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Following further release guidelines from the UK government on Monday 11 May, Harewood House Trust remains closed. Please read the following update from our Trust Director, Jane Marriott, below.
It has now been two months since our 2020 season launch when we were able to welcome visitors back to Harewood after the winter closure and to invite you to celebrate our Bird Garden 50th anniversary with us for those few precious days in March.
When we started planning this year, and installing the 2020 exhibitions, including Kate MccGwire’s intricate and beautiful sculptural works made out of feathers, we could not have foreseen the events which have taken place and led to the full closure of Harewood for the longest period in its near 250-year history.
The impact of this year’s events has rippled through society in every imaginable way. However, as this glorious spring re-awakens, coinciding with new legislation from the Government, there is perhaps the start of a more positive outlook for our communities.
Everyone here sincerely hopes that the devastating impacts of this virus have been minimal for you, but we are, of course, mindful of the suffering people have had to endure. As we applaud the NHS and key worker heroes every Thursday evening, we also remember those who have been less fortunate, and those who have lost loved ones at this time.
No doubt, like you, our whole staff team here are keen to get back on site to enjoy Harewood’s wonderful Grounds, Gardens and the Bird Garden at this beautiful time of year. Last week, the government set out when that may be possible and the team here have been working hard to define plans for a phased, safe and considered opening of the site once more.
Harewood is a ticketed site, and as such, the earliest we are able to open our Grounds and Gardens is in the third phase of the Government’s plans. The Prime Minister indicated that this would be the first full week of July at the earliest. Your safety and the safety and welfare of our team is paramount, and as such you will notice many measures put in place on site to enable our safe re-opening.
Social distancing will need to be maintained in all areas. This may mean that we have to restrict the number of Members and visitors we can give access to high footfall areas such as the Bird Garden, or indeed the whole site itself. You will notice perspex screening in places where face-to-face interaction may be necessary and queuing measures will be in place in many areas.
Increased hygiene measures are in place across site. To keep you safe, we have new cleaning schedules in place, and have increased the hand sanitiser or hand washing points across the site.
Clear signage will allow us to establish one-way routes in parts of the site, and remind visitors of hygiene and social distancing in place. We will also operate a cashless payment system and encourage as many people as possible to book in advance to manage capacity.
The House, and enclosed or communal areas such as the Café seating area, will remain closed. We hope to open the House to restricted numbers at the earliest opportunity, however, we will only do so when we are confident that it is safe.
We know how many families adore our Adventure Playground, however, we believe it is unsafe to re-open the playground at this time so we are investing in creating an alternative outdoor safe play offer.
These are just a few of the many detailed measures that the Trust is putting in place, based on Government advice and international visitor attraction guidelines. When we are ready to re-open, we will publish all of our efforts so you, and we, can be confident of a safer visit.
It has been really wonderful to see so many of you have been enjoying our new #HarewoodAtHome series of posts, videos, activity sheets, blogs, podcasts and more which we launched during lockdown, and it has been incredibly encouraging to hear your feedback – thank you so much for continuing to take part. Our commitment to sharing our resources, even during lockdown, is a central part of our charity’s mission.
Whilst we have been closed, our opportunities for generating vital income have been severely restricted, whilst costs have continued to mount. Ongoing support from our Members has proved to be a vital lifeline for the charity, and we continue to honour our pledge that all renewing Members will receive an additional three months on their renewed Memberships.
Our priority has been to use Members’ financial support to continue our essential conservation work, care for the living collections of birds and animals and maintain what we can with fewer staff, and look after the listed grounds and gardens. To try and stem our losses, 80% of our staff are currently on furloughed leave and we have cut all non-essential expenditure. To try and generate more income we also continue to apply for funding from grant-giving bodies and we have launched our first ever public emergency fundraising appeal for Harewood’s Bird Garden. Thank you to those who have most generously supported the Appeal – over 200 of you have given which has provided such a tremendous boost to the Bird Garden Team.
The future is uncertain, but please be reassured that Harewood House Trust has made a commitment to use our site to reinvigorate those feeling low, lonely and without a chance to escape, to come together again in safe and beautiful surroundings. We will use our site to contribute significantly to the renewed commitment to the environment. We will continue to use our House and Collections to bring alive the people and history of the time. We hope, perhaps, to even inspire you to try something new, as so many of you have done during lockdown – crafting, baking and gardening. We will continue to support our communities, attract new visitors and much-needed income back to this area and we must protect and share these incredible assets.
However, this will be difficult to achieve now with such significant losses. Even with our cost savings and fundraising to date, the Trust, a charity since 1986, has much greater outgoing financial obligations than we have the income to cover. We need, and want, to maintain our charitable activities and conservation obligations for everyone’s benefit.
Therefore, we ask if you could consider lending additional support if you feel in a position to do so. These are the ways you can help.
This half term week, we have launched a new card game – ‘The Pecking Order’ – for you to download day-by-day and play at home >>
David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, shares with you his introduction to our wonderful Harewood photography book, as part of #shareastory month >>
And coming up … a very special guest. Aardman animations’ senior modeller Jim Parkyn (Shaun the Sheep, Wallace and Grommit and many more) will be interviewed live on Friday 29 May, and will be sharing a ‘make a penguin’ modelling session on Saturday 30 May in celebration of our Bird Garden online Birthday Celebration. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to take part.
On behalf of the staff, Trustees, the Earl and Countess of Harewood, and all in our community – thank you. We truly appreciate your patience, generosity and kindness at this time.
Please continue to help us in our plans so that Harewood can re-open as safely as possible when the right time comes. We hope to see you soon.