Council Agrees £20K Grant for 3 Years for Museum Education Programmes

At the Town Council’s Finance, Strategy & Management Committee meeting on Tuesday evening, Councillors agreed to provide a grant of £20,000 per year for 3 years to the River & Rowing Museum.

The grant is to revitalise their education offer by investing in improved learning materials and interactives and creating an outdoor classroom area for structured learning surrounded and inspired by nature.  In September last year the Princess Royal launched a new collaborative SEND learning programme with the museum and Rivertime Boat Trust.  The education programme workshops are proving popular and the Museum projects that 3,000 students will attend over this academic year.

The ‘Understanding Rivers’, the most popular workshop, enables learning on local ecology and key environmental issues. Through interactive water activities children explore the physics of river systems; by visiting key objects in the galleries they learn about how rivers have been utilised over time for power and transport; and on a guided walk along the riverbanks they discover river processes in action and the role and operation of the lock and weir.  Loans boxes are also being created to share the Museum collections beyond their doors, enabling enduring access and new learning opportunities.

The River & Rowing Museum has been in receipt of funding from Henley Town Council since 2014 when they successfully applied for annual funding of £10,000 towards an ongoing programme of activities for children. In 2017 they applied for the continuation of our annual funding, and in 2019 the Council approved a request for an additional £1000 to support educational activities. In 2020/21 the Museum was granted three years of funding at £15,000 per year. The Museum currently makes a payment to the Council of £7,050 per annum for rental of the space used for the Museum’s car park.

In a report submitted with the Grant application it stated, “The Museum was founded with an endowment fund to preserve our building. It has been used as such in 2023 for our vital multi-million pound building repair works, without which we would have been unable to keep operating, and for which we were unsuccessful in securing additional external funding.  However, the endowment has also been called upon to support the annual Museum deficit, which was £510k (before gains on investments) in 2022. This situation continues, and the draw will be larger in 2023 and 2024 due to the building project which is not yet complete, and associated temporary closure that removed our visitor income for 9 months (numbers will be released after the audited accounts are signed off by the Board). Trustees and the whole team are working to aggressively reduce the deficit. We are making good progress and are ahead of the current budget but still have a long way to go to reach sustainable operation without diminishing our community outcomes. We need additional support from our local council to help us with the shortfall in our finances so that we can continue to rebuild and grow our widely respected Education offering to our local communities, while remaining financially sustainable.”

Museum Director, Steve O’Connor said, “We are extremely grateful to Henley Town Council for the grant of £20,000 per year over the next three years.  This money will go directly to supporting our education provision, helping over 3,000 students a year from throughout Oxfordshire to truly understand the importance of our river.  We will have a particular focus on working with SEND students via our partnership with the Rivertime Boat Trust, as launched by HRH The Princess Royal in September 2023.”



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