Short Term Pain But Long Term Hope for Chiswick House

Redundancies at Trust but fundraising target hit and 10 year plan published

chiswick House from lake

It has been a mixed week for Chiswick House with the Trust announcing that it has achieved its ambitious fundraising target but also having to make a number of its staff redundant.

Xanthe Arvanitakis, Director of Chiswick House, has confirmed that the Trust has managed to raise £120,000 in just 120 days to cover the shortfall arising from the pandemic and stem the drain on reserves. She said, “With incredible commitment from the team, both staff and volunteers, we have done it!“

This was achieved through a programme of Summer fundraisers: plant fundraiser, Open Day for families, a webinar series, culminating in the Chiswick House Auction. Simultaneously, the Chiswick House Friends LEGO® brick model fundraiser was also launched to support the #welovechiswickhouse campaign.

The actual amount raised was r£127,555 of which the Chiswick House Friends contributed £20,000 and the Chiswick House Dog Show Committee £5,000.

It was the online auction event on 26 September which pushed the amount over the target with £40,000 raised including the sale of a Peter Blake painting for £1,900.

However, the Trust continues to suffer from a chronic drop in revenue and this has resulted in job losses.

Xanthe Arvanitakis, said, ‘Unfortunately as part of our cost cutting exercise we could not afford to reopen Chiswick House itself this year. We also could only afford one administrative part time role. This has very sadly meant we had to make the very difficult decision to not return all our staff on furlough and make four Chiswick House team and two administrative roles redundant.’

The Trust is now looking forward with money raised from supporters giving them the breathing space to think about the future. They have formulated a ten year plan on which they are inviting users of the House and Gardens to comment.

Three strategic projects have been identified for the shorter term; improvement of the children’s outdoor play area, expansion of the existing volunteer programme and a refresh of the visitor experience at the House in time for the planned reopening in April 2021.

Funding applications have been made to forward these objectives including a bid to the Lottery fund and positive news is hoped for next month.

Meanwhile, Nicki Thomas, Head of Commercial, is looking diversify commercial income by exploring better use of underutilised spaces and grounds and new retail opportunities.

The introduction to the 10-year-plan states, “we are also conscious that the Estate has survived for nearly three centuries, though the grievous flu pandemic of 1775; the cholera epidemic of 1832 and Spanish Flu in 1918; through two world wars; outlasting the reigns of eight monarchs from the Stuarts to the Windsors. The House was built in the period of Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole and 75 others have held office since then. We have prevailed; we will prevail now.”

The most significant proposal in the plan is a new visitor pavilion which could be built by 2029. This facility might be combined with space to allow the Trust to run cultural programming. It would be a stand-alone facility within a short walk from the House.

It is also proposed to host Design Festival by 2024 possibly in partnership with the V&A and perhaps as part of the London Design Festival which happens every September.

The Conservatory is also due for renewal by 2032 which will require funds to be raised before work starts.

A range of measures to increase revenue from catering are also being considered including converting the disused toilet block by the cricket pitch in to a coffee/snack bar.

The Trust would like you read its 10-year plan and give your thoughts to by 30 October.


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September 30, 2020