Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway receives Government funding boost to aid recovery from pandemic

Award will meet costs incurred while attraction has been closed due to Covid

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 12:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 12:34 am

Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Museum has received a grant of £37,832 from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help it recover from the pandemic and reopen.

More than £300m has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country in the latest round of support announced on Sunday by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

The railway currently hopes to start its 2021 services on Saturday, May 22, and its chairman Terry Bendall said: “This award will provide much-needed financial support to help us meet the costs that have occurred during the time that we have been closed which included the curtailment of our popular Santa Specials and the delayed opening of our new operating season.

Leighton Buzzard Railway

"Although much of our usual expenditure had been placed on hold, some costs such as utilities, insurance and similar costs have to be paid, and we have a backlog of restoration and repairs to our historic fleet of locomotives which has had to be delayed due to the lack of income whilst we have been closed. It will also enable us to expand our audience base.

"Our application for Cultural Recovery Grant funding was helped significantly by help and advice provided by SHARE, the East of England museum support network and the Museum Development Office for Bedfordshire and we are very grateful for the advice provided by these sources.”

The railway museum is accredited with Arts Council England and is recognised within the heritage railway community as having one of the most diverse and significant collections of industrial railway locomotives and equipment within the UK.

It is one of the few remaining railways in England built solely for industrial use. The railway was originally built using second hand track from the trench railways constructed in Western France during World War One. The museum and the society that supports it is an all-volunteer organisation with no paid staff and has operated as a heritage railway since 1967. The railway is now operated as a tourist attraction with one of the largest and most important collections of narrow gauge steam and internal combustion locomotives in the UK.

Over £800 million in grants and loans have already been awarded to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

This second round of awards made at the weekend will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead.

Mr Dowden, said: “Our record breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they've ever faced.

"Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors - helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead."

Sir Nicholas Serota, chairman of Arts Council England, added: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work.

"We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”

The funding awarded at the weekend is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.