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During the peak of COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year tourism business across the county demonstrated how vital they are to the county’s economy and local communities, despite being closed.
Tourism has become embedded in communities like never before, with businesses intrinsically linked to, and invested in, the community in which they are located.
We want to shine a light on the incredible deeds done by the county’s tourism businesses including attractions and hotels, which, despite being closed to visitors during the pandemic, continued to support their local community through the provision of food and supplies to residents, NHS and keyworkers, learning resources for children being home-schooled, or online entertainment to lift people’s moods.
The Auckland Project - ‘Closed Doors Open Hearts’
‘Closed Doors Open Hearts’ has seen more than 20,000 meals and 1,000 emergency food packages distributed to local people unable to access food due to financial challenges, health problems, or self-isolation because of COVID-19.
Catering staff utilised The Auckland Project’s large central kitchen to prepare thousands of meals, many of which were made from produce grown in Auckland Castle’s Walled Garden. During the peak of the pandemic meals were available for collection from community hubs or delivered to local people in need.
The campaign is supported by County Durham Community Foundation, local elected members, Area Action Partnerships, public donations, volunteers, and suppliers.
Durham County Council Food Festivals
Bishop Auckland and Seaham Food Festivals play an increasingly important part in the tourism economy, with Bishop Auckland attracting a record 29,000 people in April 2019, and thousands more flocking to the inaugural Seaham Food Festival.
The festivals, commissioned by Durham County Council, are key events for local producers so, when they had to be cancelled this year, the focus was shifted to doing as much as possible online.
‘Support Our Traders’ pages were created on the festival’s websites, which showcased the huge range of local produce and products available from the festival traders by click and collect or delivery.
Durham Cricket - ‘Together Through This Test’
‘Together Through This Test’ campaign highlighted some of the unsung heroes across professional and recreational cricket as well as providing updates on new cricket-led initiatives which supported local communities.
Durham Cricket jointly launched a Mental Health campaign to support the cricket network, with weekly videos of tips from Graeme Fowler on coping during lockdown, and cricket skills challenges to try at home from Durham players and staff.
Susan Bainbridge - Key worker and volunteer for the North East Ambulance Service, from Middleton-in-Teesdale Cricket Club was nominated by the club to be featured in the #raisethebat campaign, which seen Susan appear on billboards across the country, to highlight the cricket world’s key workers.
The cathedral ensured visitors and its congregation alike could still engage with the cathedral by providing worship through live streaming on its Facebook page and other resources.
As many people couldn’t attend in person, the Canon Pastor of Durham Cathedral, members of the clergy and cathedral staff offered support to regular worshippers and volunteers virtually.
Public services have now resumed at Durham Cathedral, however many of their services continue to be broadcast online.
Despite the doors of Locomotion been closed, the railway museum ensured visitors could still explore the museum with interactive virtual experiences they could enjoy from home.
Visitors can view the museum’s online collections, explore inside railway vehicles through a series of 360-degree photographs, and access educational activities, including making model trains from the Science Museum Group’s learning hub.
Gala Durham & Durham Uni
The theatre and university united to produce Onstage: Online-a digital festival to celebrate creativity during lockdown and showcase the county’s talent to a global audience.
The festival, which took place from 11 - 14 June, featured theatre companies and performing arts groups from across the county, with performances live-streamed on the Gala Durham’s YouTube channel.
The Durham Heritage Coast’s boutique hotel - winner of a gold award at the recent North East Tourism Awards, supplied hundreds of meals to frontline staff from the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.
Durham Gin, established by Jon Chadwick at Langley Park six years ago, utilised a waste product from its distillery to produce vital supplies of hand sanitiser for health trusts, care homes and charities.
The luxury hotel, at Hurworth-on-Tees, gifted 576 shower gels which would normally go in guests’ rooms, to Darlington Memorial Hospital after a message went out asking for products, as many patients didn’t have any toiletries, due to the ban on visitors.
When the Stables Café in the grounds of Raby Castle closed at the beginning of lockdown, the café donated a range of food products to critical care staff working at Darlington Memorial Hospital. The Stables Café has now re-opened with new safety measures in place.
During the temporary closure of Durham Market Hall, dedicated web pages and social media campaigns were created to support the many traders who introduced local collection and delivery services.
To support home schooling during the lockdown, historian Alex Iles offered key stage history workshops, which gave a fascinating insight into the region’s heritage.
Riding Farm Cottages
Whilst the luxury holiday cottages were closed to guests, they kept busy by making NHS bags during lock down.
The individual bags included a special thank you card for NHS heroes and toiletries which would have normally being available for B&B guests.
The Bowes Museum
The Pre-Raphaelite Knights Reinventing the Medieval World exhibition was due to run until 3 May, however the exhibition was cut short due to the lockdown. The Bowes Museum ensured that visitors who didn’t make it to see these beautiful paintings in person (or for those who wish to see them again) could experience the exhibition with an online guided tour.
The Victoria Inn
The Victoria Inn, in Witton-le-Wear, which is one of The Auckland Project’s community ‘Closed Doors Open Hearts’ partners, distributed meals to vulnerable and self-isolating families in the village. Landlord George Hall, his family, and village volunteers also delivered basic essentials, including free flour, and served as a food bank.
Do you know a Tourism Community Champion? We want to hear from you! If you or your business have been supporting residents, keyworkers or other businesses please share your story with us by emailing email@example.com