In my latest blog published on Blooloop the industry's ;eading on line resourse I look at questioning the future of Nottingham Castle since its closure in late 2022 following on from a £31 million investment.
Kev Smith of HALO 2020 Consulting looks at what went wrong with Nottingham Castle, if the project was worth the money, and whether the attraction has a future.
Blooloop published an article by Martin Barrett on 15 December 2021 titled “Nottingham Castle: was the redevelopment worth the money?”
In this, Barrett covered several topics looking into the value of the £31 million redevelopment cost invested in an attempt to put the castle on the map. The bulk of this was raised through a £13.7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. In addition, nearly £8 million came from Nottingham City Council.
As part of the investment, there were bold claims stating that Nottingham Castle would rival some of the UK’s top attractions. However, this was never achieved. And whilst the re-development was hindered by the global pandemic and delays in completing the project the aftermath was a litany of mistakes.
To summarise these mistakes would take up a huge amount of time and can certainly be researched in greater depth on the internet. Claims of institutional wrongdoings and mismanagement, bullying, harassment, race hate crime, dismissal of senior personnel, claims of wrongful dismissal and continued poor performance provide a little insight into the overall poor governance of the project and why the Nottingham Castle Trust filed for liquidation in late 2022.
Was Nottingham Castle worth the money?
The Castle closed its doors and was handed back to the control of the local authority, Nottingham City Council. The local authority promised to announce a re-opening date in January 2023. This has not been forthcoming, however. It has been reported that it costs in excess of £50,000 per week to keep the Castle ‘mothballed’. To date, it has cost in excess of £500,000. So why the delay in announcing a re-opening date?
To answer Martin Barrett’s question, it is clear (at this stage) that the £31 million investment was not worth it. It appears the previous governance of Nottingham Castle was not fit for purpose. It also appears that effective due diligence through the reinvestment planning was not robust. What is not clear however is whether Nottingham Castle has a future or not.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s 10-year plan, ‘Heritage 2033’, was presented last week. This identifies one of their key investment principles as being Organisational Sustainability. What does this mean? Well, in my mind as a commercial operator and consultant, this should mean that projects are supported that can demonstrate a robust plan and a profitable existence. More funded projects need to bring in a commercial mindset through their product delivery, marketing and commercial focus.
Castle needs to be just part of the reason to visit
The city of Nottingham and the county of Nottinghamshire as a case in point need to capture a market using the Castle as a part of a reason to visit, not the only reason to visit. Therefore, many stakeholders need to be engaged, all pulling together for one common purpose. No easy feat but how many cities can claim to have a global icon such as Robin Hood?
Whether Nottingham Castle is a castle doesn’t really matter to me. Its location, history and stories should shout louder than the bricks and mortar of a building. Many successful attractions manage to pull this off so why not Nottingham Castle?
Kev Smith is the founder and owner of HALO 2020 Consulting (Hospitality, Attractions & Leisure Operations). He has over 30 years experience in operational management and commercial development across the Hospitality, Attractions and Leisure industry and has opened and operated numerous attractions including Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth; Yorks Chocolate Story, York; The Real Mary Kings Close, Edinburgh, Coronation Street The Tour, Manchester and Star Wars Secrets of the Empire, London.