An update from the team | Summer 2020 It goes without saying that 2020 has been a turbulent and difficult time for our community, city, country and indeed the world. We want to take a moment to provide an update about how we've spent the last few months, but first, we'd like to start by sending anyone reading this our best wishes. However you've been impacted by the events of this year, we hope you're healthy and safe. At the Ouseburn Trust, we've spent the last few years building a charitable organisation which can sustain a lot of its projects and activities through self-generated income. Our tours and events are a way we can offer locals and visitors memorable, educational experiences whilst generating enough money to cover our overheads and fund projects with Ouseburn's future in mind. When we entered the COVID-19 lockdown in late March, our activities stopped overnight. No longer able to generate any income, this was a worrying period for us as a charity. We quickly adapted. Our organisation is now regrouping, continually reassessing, and imagining how we will adapt our working practices, run events and continue to keep up with the many essential tasks and potential projects in the Valley. Our staff and dedicated volunteers have continued to work remotely and have achieved a lot in the last few months. A few of our current projects Property We manage and maintain several properties across Ouseburn. We used the lockdown as an opportunity to carry out maintenance on certain local properties to help ensure structures remain usable and fit for purpose. We offered flexibility to our tenants during difficult times and are happy to see people beginning to return to their spaces. Heritage The lockdown has led us all towards an increasingly digital way of life. Working from home and video calls have become normal fixtures of life for many. At the start of the summer, we secured a grant from Historic England which will allow us to develop digital heritages experiences of Ouseburn Valley. While the Victoria Tunnel was temporarily closed to the public, we saw an opportunity to leverage technology to bring the Tunnel to people at home. By creating a virtual Victoria Tunnel experience, we will now be able to share this heritage site with people who don't feel comfortable going underground, be that as a result of COVID-19, due to limited mobility or any additional needs. We were thrilled to reopen the Tunnel to the public in late July. However, we're still excited about the ways technology can help us to showcase the Victoria Tunnel to new and existing audiences. Our team has been working hard to develop a whole range of virtual experiences which help bring Ouseburn to the people. We're excited to share more details as the project progresses. Many of our long-standing heritage activities were paused for much of this year, however, our Heritage volunteers have continued to work remotely. One of our research volunteers, Lawrence, has been exploring a passion in Ouseburn genealogy which led him to discover the work of poet John Lamb Luckley. Emerging work from volunteers like Lawrence has inspired us to start publishing Ouseburn heritage research monthly. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to hear about the latest articles or keep your eye on our blog. We're continuing to explore ways we can convert the historic site on 26 Lime Street in a new Ouseburn Heritage Hub. It's a difficult time to secure funding for major projects like this one, but our team is exploring a range of opportunities which will help us develop this community-orientated space. Public realm Ouseburn Valley was an escape for many of us living through the lockdown. In previous years, warm spring days were spent enjoying Ouseburn's bar, restaurants and family venues. In many respects, our green spaces, architecture and street art were more appreciated than ever during 2020. We've really enjoyed watching your Ouseburn daily walks, many of which were documented through social media. View this post on Instagram Sunny day + lockdown = exploring. So many twisty paths to see in our lovely Ouseburn! 🐝 Today is #worldbeeday Why not spend your walks through Ouseburn doing a bit of bee spotting? It’s great for your mental health well-bee-ing 😉 A post shared by Ouseburn Trust (@iloveouseburn) on May 20, 2020 at 3:53am PDT With increasing numbers of people visiting the Valley, we also saw growing concerns around litter. We spent time feeding local businesses' concerns to the council in order to reduce the impact being made. However, many local businesses and residents have contributed by removing litter and addressing similar issues. As lockdown eased, our Environment Group and local volunteers worked tirelessly to tidy the Valley. Many hours have been spent cutting back growth to clear pathways and make navigating Ouseburn that bit easier. Saturday morning tidy-up sessions have proven invaluable to help maintain Ouseburn's green spaces and thoroughfares. This summer, we've welcomed the presence of the dedicated folk at GoodGym Newcastle. They've completed several missions across the Valley, removing overgrowth and clearing paths. To help our residents and visitors adjust to our 'new normal', we suggested a one-way system on some of our narrower walkways to mitigate the impact of people passing closely. Our Chief Officer, along with members of the Transport Group, liaised closely with local businesses to identify opportunities to use some of Ouseburn's highways and public realm to facilitate outdoor dining and as a general spill-out space for activities. Those involved have explored closing roads with temporary and experimental orders. Members have been working with Newcastle City Council to find ways to implement these innovative suggestions. Community In addition to our grant from Historic England, we have secured additional funding which will help us mitigate the impact of trading losses. We are now more able to focus on supporting the community instead of focusing a lot of our efforts on the organisation's security. We have loved getting involved with Byker Community Trust's Best Summer Ever 2020 programme. In August we welcomed Byker's younger residents, taking them on Victoria Tunnel tours and hosting a series of special walks which tell the tale of Jenny's Journey. It's a pleasure to share Ouseburn's heritage and local history with our neighbouring communities. The Black Lives Matter movement has been an important and valued voice during 2020. We understand the value of continuing the conversation about equality, equity, diversity and fair representation. Moreover, it's vital we continue to do the work in improving how we operate as an organisation. Even as the news stories fade from the headlines, we want to keep the message alive and continue to build equity into the fabric of our organisation. Earlier this year, we published a statement which included a list of black history articles, resources and BAME-focused organisations which may you may find helpful. Our staff At the start of lockdown, we were forced to furlough half of our staff team. However, the remaining staff have worked tirelessly to maintain a presence and develop new, adapted ways of working. We've embraced digital communication software and scaled up our digital knowledge. Alongside our new and ongoing projects, our reduced team compiled the Ouseburn Trust's annual report and accounts and delivered our first a virtual AGM with great attendance and participation. Finally, a huge thank you to our volunteers We rely heavily on volunteers to make all this good work happen. We're extremely grateful to each and every individual who has generously given their time to any project we've been part of. From volunteer Tour Guides and Researchers to Litter Pickers and sub-group members, thank you for your commitment. Learn more about our volunteers.