• Almost 450 heritage organisations in England, including Great Dorset Steam Fair have
    been awarded cash from the first round of the Culture Recovery Fund for
  • Grants of up to £1 million will deliver a lifeline for the heritage sector in
    England with further support to follow and larger grants for capital projects
    awarded through the Heritage Stimulus Fund
  • First major tranche of funding from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture
    Recovery Fund


Great Dorset Steam Fair is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a lifesaving financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

445 organisations will share £103 million, including Great Dorset Steam Fair to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.

The funding amount to the Great Dorset Steam Fair is £236,200 which will be used to help towards monthly operating costs over the next 6 months.

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund – funded by Government and administered at arms length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

433 organisations will receive a share of £67 million from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage to help with costs for operating, reopening and recovery. This includes famous heritage sites across the country, from Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Blyth Tall Ship to the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire to the Piecehall in Halifax. The funds will save sites that are a source of pride for communities across the country.

12 organisations, including English Heritage, Landmark Trust, Historic Royal Palaces and the Canal and River Trust, will receive £34 million from the Heritage Stimulus Fund to restart construction and maintenance on cherished heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and protect livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has also been awarded a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund through Historic England. The AHF will use the funding to support charities and social enterprises occupying historic buildings to develop new business plans and strategies for organisations affected by the pandemic.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
“As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback post covid.”

Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator, Historic Royal Palaces, said:
“There’s no truer way to experience the past than to walk in the footsteps of those who have lived it – that’s why preserving our built heritage is so important.

“At Historic Royal Palaces, we care for six nationally significant buildings, opening them to the public and preserving them for future generations. Sadly, the pandemic meant that we had to stop some of our critical conservation work. The grant we have received from the Culture Recovery Fund will enable to this work to resume – so we can give some of Britain’s most historic buildings the care and attention they deserve, while supporting the specialist craftspeople who are vital for the future of our national heritage. We are enormously grateful to the Government for this support.”

Martin Oliver, Managing Director, Great Dorset Steam Fair said “Like many other event organisers, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, we face uncertainty as to when we can run the next Great Dorset Steam Fair event and what statutory restrictions will be in place. With this in mind and to ensure our resilience and business continuity, we applied for a ‘Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage Grant’ in August 2020, a fund specifically designed for cultural and heritage organisations to “weather the storm” over the next six months leading into March 2021. I am pleased to announce that our application has been successful, the grant is a vital contribution in preserving our amazing event.

The Great Dorset Steam Fair was inaugurated by my father Michael Oliver MBE and a small group of like-minded enthusiasts. After 51 years of consecutive shows (some of which have seen us fight against unimaginable odds and elements), 2020 is the first year in the event’s history that the show has been forced to cancel due to the Pandemic which has caused us ongoing uncertainty, as it has for the rest of our industry.

I was shocked at how the Coronavirus crisis took hold and how it has suffocated event livelihoods, in our case; showmen grounded, world class exhibits being put up for sale, traders and caterers permanently closing, contractors & entertainers of all types clawing through months and months of cancellations, enforced career changes, and as the end of October loomed my heart sunk at the prospect of losing my core staff when the furlough scheme ends.

As a commercial operation with fixed monthly operating costs, 2020 has been a very difficult financial year for us, with only minimal revenue streams due to the cancellation of this year’s event.

As part of our grant application, the Culture Recovery Fund Heritage team asked us to explain what would happen if the Great Dorset Steam Fair was no longer able to operate viably. In frank terms, moving forwards, no event would mean no income and left unchecked this would inevitably lead to future loss of sustainability. If we were no longer able to operate viably, then the annual Great Dorset Steam Fair event would cease to exist, ending 51 years of an extraordinary worldwide heritage attraction. The effect of closure would be felt far and wide throughout the steam heritage, vintage vehicle and country craft fraternities, not only here in the UK but across the world.

The Great Dorset Steam Fair (as The National Heritage Show) is unquestionably the keystone event which showcases Great Britain’s rich industrial, rural and leisure history and as the 21st century progresses, this cannot be emphasized enough. Being widely recognised as the World’s leading steam heritage and vintage vehicle event, it’s loss in the heritage events calendar would seriously endanger the future scale of the Nation’s steam heritage and historic motor vehicle preservation movement and the skills and crafts which accompanies it.

The event is, in effect, the largest working/living museum of its type in the world, inspiring and educating a whole new generation and attracting huge numbers of visitors each year into the local area.
The Great Dorset Steam Fair also has a significant positive impact on the local economy and on tourism; for accommodation providers (hotels, B&Bs and campsites), pubs and restaurants, shops and the vast array of local contractors, local staff and local volunteers who make the event happen.

We are therefore extremely humbled to have been awarded this grant which will help us through what would have been a very difficult winter and I cannot thank the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage team enough for their fantastic support. We can now work tirelessly with our exhibitors, traders, contractors, the statutory authorities, emergency Services and partner agencies towards delivering a safe and successful event in 2021 for our visitors (statutory and Coronavirus restrictions permitting).

The importance of our show to everyone one who is involved is not lost on me or my family and its continuation for future generations is something that I take very personally, both in my professional capacity as Managing Director and on a personal level as Michaels Son, as a father myself and as a grandfather.

We stand united with #HereForCulture, Heritage Fund UK, Historic England. Stay safe, follow covid secure guidelines and if safe to do so visit your local heritage sites, catch a film, play or concert, book those tickets, go explore your local museums, support as much virtually as you can. Our industry needs you more than ever before, we are in this together, we are here for culture.”

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive said:
“It is heartening to see grants, both large and small, from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund helping heritage sites and organisations across the country which have been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19. These grants range from giving skilled craft workers the chance to keep their trades alive to helping heritage organisations pay the bills, and to kick-starting repair works at our best-loved historic sites. The funding is an essential lifeline for our heritage and the people who work tirelessly to conserve it for us all, so that we can hand it on to future generations.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said:
“It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support by Government is crucial. Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live. All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time. “Our heritage is still facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet. But this hugely welcome funding from Government, and the money we continue to invest from the National Lottery, has undoubtedly stopped heritage and the organisations that care for it being permanently lost.”

Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said:
“This support for our nation’s heritage is fantastic news. Over the last few months, our teams have been working hard to welcome visitors back safely to the great castles, stone circles, abbeys and historic houses in our care. This funding will help us invest to safeguard the historic fabric of these much-loved places, which everyone can learn from and enjoy.”