The railway had to cancel its 2020 Christmas programme – normally one of our busiest periods – after Staffordshire was put under strict COVID-19 restrictions. It was extremely upsetting for all our staff and volunteers when we were forced to cancel the 2020 programme, but with the public safety risk due to the pandemic and hospitality venues told to close, there was only one correct action to take.
Due to the amount of work involved in the 5-week long winter event, planning is always well underway by June, the railway had invested over £30,000 in gifts for the children and committed to a host of suppliers. Given the long lead in, we took comfort from active encouragement by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to press ahead with the event. The event was planned to perfection so the railway would make Christmas 2020 the most magical ever, given the awful year that was 2020. At a time when families needed joy and optimism, we invested in a team of characters to entertain the children and a new experience for everyone to enjoy. Sadly, nobody was able to enjoy this.
When the event was cancelled due to COVID restrictions tightening and a national lockdown enforced, the railway was left with contracted suppliers to pay and customers to refund. We took immediate action to apply for loans and grants, all of which have taken longer than expected to secure. However earlier this month, we received confirmation that we were one of more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.
We are delighted the £283,000 award has helped secure the future of the railway, which saw its income badly hit after being forced to close during one of its busiest periods and for the start of the 2021 season due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Within a week of the funds being received by the railway, every customer had been refunded in full. It also enabled the attraction to settle outstanding supplier accounts from the cancelled Santa and Steam event and get its deferred projects back on track.