Covid-19 and the Rye Heritage Centre

Rye Heritage Centre, closed for now but will reopen as soon as funding is in place.

In mid March 2020, the trustees of the newly formed Rye Heritage Centre charity were revved up and ready to re-open the centre and the wonderful Town Model on the first weekend in April, with all the usual fanfare and splendour you’d expect, including a fund-raising concert organised independently for our benefit

Then along came the Covid-19 virus with other ideas! By March 23, as we entered national lockdown, it was already obvious that our plans would have to be postponed.

Undeterred, we have worked hard behind the scenes, with the help of our manager-in waiting, to plan various improvements and to get organised for the day we could open our doors when normality returns.

Our original plans were based on carefully calculated and robust financial planning, the basis of which was a realistic income forecast generated from steady tourist footfall and a full diary of pre-booked group visits, all of which were understandably cancelled within the first few days and weeks.

The disappearance of that solid income stream left us looking for other sources of funding, hopeful of some of the  Covid-19 specific government support that was announced for businesses, employment and other organisations. Unfortunately we have not been eligible for any government support at all, either national or local, we were not even eligible for the furlough scheme to support our newly appointed manager – missing the cut-off date by just a few days. We continue to apply for any other cultural and charity grants that are advertised and we are hopeful that one or two current applications may prove fruitful. That would, together with a few generous and much appreciated donations from local residents that have been received, allow us to meet some modest start up costs to equip the centre with some point of sale equipment, telephone and internet provision.

We have worked our way over plenty of bureaucratic hurdles with gritted teeth and tenacity (it would take a whole separate article to outline the time and effort it takes to open a charity bank account) and the centre itself has been deep cleaned and partially re-decorated. We have kept an open mind on re-opening dates, constantly reviewing the ever changing government and industry advice, but ultimately it comes down to financial viability – taking into account the Covid secure measures we will have to put in place, the reduced numbers of visitors we can admit, the availability and willingness of volunteer staff to work within guidelines and law, with their own safety being of paramount importance.

We won’t be beaten (or as the Sussex saying goes – “we wunt be druv”) and although it is now clear that we will have to live with the virus for some time, that somehow makes forward planning a little easier. We are now at a point where we must concentrate our minds and efforts on working towards a committed opening date. That is where we are now, heading with a positive attitude and a determination towards at long last achieving what we set out to do this time last year.

Over the next few weeks, you can expect to see some exciting fund-raising initiatives announced, please look out for them here in Rye News and on our social media pages. If you can help with contributions, thank you, we do understand that now may not be the best time to be asking so we will really appreciate any support. Of course, you don’t have to wait – if you would like to donate now, either to general funds or to a specific project, or if you would like to contribute in any other way please do get in touch with us, you can e-mail  to heritagecentrerye@gmail.com or you can telephone 07432 257757 in normal office hours – we would love to hear from you.

We are also planning an online shop and other developments including some great new displays and merchandise.

We may have been quiet but we remain fully committed, we hope you haven’t forgotten us and will continue to support us as you did so enthusiastically when we began our journey

Thank you and stay safe.

Image Credits: Nick Forman .

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