The group that runs the Jorvik Viking Centre has received a major boost today, with the award of a £1.9m grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund.
The money goes to the York Archaeological Trust, which runs the Viking Centre, DIG and Barley Hall.
It means the group will be able to survive until 17 May, when the first visitors should be allowed back in.
One of the trust’s major sources of income is from visitors, including educational visits. This has been wiped out for months at a time since the pandemic hit – and they have also lost the lucrative Easter holiday spend.
So the government money, administered by the Arts Council, means the trust will emerge on the other side – and with the furlough scheme, loans and other grants, they have not had to make any redundancies.
“The last 12 months have been incredibly challenging, but we are phenomenally proud to be coming out of the other side,” said director of attractions Sarah Maltby.
Change of plan for two sites
Jorvik Viking Centre, Barley Hall and DIG will re-open for prebooked visits from 17 May.
However the trust’s two smallest museums – Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar and Richard III Experience at Monk Bar – won’t be reopening.
“The last year has prompted us to relook at how these sites operate, particularly as they lack facilities including running water,” Sarah said.
“During the closures, Monk Bar has been redesigned to house sets for our digital educational programmes – and indeed, we hosted our Schools Week livestreams from here in February.”
Micklegate Bar, meanwhile, will house temporary exhibitions and displays to feature as part of a series of new archaeology themed walks and tours planned over the summer.
The Culture Recovery Fund grant has been a lifeline, said David Jennings, York Archaeological Trust’s chief executive.
“We had expected to be able to re-open attractions in time for the key Easter period, but now that has been delayed until mid-May.
“With our reserves exhausted, navigating this next three months would have been very challenging.
“This grant enables us to concentrate on re-opening safely for all those people who want to come to York and carry us through until visitor numbers return to pre-pandemic levels in the summer months.
“We are extremely grateful to the Arts Council England for their support at this critical time and all of the assistance from our other friends and supporters over the past 12 months.”
Tickets are now on sale for the three attractions for visits from 17 May, with all visitors strongly encouraged to prebook so that visitor flows can be managed and queuing minimised.
“This perhaps marks the end of a 37-year tradition – the Jorvik queue encircling St Mary’s Square during school holidays – but hopefully gives visitors more time to enjoy the city and its other attractions during a visit to York,” said Sarah.
York Theatre Royal is another recipient of a Culture Recovery Fund grant. It will receive £324,000, which chief executive Tom Bird says is crucial in safeguarding its future.
It is due to reopen on May 17, but with reduced audience capacity and increased staffing and equipment costs.