Wicksteed Park receives £250,000 lifeline from National Lottery Heritage Fund
- Credit: Wicksteed Park
Wicksteed Park has received an emergency lifeline from the National Lottery after facing financial woes due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
An online fundraising appeal by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust has now topped £370,000 after the National Lottery Heritage Fund provided a £247,000 grant.
The emergency funding comes after fans of the oldest theme park in Britain donated more than £120,000 from their own pockets to save the park.
The park in Kettering, Northamptonshire, was opened in 1921 and faced a bleak future as a result of the Covid-19 impact on the leisure industry.
It was unable to avoid going into administration last week, with the loss of 48 permanent staff and 67 part-time and other jobs, due to the “huge financial strain”.
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Backed by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust a small group of employees has formed a new company much reduced in size, to safeguard the future of the park.
The £370,000 generated so far will help continue to support free access to the park and will be used for staffing, security, insurance, utility bills, maintenance, refuse collection and looking after the animals as well as things such as grass cutting and hedge cutting.
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And following the Government’s relaxation of the lockdown restrictions, the park’s new company are looking closely at what may be achievable in the weeks and months ahead in terms of re-opening some of the park’s attractions.
Oliver Wicksteed, the chairman of the Wicksteed charity, said the amazing and ongoing support received from local people coupled with the money from The National Lottery Heritage Fund would “go a long way to helping the park recover and prosper”.
He said: “The cost of operating the country park alone, without the park’s rides and attractions, is around £110,000 a month.
“The trust was able to step in to secure the park in the short term but when we launched our fundraising appeal we deliberately didn’t set a target because the situation regarding coronavirus and the guidelines we are being given are changing on a regular basis, and so the amount we might need to see the park through to next spring and reopen fully is also changing.
“The response from local people has been truly outstanding and we can’t thank them enough for what they have done and what they continue to do.
“One important thing to come out of this situation is that more people now realise that the park is owned by a charity and, as with other charities, it needs ongoing support from fundraisers and donations in order to flourish.
“Traditionally the trust has not had that but it has now, and long may that continue.
“We are also extremely grateful that thanks to the National Lottery and its players, The National Lottery Heritage Fund is also supporting us at this crucial time – it’s a lifeline to us and others who are passionate about sustaining heritage for the benefit of all.”
The emergency funding was awarded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund.
£50million has been made available to provide emergency funding for those most in need across the heritage sector.
The UK-wide fund will address both immediate emergency actions and help organisations to start thinking about recovery.
Ros Kerslake, chief executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, supporting economic regeneration and benefiting our personal wellbeing.
“All of these things are going to be even more important as we emerge from this current crisis.
“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are pleased to be able to lend our support to organisations such as the Wicksteed Charitable Trust during this uncertain time.”
The coronavirus outbreak left the trust with no income for months, apart from a small amount of car parking revenue.
The Wicksteed Charity has said it will endeavour to continue funding the opening of the park and Pavilion so that people can still enjoy it whilst exercising and also to appreciate the open space which is crucial to physical and mental wellbeing.
The charity has also pledged to honour any bookings for forthcoming events as well as annual passes and will endeavour to retain functions and shows in the park pavilion as soon as government guidelines allow and it is practical.