Succeeding against the Odds – the birth of the Northumberland Archives Charitable Trust

Setting up a new charity is a considerable challenge at any time. Doing this in the middle of a global pandemic is even more so. The Trust’s Chair, Sir Philip Mawer, tells the story of the first challenging year.

When the Trustees of the Northumberland Archives Trust met for the first time towards the end of May 2020 – there were only four of us then – the country was in the midst of lockdown and, as with many other organisations at the time, our meeting was online. Nonetheless the deep-seated commitment of my fellow Trustees was evident from the outset – a commitment not just to make a reality of the new Trust but to its essential purpose – supporting the preservation, protection, and promotion of Northumberland’s archives.

It is the vision inspired by that central purpose which has kept us going through the essential but sometimes unexpectedly protracted process of establishing the core organisational arrangements of the Trust. Who could have imagined at the outset that it would take us the best part of a year to acquire a bank account, to give but one example? Nonetheless looking back over the past twelve months, we have achieved much.

Initially, of course, we had to ensure we agreed on our core purpose and understood the nature of our relationship with and the challenges facing the county’s Archives Service, to whose support we are committed. We had to ensure we possessed the key skills and initial resources to carry out our work effectively. Having done that, we moved on to identify the first set of projects we wanted to support; to develop our branding and website; and to set up the structure we needed to gather in like-minded people willing to support the work of the Service through supporting the Trust. We also began to build our relationships with Newcastle University and schools in the county and with other organisations, including potential funders, who share our belief in the importance not only of conserving Northumberland’s archives but of making them accessible to all.

Soon you will be able to read the story of the first months in the life of the Trust when, later this year, we publish our first Annual Report. There remains much more to do: this website, for example, is still very much a work in progress. But as you look round this website and when you read our report, I hope that you too will find it an encouraging story of success: success against the odds in a challenge of importance to the people of Northumberland both now and well into the future.