CULTURAL gems and heritage organisations across the Winchester district will receive over £2 million of lifesaving funding.

Six organisations based in the area will benefit from a share of the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

The funding is designed to help save jobs and help the sectors – much of which remains closed – recover.

The future of Winchester’s Theatre Royal has been secured thanks to the government funds and the extraordinary support of the local community.

Play to the Crowd, the arts and education charity which runs Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair and Playmakers has reached its £225,000 survival fundraising appeal target which it launched in July.

It has also been awarded £219,134 from the government to secure its immediate future.

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Chief executive Deryck Newland said: “We are extremely grateful to everyone who has donated to our Survival Appeal and to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for approving our application to the Culture Recovery Fund. Our Survival Appeal allowed us to survive beyond the end of September and the Culture Recovery Fund grant will help to mitigate some of the ongoing and increasing risks and uncertainties around Covid-19 across the next six months.”

He continued: “This has been, and continues to be, an extremely challenging time for the sector. As with many organisations we’ve had to take extreme measures to reduce our costs which heartbreakingly has meant restructuring our charity leading to staff redundancies, to build a more sustainable organisation for the future.”

Receiving the largest amount, Winchester Cathedral has been awarded £948,200 to support essential staffing costs and overheads until March 2021.

This will enable the cathedral to continue caring for the precious heritage, to keep its doors open every day for visitors and worshippers, and at the same time build its digital capability to support and engage with an ever wider audience.

The Rev Canon Dr Roland Riem, Vice-Dean at Winchester Cathedral, said: “We are deeply grateful for this public money, which will help us hugely in these challenging times, as we do our best to maintain and widen public accessibility.”

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Watercress Line chairman Richard Lacey and Steve Brine MP

Following a fundraising campaign, the Mid Hants Railway is celebrating a grant of £600,000 as part of the Culture Recovery Fund, which will allow the organisation to fund staff costs throughout the winter period when trading revenue is expected to be low because of the impact of the virus.

It will also allow various developments to assist the railway to cope with the Covid-19 restrictions such as erecting screens in carriages, alterations to dining trains and additional signage.

Simon Baggott, Watercress Line general manager, said: “We are enormously grateful to have been awarded this grant, which really should secure the railway’s continued existence beyond the coming very difficult winter period for the benefit of the local area.

“This news will be warmly appreciated by everyone who visits the railway, volunteers or works here. Being able to fund the staff over the winter will allow us to maintain the key engineering skills essential to the business and the associated training of young employees.”

The Hampshire Cultural Trust which manages the Westgate Museum and the Winchester City Museum, as well as 21 other attractions across the county has been awarded £480,000.

As part of the government funding smaller organisations in the Winchester district have also received much-needed support.

Entertainment and leisure business Empire Leisure UK, based in Whiteley, will receive £50,000 and theatre company Fat Rascal Ltd, in the Meon Valley, has been granted £71,733.