Chawton House is amongst the shortlist for the national Museums + Heritage ‘Pandemic Pivot Award’

The Pandemic Pivot Award recognises our extraordinary achievement in adapting and changing our whole operation to keep going through the Covid crisis.

Of the nomination, Chief Executive Katie Childs says:

“I am particularly happy to be shortlisted in this category because it recognises the effort made by everyone – all staff and volunteers – in not just keeping Chawton House going, but providing for all our communities (local and very far away) at a time of unprecedented crisis whilst protecting the wonderful heritage in our care. To be recognised like this is a fantastic achievement and we should all be very proud of ourselves. This recognises every Tea Box, takeaway coffee, online event, unexpected acquisition, Covid safe wedding, wet Christmas Light trail set-up, Spring bulb planted, grant application, papier mache ghost dog, mended fence, visor clad visitor welcome and online shop order taken to the post office.”

Below is our entry for the Museums + Heritage award, detailing why we deserved to win the Pandemic Pivot Award:

Chawton House started 2020 optimistically. We turned around a loss-making operation, attracting our largest ever number of visitors in 2019. But 60% of income came from onsite visitors. By 23rd March the pivot was underway. If visitors could not come to Chawton House, we would go to them. The Tea Room immediately switched to deliveries, delivering 500 seasonal Afternoon Tea Boxes locally in lockdown one. Our online shop opened in April. By early April, with no budget or experience, we launched a new online programme: a social media campaign about the collection led to a rise in followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram of 30%; our reading group moved online and expanded to include a North American group; and a poetry challenge created 40 new works. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary events, so on 15th-17th May we held a free 35-event Lockdown Literary Festival about women’s writing. 2200 people joined the event live from over 50 countries. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive: the event provided a glorious escape during lockdown. We continued with a Garden Festival (800 participants) and a day dedicated to Jane Austen (with the Jane Austen Society). All content from the Festivals remains freely available on our YouTube channel (6000+% increase in subscribers) and has been watched 60,000+ times. From July, we launched a regular paid-for programme of talks with live Q&As and writing workshops. 1195 joined 20 live events. When restrictions eased, new summer events took place outdoors: Country Fair, Plant Fair, outdoor cinema, cocktail evenings. We moved Gothic and Christmas Seasons outdoors and online: the Gothic Garden Trail and new ethereal Christmas Lights in the Walled Garden brought a new local family audience to Chawton House. Online, costumed storytelling from works in our library filmed inside the House enchanted audiences. From August we put in place plans to protect the organisation in future lockdowns. Volunteers and the local primary school helped plant 16,000 Winter/Spring flowering bulbs to create year-round interest in the gardens. A Tea Shed for takeaway opened on the drive and has stayed open since. In lockdown three, hundreds have taken their daily exercise along the new routes in the Parkland or through the gardens, enjoying weekend brunch from the Shed. We have transformed Chawton House again, providing for a local audience when they most needed us, whilst building a new national and international following online and stabilising finances in the most challenging circumstances.

To see the full list of nominees, click here.