Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by The Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College (arts 67)

1. The Greenwich Foundation’s role and structure. The Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College represents an interesting model for the development of different funding streams to address what had been an intractable heritage problem until the late 1990’s. Our short history suggests answers to some of the questions being asked of heritage bodies in receipt of public funding.

2. The Foundation was set up in 1997 as a charity independent of government, to take on the refurbishment and secure the future of the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC), one of the finest groups of English Baroque buildings and the core of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. The ORNC includes the site of Henry VIII’s favourite Palace, superseded by Wren’s Royal Hospital for Seamen c 1700, which survives remarkably intact and includes glorious interiors such as the Chapel and Painted Hall. It had been suggested in 1996 when the Navy decided to vacate the site that it should be sold to a private developer, and the Foundation was set up as an alternative solution to secure its future and realise the public benefit in a place so significant in our national history. The ORNC remains in public ownership, but is leased to the Foundation for 150 years.

3. The Foundation has over the last ten years restored the buildings to their former glory, and as landlord with overall responsibility for the fabric overseen their sympathetic conversion to a new campus for the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music. As well as rent from these and other smaller tenants, the Foundation has diversified its income streams to include catering, weddings and corporate event hire, film location hire, public events and even (earlier this year) a microbrewery, set up in 2010 by a local commercial brewery on the site of the historic Hospital Brewery.

4. Government funding. The net result of this activity is that dependence on government grant has fallen from 64% of our total income in 2000 to 34% in 2010 (out of total income of £4.3m). Over this period our grant had been frozen at £1.5m, although this has been reduced to £1.455m in the current year and we have been asked by the Department to illustrate the impact of further reductions of up to 25%. Continued government support for the Foundation remains vital; it is a secure "baseline" that has allowed us to invest in income-generating projects such as the microbrewery and thus to reduce overall dependency. In effect the public subsidy is helping to underwrite the cost of public access to the site, and the "heritage premium" required to keep the buildings in good repair. This funding stream is vital to allow us to fulfil the agreement with our tenants, the University and Trinity, embedded in long term leases to which the government was party in 1998. With only 32 staff, of whom all but 5 are in "front line" service delivery posts, the Foundation cannot absorb such cuts without curtailing its investment in income-generating facilities and/or its regular maintenance programmes. Both of these would be false economies.

5. Lottery and private charitable support. Capital grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund to the Foundation amounting to £12.5m over the last decade have also been vital to securing a sustainable future for the buildings. We have added to these with a successful private/trust donor campaign which raised over £500k towards the £6m cost of the in respect of the recently-completed Discover Greenwich visitor centre for the whole World Heritage Site. It includes the state-of-the-art Clore Learning Suite, now delivering tailored education programmes to over 6000 schoolchildren per annum. We have built a new Tourist Information Centre run by the London Borough of Greenwich as part of the project, which also includes the previously-mentioned microbrewery, cafe and restaurant. Well over half the investment in Discover Greenwich was externally funded.

6. Public benefit. The public benefits which arise from the success of this model are significant. Not only does the Foundation look after these magnificent buildings and grounds to the highest standard, and open the whole site and the finest interiors free of charge all year round, but we have provided a visitor centre for the whole of the Maritime Greenwich WHS in Discover Greenwich. ORNC is part of the equestrian Olympic site in 2012, and we are now well placed to capitalise on the "Olympic legacy". We have reached out to new audiences with our education and public events programmes, which have included concerts, ice rinks and theatre- all of which have generated income for the estate. Our visitor numbers have risen from just over 400k in 2002 to an estimated 1.3m in the current year.

7. Tourism and the economy. We also make a significant regional contribution to tourism and the local economy. With the creation of the microbrewery we added some 37 new jobs to Greenwich town centre, and our ongoing building repair programmes have had an equally important impact in the local construction and craft skills sectors.

8. Summary. Against this background the points to which the Foundation would wish to draw the Committee’s attention are as follows:

(i) Given the flexibility to operate outside the public sector, regional/local historic buildings charities such as the Foundation present an excellent and efficient model for running large properties in public ownership, maximising income generation opportunities;

(ii) Nonetheless continued government support is still vital in our case, to underwrite the gap between the commercial value of the buildings and the cost of maintaining them and keeping them open to the public;

(iii) Capital grant from the HLF was also vital to securing the long term future of the buildings;

(iv) It is possible to raise significant sums from private donors and charitable trusts against projects where there is a strong case for support – such as the educational benefits of Discover Greenwich. It is however not possible to raise private money towards regular maintenance of a public asset.

September 2010