Shakespeare Birthplace Trust sets out initial COVID-19 recovery plan

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the charity which cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage in Stratford-upon-Avon, has announced initial plans to recover from the severe financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

It intends to re-open Shakespeare’s Birthplace this summer. Regrettably the other four Shakespeare Family Homes and Gardens — Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft and Mary Arden’s Farm —  will remain closed until at least spring 2021.

Although these four sites won’t be open to the public they will continue to be protected and conserved until their doors open once again.

The charity is also consulting with its employees about an organisational structure which reflects the reduced scale of operations.

The Trust is an independent charity that normally generates 98% of its own income, dependent on its ability to welcome 850,000 visitors each year. The Trust’s historic sites, shops and cafes have been closed since March 17th due to coronavirus, with a resulting loss of almost 90% of income.

Tim Cooke, Chief Executive of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “Last week we received news of a £900,000 award from Arts Council England’s emergency fund and this gives us the opportunity to re-reopen Shakespeare’s Birthplace this summer. That is a real step forward. We will announce more details shortly.

“However, with the enforced closure of our properties, shops, and catering venues in March, we will suffer a loss of £8.5 million of income  for 2020, with a challenging financial picture for 2021. In addition to this loss the Trust itself is investing significant cash this year in maintaining its limited operation.

“While social distancing is quite rightly in place, while visitor confidence and behaviour are understandably uncertain and while the future impact of Covid is unknown, reopening all of our historic properties would cost more than keeping them closed.  We are opening Shakespeare’s Birthplace because it is central to our nation’s heritage, to our national and regional tourism economy, and to our mission as the independent charity which preserves Shakespeare’s legacy for the benefit of the nation.

“Like many organisations operating in the culture, tourism, hospitality and retail arenas the Trust has to look at its costs. Regrettably, this will mean a reduction to our workforce and the Trust is in consultation with its employees to look at options to reduce employee numbers, wherever possible through a voluntary redundancy scheme, and changes to working arrangements.

“We have no option but to act and to seek the support of others to ensure that our charity is able to survive the impact of Covid and build a recovery plan.”

All of the Trust’s income is reinvested in the ongoing conservation of and access to the astonishing Shakespearian heritage and collections in its care, and in delivering rich learning resources and programmes for people of every age and stage of interest, including the award-winning Shakespeare Week programme involving more than 2 million primary school children a year across the UK.