YHA (England & Wales) has secured a significant grant from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage.
This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund – funded by Government and administered at arms-length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.
The £866,700 grant will enable the youth hostelling charity to safeguard the future of a number of its historic properties amidst the pandemic and ensure that people can continue to access significant heritage and cultural sites in England.
YHA is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country that will share £103 million, to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.
The funding has come at a critical time for the 90-year old charity which has been hard hit by the pandemic, suffering a £30 million (75%) drop in income since March.
James Blake, Chief Executive of YHA (England & Wales) said:
“The grant is an important financial bridge for us. It will not only help ensure YHA can manage resources over the winter season but, as importantly, will help us thrive long term.”
Currently, only around 60 of YHA’s 154-strong network of properties in England and Wales are able to open for guests in order to meet Government restrictions and ensure guest safety.
With a key organisational priority of YHA’s strategy being to connect people to heritage, landscapes and nature, the funding will enable YHA to increase capacity at a number of its rural youth hostels, helping more people to experience and benefit from access to the outdoors.
The grant will be invested in alternative income streams, including camping and cabin facilities at youth hostels to meet the demand the charity is seeing in its rural locations. Additionally, investment will be made into YHA’s back-office processes and projects to improve its communications with members, supporters and guests and aid the charity’s recovery post-pandemic.
With some youth hostel properties dating back to the 1200s, YHA has long prided itself on making historical buildings accessible to the public, particularly young people on school trips.
With outdoor learning having the power to transform lives – often inspiring a life-long connection with nature that helps young people become custodians of our precious environment – the funding will also allow YHA to further build on its work with the Access Unlimited coalition to connect more children and young people to natural heritage and the outdoors.
Throughout the pandemic, the Access Unlimited coalition, which comprises YHA (England & Wales), The Outwood Bound Trust, Scouts, Girlguiding, Field Studies Council and the National Parks, has pressed Government to take action to protect the future of outdoor learning.
Recognising the importance of ensuring young people remain connected to heritage, landscapes and the outdoors during the pandemic, YHA has introduced a day programme specifically for schools that takes young people out of the classroom and into youth hostel environments in a safe and organised manner. The grant will support the delivery and roll-out of YHA’s new Schools Day Programme.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
“As a nation, it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce back post-COVID.”
Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said:
“It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support by Government is crucial. Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live. All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time.
“Our heritage is still facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet. But this hugely welcome funding from Government, and the money we continue to invest from the National Lottery, has undoubtedly stopped heritage and the organisations that care for it being permanently lost.”
James Blake thanked the National Lottery Heritage Fund for its trust in YHA’s ability to help people enjoy the benefits of heritage during the pandemic. He said:
“YHA is an organisation born out of social reform in 1930 and, now 90 years later amidst a pandemic, we have a significant role to play in improving connections to heritage, culture, nature, and the outdoors.
“Over a quarter of a million young people have missed out on a trip this year with YHA alone. For some, this would have been their first chance to stay away from home and experience our amazing heritage. We have a duty to remain open and ensure that people have access to much-needed breaks during these challenging times. The funding will enable us to increase capacity at a number of our hostels ensuring we provide unique opportunities for the many, not just a few.”