Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Crewkerne & District Musuem & Heritage Centre (arts 221)

1. The impact of cuts in Grant Funding on our organisation is considerable

2. Cooperation with other organisations within a small community could be advantageous

3. Small volunteer run groups need public support

4. How funding is made available is important within the volunteer sector

5. Effect of distribution of National Lottery funding

6. Museums, Libraries and Archives Council-abolition

7. Support of local business and philanthropists

8. Government incentives

Crewkerne & District Museum & Heritage Centre is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The centre was set up with the encouragement and support of the South Somerset District Council and Crewkerne Town Council and funding to carry out the project supplied by Heritage Lottery some eleven years ago.

1. The project grew from a small museum, run by volunteers, which had been housed in a council building which was declared unsafe. Much hard work on the part of volunteers secured the Heritage Lottery funding which enabled them to purchase a Georgian property in the centre of town and completely refurbish it to a high standard to house the stored collection and run as a Heritage Centre. The South Somerset District Council has provided an annual grant of £4,150 to run the centre until 2 years ago when the funding was reduced. This funding is currently being cut by approximately 20% annually until 2014 when it will be withdrawn completely. The organisation, a registered charity, runs at a turnover of about £9,500 per annum and so the SSDC grant was supplying almost half of the income. The local Town Council continues to support the centre with an annual grant of £1,500.

In view of rising fuel costs, insurance and maintenance costs (the charity owns the building), the only way that the centre survives is due to the considerable volunteer help provided by the community.

2. In an attempt to involve further small organisations within Crewkerne the museum is offering display space to celebrate anniversaries and events and this year has covered to date:

§ A local bowls club

§ A collectors display of aprons

§ The Charity Football Shield

§ The Girl Guide 100th anniversary

§ The Young Farmers

It is felt that this gives us links to a wider community. We also work closely with the Local Information Centre and local shops. We take part in promotion days by other organisations in the town and national groups such as English Heritage (free entrance for Heritage weekend and guided walks around the town), and The Big Draw ( combined with Crewkerne Art group for October Half term holiday activities).

3. The Heritage Centre has existed for 10 years in its present form and we are constantly trying to raise our profile within the community by connecting with other local groups, building links with schools, advertising activities and providing a venue for small group celebrations and meetings such as the ex rail workers reunion celebrating the 150th anniversary of Crewkerne Railway Station. We aim to cooperate with other groups such as the Local Information Centre, the Community Centre and other fund raising groups to offer support and exchange of ideas.

4. Time is a valuable resource within the volunteering sector and many people are willing to offer to do practical things, but not so happy to spend time filling in forms and working at grant applications. We have found that, as a non profit making organisation, it is increasingly difficult to find ways of raising funds for the general day to day running of the Centre. We go to our Friends organisation for expenditure on advertising leaflets and expensive packaging materials for example, and not just for the extra purchases of things to add to the collection or enhance the Reception area. This past year has seen us hold more fund raising events and this November we shall be calling on Volunteers for further help with Stewarding when we open the museum as an Art Gallery. Recognition of volunteer hours by government in exchange for some financial support would mean that many organisations would continue to thrive and small towns such as Crewkerne would ensure the provision of educational resources such as Museums and Heritage Centres.

5. Our centre has benefited from Heritage Lottery money in the past and may well need to apply for project funding in the future. The distribution of funds to 2012 Olympics and reduction in heritage funding will no doubt affect organisations such as ours.

6. In 2008/2009 we were invited to apply for Accreditation from Museums, Libraries and Archives. We were awarded full Accreditation and the work involved in the application fell to volunteers. We were admirably supported by our Museum Development Officer, Natalie Watson, who guided us through the maze of paperwork required. Miss Watson’s post is part funded by MLA. Since taking up post Miss Watson has raised the profile of museums both large and small in Somerset. She has worked tirelessly to make museums living, lively places under her guidance and expertise. Without such an officer in place the county would be the poorer.

MLA also provides free support to museums through courses and printed material.

7. In the present economic climate it is difficult to imagine many local businesses offering financial support to Museums. Our Friends Association offers membership to all such businesses, but only has a few signed up. A local printer is very supportive, probably because the owners are interested and involved in the centre. The centre depends on the charitable gifts of the public and most supporters of the Museum will attend fund raising functions, give items for the collection and for fund raising. We have occasionally been grateful to receive larger donations to either go in the general fund or purchase particular objects of interest for the collection.

8. The incentive to keep our Museum and Heritage Centre open comes from the sense of community involvement of the volunteers. We have about 60 people volunteering; ages ranging from 50-80plus. No-one is paid and we run the centre in a "professional" manner. Everyone treats all the volunteers with due respect and values what they do, whether it be stewarding once a month or organising an event. This comes from a sense of community, of enjoyment in working together with a varied group of people from all walks of life. This happens in some small towns and comes from the roots. It cannot be artificially made but should be encouraged, and financial support from government/councils should be available to sustain such organisations to recognise the work that volunteers put into their communities.

September 2010