The second online Industrial Heritage Network meeting was held on 20th November 2020 by the North West IHN group. 15 people joined that meeting. Shane Gould of Historic England talked about current developments relating to Industrial Heritage. The current IHSO, Mike Nevell, then brought everyone up-to-date with the project and some of the impacts of COVID-19.
Mike noted that in October, 10 industrial heritage organisations in North West England received £1.21 million from the Cultural Recovery Fund. This was split into £0.41m from Arts Council England and £0.8m from Historic England. The grants were to support a variety of industrial heritage sites including the British Commercial Vehicle Museum, Catalyst, Leigh Building Preservation Trust, and the Ribble Steam Railway.
Members then discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their work from volunteering to maintenance and visitor numbers. Only 50% of protected industrial heritage sites in England open to the public were able to re-open their doors after the first pandemic. More than 50 sites decided in July and August not to open at all during 2020. Most of these were smaller, largely volunteer-run, industrial heritage sites.
In general IHN NW members recorded no drop-off in volunteer numbers and enthusiasm, despite the first lockdown and continuing restrictions across much of the North West. Tim Kirker of the Calderdale Industrial Museum noted that although the museum was closed in the first lockdown, volunteers were keen to return once it re-opened. Anthony Pilling of the Heritage Trust for the North West also noted a strong desire by volunteers to continue to help, even during lockdown and even though some of their sites remained closed after July. Tony Nixon of Bancroft Mills also observed that whilst they were unable to open to the public after the first lockdown the entirely volunteer-run museum has continued to function with strong volunteer support. Andrew Fielding of ECOSAL commented that virtual meetings were a very useful way of staying in contact with volunteers and that such meetings were not only financially beneficial, but also reached a wider audience.
Finally, Mike Nevell noted that during the first lockdown the UK Government had issued guidelines for safe COVID-19 working by volunteers and that Historic England had issued specific guidance on adapting heritage sites for safe COVID-19 working. There is a link to the latter on the IHSO website site.