A funding boost will help arts and heritage thrive in Greater Brighton in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A fascinating Second World War air raid shelter project, a digital archive charting the pandemic, and a hub for creative thinkers are among the initiatives to receive a vital grant from the South Downs National Park Authority’s Covid-19 Recovery Fund.

Earlier this year the National Park, a member of the Greater Brighton City Region, set up a Recovery Fund of £375,000 to help support communities impacted by the pandemic.

Now the Authority has announced the first tranche of its funding, totalling £81,272.59, to help conserve and enhance the cultural heritage of the National Park and create opportunities for people to enjoy arts, landscape and history.

Authority chief executive Trevor Beattie, who sits on the Greater Brighton Economic Board, said:

“The Greater Brighton City Region has a fantastic cultural offering that is part and parcel of what makes this area so special.

“In these difficult times, a thriving cultural heritage sector is vital, both now and in the future, and that’s why this Recovery Fund is so important, helping a range of inspiring projects working hard throughout the pandemic.”

One of the grant recipients was Brighton community group Take Shelter, which runs tours of the restored Second World War air raid shelter under the playground of Downs Junior School, the only school air raid shelter open to the public in the UK.

The volunteer group will use its grant to create online resources connecting the story of Take Shelter to the South Downs during the Second World War. Take Shelter will also use the grant to set up an online platform for donations.

Arundel Museum will also benefit from the Recovery Fund to create a digital community archive exploring residents’ relationships with the South Downs landscape during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile the Charleston Trust near Lewes will use its Recovery Fund grant to hold new business and innovation events, as well as aiding its vital fundraising efforts. The trust manages the historic country home of Charleston, where some of the 20th century’s best writers and thinkers assembled as the Bloomsbury Group.

Anooshka Rawden, Cultural Heritage Lead for the South Downs National Park Authority, said:

“This year has been exceptionally hard for arts and heritage organisations right across the region, but it’s been inspiring to also see the flexibility, innovation and sheer determination shown by so many people in the sector amid such unprecedented challenges.

“Our Recovery Fund is all about giving organisations and partners a helping hand as they adapt to a ‘new normal’ and look to adapt their business operation while also developing new ways of connecting people with the landscape and amazing heritage in our area. We also recognise that communities are changing due to the psychological and economic impacts of COVID-19, and we need to understand those impacts to better serve communities as we explore what ‘recovery’ looks like.

“We’re pleased to announce these funding awards and look forward to seeing these inspiring projects come to fruition.”

Further projects in other areas, such as wildlife, tourism and sustainable access, that receive funding from the Recovery Fund will be announced later this year and will continue into 2021.

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