Charleston - Stay Modern Stay Sussex
Founding members of Sussex Modern, Charleston has been saved from insolvency and is using its extended closure period until 2021 to build a sustainable, bolder and stronger organisation, reopening our bridge between Sussex's past culture and future heritage.
Guests from SELEP and East Sussex County council recently visited Charleston with Nigel Huddleston, Minister of Sport, Heritage and Tourism, showing the county's unique contribution to modern culture, with some of the best art, landscape and wine in the UK.
In the midst of the pandemic, Charleston is a charity receives no regular public funding, and faced an uncertain future with no reserves or endowments to fall back, losing over £600,000 in commercial revenue since it closed in March 2020.
Thanks to donations from around the world and major grants from Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the charity is now looking towards the future at no risk to their solvency and a spring 2021 reopening.
Taking on a financially prudent decision, Charleston's walled garden has opened for pre-booked visits, the trust decided that the rest of Charleston closed until next year.
The intimate experience of exploring the house’s interiors is something visitors normally cherish; but small, heavily furnished rooms make it impossible to create a socially distanced experience that would be safe and enjoyable for its staff, volunteers, and visitors. And without visitors to the house, the charity cannot afford to reopen its galleries, café or shop this year.
Charleston is at the heart of Sussex's national and international tourism as part of a string of museums, galleries and artists’ homes from Chichester to Hastings, been fully invested into the Sussex Modern programme.
During the extended closure period, the charity is investing in conservation work and better digital infrastructure and systems to ensure it opens with more resilience next year.
Through the Government’s Getting Building Fund, the rural access road leading to Charleston will be rebuilt to enable more visitors to experience the home of artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and country meeting place of the Bloomsbury group and better access into the heart of the Sussex Downs.
The charity is making full use of the furlough grant which has contributed significantly to saving Charleston from insolvency, with total grants of up to £220,000 expected to the end of the scheme. Charleston’s barns and galleries which opened in 2018 following a major capital project will enable the charity to pivot its business model when it reopens, building on its exhibitions and events programme which saw visitor numbers double in 2019.
Minister for Sports, Heritage and Tourism, Nigel Huddleston MP, visited Charleston and remarked that:
'It was brilliant to take a tour of Charleston Farmhouse today and learn more about the fascinating history of the house and the artists and writers who called it home, and to hear about their plans and aspirations for the future.
It's one of the many remarkable places I've been lucky enough to visit in Sussex today and I want to encourage everyone to enjoy heritage sites safely this summer."
Nathaniel Hepburn, director of Charleston said:
'“It's great that the Heritage Minister chose Sussex for a few days of his holiday. It was an honour to show him around Charleston and explain why it is still not possible to open the intimate and fragile rooms of our artists’ home and studios to the public.
We were pleased to be joined by representatives from South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), South Downs National Park and East Sussex County Council to talk about some of the projects we hope to complete during this extended closure period in order to reopen next spring more resilient and more sustainable.
Despite the setbacks of 2020, we were excited to share with the Minister how Sussex's extraordinary wine and cultural tourism could help revive the county in the coming years through the Sussex Modern marketing campaign.”