit from support to understand their financial position and likely funding requirements, they are advised to contact Just Enterprise, who can work with them to better articulate their funding needs.’
Go to this page to find really useful stuff: https://justenterprise.org/landing-page/. They have sections on loss of trading from Covid-19 and asking about the TSRF grant, and other things.
3. £10,000 grant for small premises: this looks like an extension of the small business rates relief scheme and might be worth a look: https://www.gov.scot/news/extra-support-for-charities/?utm_campaign=569450_FindBusinessSupport%20-%20COVID-19%20Updates%2040&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Scottish%20Enterprise&dm_i=4X7B,C7E2,3XZ3UU,1D4KX,1
4. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is about to launch phase 2 of the heritage emergency fund with a range of £50k – £250k grants. The outline guidance seems to set the bar quite high – however it may be a lifeline for our Go Industrial group of museums in Scotland, which would be very welcome indeed.The brief outline is to:
- respond to exceptional cases of larger-scale need
- protect heritage at severe immediate risk
- safeguard the heritage that can play a key role in the UK’s economic and community regeneration from the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19)
The blog announcing it by Ros Kerslake, head of the Heritage Fund for the UK is worth a read https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/blogs/returning-changed-heritage-world)
5. General updates: all round keep checking this page for funding opportunities https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus/funding/other-financial-support.
From Panic to Planning
At the start of lockdown we inevitably entered a period of panic, but we are now in the phase of reflection. This is being carried out by all the heritage bodies at all levels, and there are collective programmes of looking at innovation, managing income streams, and realistic planning for the future. I think we can assume that funding will follow this.
It is time for all of us who manage or work actively with heritage to get the thinking caps on and start discussing, and we will mainly concentrate on From Panic to Planning in our bulletins from now on.
There are no easy answers to any of this, and as every heritage site or project is different there are no generic solutions. However a good place to start is by asking questions. We are going to start by encouraging you to drill down into who you are, how you work, and what you want to be. Out of that some answers and route maps may be found for your organisation.
If you took a couple of minutes diversion to read the Heritage Fund blog (link above) you will have seen this:
Some heritage organisations are going to have to rethink their future. Given the uncertainty we face, some may have to do so despite their own Herculean efforts… we are living through an extraordinary time, and neither we – nor our vital, creative sector – will look quite the same again.
The stark message has to be that that the supply of emergency funds cannot and will not last, and that if the cavalry aren’t already here they probably ain’t coming. Change is inevitable.
Things will not get back to normal
This is the one thing we can be sure of, and it takes some getting used to. There is no point in thinking that all we need to do is hunker down and in time, we will all pick up where we left off.
However the other side of this is that some organisations are seeing that this crisis offers opportunities to ‘reset’. Some comments from phone calls with community heritage folks:
- ‘We have realised that all we ever do is chase money from visitors, and we haven’t really been doing enough for the community’
- ‘Is it really right to be relentlessly trying to increase visitors across the threshold, so you have 45 people on a guided tour and not many of them are all that interested? We need to be focussing on people who are really interested’
- ‘This has made me realise that we should be facing the community rather than visitors’
- ‘We have decided to start a whole new way of working’
How to go forward
Our recommendation – your homework, if you like – is to start a process of thinking and talking amongst yourselves – most importantly in your committees and communities, but also feed into the forum threads on our website if you can – it would be good to share ideas https://scottishcommunityheritage.org/forum/.
We will send you links to read, and if you send us interesting links and ideas we will share them. Feed your thoughts back to us. Let’s assemble the best information we can.
Worth a read
1. This is an important document shared by the Association for Independent Museums. Regardless of your size, if you have a visitor attraction of any size, or are starting to think about what activities you might run, this contains some really interesting insights. https://www.aim-museums.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/ALVA-Attractions-Recovery-Tracker-Wave-2-13-19-May.pdf
Surveys are already showing that many people are going to be cautious and more likely to choose outside activities, and that regardless of whether lockdown has ended officially are going to continue to be very careful about their space and safety. The report contains this graph which makes pretty sobering reading:
2. Historic Environment Scotland have produced the initial fundings of their big survey. https://www.historicenvironment.scot/media/6426/coronavirus-sector-survey-initial-findings.pdf. it roughly mirrors our small survey findings, and well done to everyone from community heritage who fed in – it looks like you made an impact. Every graph is useful so please go through it, it isn’t long.
As an example, this shows what expects not to survive or have to change in order to do so (and note – ‘community heritage’ probably refers to activity-based projects without a base):
It will now be clear from all of the above that everyone is thinking and starting to plan. If you read the HES findings you will have seen that that ‘Mitigating Actions‘ have two things right at the top of the tree:
That is a pretty good steer for going forward, so let’s get going.
Task 1 – Myself in my shoes
Some ideas are being proposed for ways for museums and heritage sites to get open and functioning again with social distancing. But before you scramble to try and turn your heritage attraction into a model of social distancing, take a step back.
There are two aspects to this: will it work, and crucially, will people come? We all know that independently run heritage sites rely on visitor numbers, so both parts have to work if it is to be a success. We suggest you put yourself in the shoes of someone visiting a new-look heritage attraction and see what comes out as a first step in thinking what might work in your situation.
|WHAT WOULD YOU DO?||YES||MAYBE||NO|
|Would you book a time slot to visit a museum/heritage centre?|
|Would you feel OK about travelling on public transport to a museum/heritage site now and in the immediate future?|
|Would you feel happy about waiting in a shop-type queueing system to enter a museum/heritage centre?|
|Would you enjoy moving round a museum on a set route rather than being able to wander?|
|Would you enjoy a mandatory guided tour?|
|Would you feel comfortable going to a museum café?|
|Would you be OK with additional shop-type queuing system for the café and loos?|
|Count up your ticks and see what it looks like|
Why myself in my shoes? Because starting with thinking about how we personally behave in a heritage centre is useful. However the caveat is that we are the geekiest visitors possible, and very likely to go to museums and heritage sites. If us heritage geeks tick several ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ boxes, what might that mean for your average visitor who is much more casual? Add in some extra hypothetical questions:
- How likely are visitors to want to come and see us under these circumstances?
- What are they more likely to want to do?
Please share this tick box exercise around your members or committee and see what comes out. Use it as a trigger for discussion. It is attached as a Word document.
Task 2 – Why are we here?
If ‘why are we here’ seems just too huge a ‘meaning of life’ question then take the same approach as above. For this exercise, please take money out of the equation – this exercise is not about ‘how do we achieve a sustainable operation’, but is about re-examining your purpose as a start-point. The business model can follow. Simple questions on a 5 (most important) down to 1. Again, please share and discuss.
|WHAT MATTERS TO YOU MOST? From MOST Important (5) to LEAST (1)||5||4||3||2||1|
|The heritage site and/or collections|
|Working with the community|
|Using heritage for education and activities|
|Research and publications|
|Engaging with visitors from UK and all over the world|
|Working collectively with other projects/organisations or across wide geographical area|
|Running a museum or heritage centre as a business or social enterprise|
Fear of change
Even the organisations who are already embracing the idea of change are afraid of it. But as the great Oliver Hardy said “Faint heart ne’er won fair lady”, and the fact is change is much more likely to help you get through.
– Getting out of synch with the sector. There are no longer any rules, and everything is up for grabs.
– Innovation. Funding will almost certainly follow good ideas.
– A threat to your Accredited Status as a museum. Accreditation is paused, not to be re-opened until next year, and then very flexibly managed. You are not about to lose your Accredited status while you change. Any questions contact [email protected].
– Closure. This is the elephant in the room for many organisations. However there is a big difference psychologically between closing down and starting anew – and yet they can be the same thing. We need to stop talking about ‘who will survive’, and start talking about ‘how do we make sure we still care for our heritage and work with people’. This might mean deciding to close down premises altogether for now, or amalgamating with other projects, sharing stores and buildings, sharing committees and volunteers. This is part of discussions taking place at national level so expect information, support, and hopefully funding.
How we manage change will be a major topic in bulletins going forward – and there is a lot to say. This week it is simply about starting to allow that idea in.
So to round up we believe it is time to stop panicking and start planning, and do it with an open mind and staunch heart. There is much to fear with Coronavirus, but everything we have to offer in community heritage is a force for good, for cohesion and coming together, and for the sheer pleasure of heritage.
It seems only fair to end with a quote from the great Stan Laurel, which is apposite for our times: “I had a dream I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.” Community heritage needn’t be sleeping for long, and can re-awaken in a slightly different place.
Stay well, be cheery,