Latest news from The Cheltenham Trust
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The Cheltenham Trust is an independent, not for profit, charitable organisation which manages five venues across Cheltenham and is one of the lead providers of cultural and leisure services. Its vision is to enhance the wellbeing of Cheltenham’s residents and visitors, and to boost the local economy through increasing footfall to its high profile visitor destinations, including the iconic Pittville Pump Room and Cheltenham Town Hall.
The Trust’s vision for the pump room is a visitor destination that is fully utilised by the local community and visitors for a diverse range of activities and events. The number of events escalated, pre covid, with 954 events held in the pump room between April 2018 and March 2020, when the venue closed under covid restrictions. The events included 183 concerts, 117 dances, 62 exhibitions, 20 workshops and 83 weddings.
The Trust’s plan has always been, and continues to be, to bring the pump room back to life, recognising how vital it is to utilise and continually invest in iconic venues to enable their future sustainability in modern times.
Last year, following the closure of the pump room, as a result of the pandemic, The Trust repurposed its business and opened a new outdoor takeaway café at the pump room. The Heritage Café, combined with a cultural programme of music, theatre, choirs and dance in the park, proved to be an extraordinary success in the worst pandemic of our lifetime. More than 140,000 visitors brought the venue to life and evidenced what can be achieved when the challenges and restrictions imposed by covid are lifted. The Cheltenham Trust will build on the success of both the indoor and outdoor spaces at the pump room to increase the number of visitors and flexible use of the venue.
The Trust’s approach to respond and adapt throughout the pandemic has been recognised and featured as an exemplar by BBC Points West, Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, Circle 2 Success, Cheltenham BID among others.
In the current lockdown that came into place on 6 January, the Trust took the decision to temporarily close its outdoor Heritage Café and the Garden Bar at Imperial Gardens in keeping with the government’s message to stay at home and to protect the NHS, and recognising that the popularity of the cafes could place people at risk at a time when the pandemic is heightened. First and foremost, the Trust has a duty of care to its staff and customers and always places safety first. Both cafes will reopen when the situation improves and the risk to life is reduced.
Cheltenham Borough Council contracts the Trust through a management agreement to manage the five venues across Cheltenham that are owned by the council. As an independent organisation, with a contractual agreement, the Trust uses space within the venues, as required, to run its business and operations. This is the case for all venues, including the pump room.
Since the café opened last June, a small core team has operated flexibly from the pump room to support the café and core business and to ensure the building is kept secure and checked upon while it is closed due to the pandemic. Staff work flexibly and are located where needed to run the business including the new outdoor cafes.
The Trust’s 5 year business plan was produced pre-covid and was on track for delivery. This was halted when all venues closed on 16 March as a result of the pandemic and the Trust, and like most charities had to repurpose its business.
The cultural, hospitality and leisure industries have been some of the hardest hit industries as a result of covid. Like every other business and organisation across the country, the Trust has had to completely reconfigure its financial projections and business plan as the pandemic has progressed.
The Trust is currently working on its recovery plan, building on the learning throughout the pandemic and recognising that it will be some time before it can resume its pre-covid business model. The top priority for the organisation has been, and continues to be, building resilience for a sustainable future utilising all its venues and space, including the pump room, for the benefit of Cheltenham’s residents and visitors.