Berwick @Home – Reflections from the Head of our Charity, Arts, Culture & Heritage practice

Berwick @Home – Reflections from the Head of our Charity, Arts, Culture & Heritage practice
Published: 6 April 2020

I thought I would reflect on the past three weeks as I sit at home on a Friday afternoon still trying to master social distancing, self-isolation, enforced home working, entertaining a toddler and generally keeping my family safe, well and sane. To be honest I am still in a bit of a state of shock at the unbelievable situation we all find ourselves in.

Having just put the uncertainties of Brexit and leaving the European Union behind us, we’ve been thrown an even bigger and much more frightening challenge in the shape of an invisible virus.

This invisible virus has changed our lives beyond all comprehension and that has caused havoc and huge uncertainties for all people of this country, in all areas of the economy, particularly for the practice I lead and for the charity for which I am a trustee.

My team and I are hugely proud of the work deliver for our not for profit clients, helping them find leaders of their organisations, enabling them to carry out the vital work that charities deliver across all areas of the economy. We’ve been left open mouthed as we see how the virus has already had a devastating effect on our client’s organisations. Whether it be a hospice or health related charity or an organisation working in animal welfare or conservation, no one has escaped the impact of this pandemic.

I specifically work across the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector and over the past two weeks we have seen all museums, galleries, theatres, visitor and heritage attractions close their doors to the public and to the vital sources of income that sustain these organisations. A huge number of questions are still to be answered around their ability to weather this storm with little to no income being generated, and with little idea about when they may be able to welcome the public back through their doors.

Already some in the sector are questioning whether they will return to an organisation of the same shape, structure and income when the world eventually returns to normal.

We will no doubt see a variety of not for profit organisations go to the wall over the upcoming weeks and months which is heart breaking.

As a trustee of a small city farm in South West London I am also experiencing this huge challenge firsthand. Deen City Farm is a wonderful community farm and riding school which is reliant on the income it generates from visitors to the farm, the riding lessons we give, our education and outreach activities and a programme of corporate volunteering opportunities. For the foreseeable future our gates are closed, and we can’t welcome visitors and access the vital income they provide.

We have launched an emergency appeal asking for public support and its been astonishing to see how the local community has rallied in our support helping raise over £23,000 in individual donations.  Our challenge is far from over, however, and in the weeks and months ahead we must raise significantly more in order to be able sustain the operation on a day to day basis and then reopen to the public.

With all the doom and gloom around us, its heartening to see how people have come together, albeit not physically, with a sense of community, and volunteering is on the rise. It has taken this dreadful situation to occur for the homeless to be scooped up off the streets and be given a roof over their heads. I am certain, good will come from this pandemic.

Over the weeks and months ahead, my team and I will be exploring some of the innovations our client organisations have enacted or are planning, and we will look at how our sector is adapting to the challenges that we all face.

It goes without saying that our thoughts are with the sector and we are here to help in anyway we can. Please don’t hesitate in making contact for a conversation.

Will Pringle is a Partner and leads the Not for Profit Practice at Berwick Partners.

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