It was an American artist illustrator, writer, and designer, Maira Kalman who said:
‘A visit to a museum is a search for beauty, truth, and meaning in our lives. Go to museums as often as you can.'
Well, 8000 people in Tewkesbury and the surrounding areas do visit the popular community Tewkesbury Museum at 64 Barton Street, every year. The museum also hosts educational programmes, talks and community activities. However, its future and benefit to the community were at risk as the building where the museum was located, was a dilapidated grade 2* listed building, with a leaking roof and crumbling walls.
Fundraising strategy and ‘At Risk Register’
The leaking roof resulted in the collapse of one ceiling on the second floor and put a rare plaster ceiling in danger, subsequently closing the floor to the public. In addition to the roof repairs, the museum, which houses artefacts dating back to the Romans and also memorabilia of Raymond Priestley, an Antarctic explorer with Ernest Shackleton, had not had any significant updates for 20 years and needed urgent renovation.
Raising funds to repair a museum during a time of economic crisis was a challenge. Tewkesbury Town Council, who own the building in which the museum is located, approached Orchard Fundraising in late 2021 for support.
Orchard Fundraising utilising its extensive experience of capital projects, including listed buildings, developed a systematic approach to fundraising, starting with a feasibility study and a needs analysis.
Sam Watson, Principal Consultant at Orchard Fundraising says:
“We worked with the Town Council and museum trustees to develop and implement a community engagement programme and a needs analysis. It was important to demonstrate that the community had been consulted and that their views about the museum and what they want from it would be considered."
Some of the first actions that Orchard Fundraising undertook included the formation of a steering group to manage the project, made up of representatives from the Town Council, building professionals and the Museum Trustees, who are responsible for managing the museum. A key action was to get the building listed on the ‘At Risk Register’, which is managed by Historic England. This was a significant step as it was the start of a working partnership with Historic England, whose input, advice and insights were crucial in securing the funding required for the restoration.
The fundraising strategy developed by Orchard Fundraising included a ‘pre-fundraising plan’ to ensure that the project had all the elements required to be ‘fundraising ready’ before researching and developing a list of prospects to apply to.
The preparation work included surveyors' and architects’ reports on the building and developing an engagement strategy to obtain the views of the community on the museum and how the internal museum could be reconfigured to benefit the community.
Two-phase and a multipurpose building
The outcome of this preparation work was that the museum repairs would be in two phases. Phase one would focus on repairing the fabric of the building, the external and internal. Phase two would focus on reconfiguration of the internal building into a community heritage hub, which would be fully accessible, with spaces which might be hired out or used by the community.
Councillor Chris Danter, Chair of the Buildings & Moorings committee says:
"We wanted to ensure that the repairs would result in a museum for the future and that the reconfiguration of the internal space would preserve the historic aspects of the interior.”
One of the objectives of phase two is to have additional uses for the building which would provide an income stream, to ensure the museum’s long-term sustainability.
Partnership working: Historic England
The building being put on the ‘At Risk Register’ resulted in a partnership with Historic England who visited the building, provided guidance and support on the works required, including advice on potential grants available for the repairs. They also provided advice to the trustees and fundraisers about the range of work required to secure the building as a community asset and written advice on the project management and architectural actions.
Councillor Chris Danter, Chair of Buildings & Moorings Committee says:
“Orchard Fundraising helped us in developing a key relationship with Historic England and forming an expert project steering group from the local community.”
Historic England’s support proved critical to securing a transformational multi-stage grant of £360k.
“Historic England’s advice on an application to The Arts Council MEND Fund was central to securing funds for the majority of the project and a springboard to applying for other funding,” explained Chris.
The finishing line
Historic England also provided guidance on securing funding from Tewkesbury Borough Council’s High Street Heritage Action Zone, resulting in a total of £500K being raised in 18 months from November 2021 to April 2023. The £500K will be used for phase one, the restoration of the fabric of the building.
Orchard Fundraising continues to work on phase two of the project, the reconfiguration of the internal building into a low-intensity use museum venue, codesigned with the community. Historic England advisors are still in touch with the trustees and Town Council as part of a dynamic ongoing relationship that will potentially benefit other heritage buildings owned by the Town Council.
Paul Drake, Museum Trustee says:
“Well done on getting the grant! Given that no. 64 has been in need of repair for two decades, it’s not an exaggeration to say that this is a once-in-a-generation achievement!”.