Cheltenham Festivals awarded nearly £800K from Culture Recovery Fund

Cheltenham Literary Festival

Cheltenham Festivals and the Severn Valley Railways Trust are two of a number of cultural organisations from across the region which have secured vital funding as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cheltenham Festivals has been awarded £783,939, but it’s not as much as has been secured by the Kidderminster-based Severn Valley Railways Trust, which secured £906,000 – one of the highest grants awarded.

Cheltenham Festivals is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations receiving support as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England.

The news has come the week after the organisation’s pioneering hybrid Literature Festival.

200,000 viewers logged on to watch The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival as it was live-streamed from Cheltenham for the first time in the history of the world’s first literature festival.

The pioneering hybrid Festival combined digital and in-person events, as 290 authors and speakers including Elif Shafak, Raynor Winn, John Lanchester, Bolu Babalola, Hashi Mohamed, Naoise Dolan, the Kanneh-Mason family, internet doggy sensations Olive and Mabel with their sports commentator owner Andrew Cotter, Ian Hislop and Richard Osman made their way to Cheltenham to appear on stage in front of a live, socially-distanced audience.

180 schools downloaded the free digital pack to Create Your Own Festival at school, featuring draw-alongs, storytelling and author talks on fiction, facts and poetry.

This year’s programme is still available to view on demand via a subscription to the #CheltLitFest Player, with more than 120 events from The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival available on demand until 31 December 2020.

Guest Curator Elif Shafak said: “Literary festivals are among our last remaining democratic spaces and we need them for our sanity, we need culture and art to have nuanced conversations, nurture empathy, feed knowledge and turn good words into good action.”

Caitlin Moran said “Cheltenham is basically like Literary Christmas. It’s the first event this year that I’ve actually been able to go to. I love that – it’s so Cheltenham. They were the only ones who said “Yep, we’re still gonna do this.”

Author Andrew O’Hagan said “The Cheltenham Literature Festival has always been a celebration of creativity and this year in very difficult circumstances it has shown enormous creativity itself. I think it’s been an act of bravery as well as creativity and it’s actually brought us forward this year and given us a little bit of hope.”

Other organisations from across the region receiving Culture Recovery Fund money include the large and small. They include:

  • The Forest of Dean Clearwell Mine Management Company was awarded £43,800
  • Westonbirt Arboretum was awarded £195,500
  • Gloucester Cathedral was awarded £200,000
  • Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust near Kidderminster was awarded £166,500
  • Historic Coventry Trust was awarded £170,700
  • MotoFest Coventry was awarded £44,500
  • The Severn Valley Railway in Worcestershire was awarded £906,000
  • Slough Fort Preservation Trust was awarded £10,900
  • Tewkesbury Abbey was awarded £185,300
  • Thames Steamers Limited in Marlow was awarded £30,000
  • The New Mechanics Institution Preservation Trust Ltd in Swindon was awarded £42,300
  • Woodchester Mansion Trust near Stroud was awarded £58,600

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery. These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.”

Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”