Annual Review 2019 COMPANY INFORMATION DUDLEY CANAL AND TUNNEL TRUST Incorporated 18th September 2015 Registered Company Number – 09784120 Charity Number – 1166460 DUDLEY CANAL AND TUNNEL TRUST ENTERPRISE LIMITED Incorporated 18th September 2015 Registered Company Number – 09784120 DUDLEY CANAL TRUST Incorporated 17th January 1965. Charity Number – 240545 DUDLEY CANAL TRUST (TRIPS) LIMITED Incorporated 17th June 1983. Charity Number – 514219 Head Office 501 Birmingham New Road Dudley West Midlands DY1 4SB 0121 557 6265 www.dudleycanaltrust.org.uk CONTENTS Governance Message from Chairman Message from Chief Executive Mission & Aspirations Strategic Enterprise Gift Shop Catering Heritage Activities Volunteering Engagement Events Operations Finance Governance Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust Alan Garnell - President Jeff Luesley - Chairman Paul Smith - Treasurer/Health & Safety Alan Hazeldine Kate Bennett David Caunt Richard Langford James Deacon Kerry Ingram - Board Secretary Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust Enterprise Paul Smith - Chairman Alan Hazeldine Lyn Head Ian Watson Traci Dix-Williams Dudley Canals Trust (Trips) Ltd Jeff Luesley Alan Hazeldine Paul Smith Dudley Canal Trust Peter Dodds Alan Garnell Richard Jones Alan Hazeldine Working Group Mike Skidmore - Chairman John Rudge Alan Hazeldine Chris Round Bob Dale Quote It is easy to see charities having a difficult time and being under review for how they operate. Having a board that is representative of the community they serve and who possess the skills and expertise needed to attain their goals is key. CHAIRMAN'S WELCOME As you will see reading this review Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust certainly had a turbulent year of ups and downs during 2019, little realising the effect that Covid-19 would bring for 2020. Though this review will concentrate on 2019, its activities, changes, challenges and celebrations, we need to acknowledge that Covid-19 and operating a business during this period has happened and at the time of writing this, continues to pull our focus, time and efforts into surviving a whole new world of lockdowns, tier restrictions, Covid Safe Operations and a world living with fear and uncertainty. To date, with external support and careful management we are doing as well as could be expected but we do not take this for granted, maintaining business sustainability, our staff safety and the infrastructure of our site are our priorities. We will review 2019 as a year in its own right in terms of our operations and activities but the shadow of the current situation does loom over this. All businesses go through periods of a downturn, especially considering the external influences we have experienced but this does not take away the worry, the effect it can have on morale and the added work it puts on the team to bring the business back around. Therefore, I am so pleased to see that our staff, trustees, and volunteers are all ready to fight and do what is needed to get us back on track and more sustainable. We have a long legacy of protecting these caverns, canals, mines and tunnels and we intend to continue with this well into the future. As a business, a charity, a heritage attraction, and a part of the community we cannot stay static or complacent. We have to grow, evolve and embrace new ways of working, new technologies and new skills. With this in mind we are looking to recruit new Trustees and Directors to our Board and Enterprise, our trading arm. We are investing in our teams in terms of training and development and we are expanding our audience demographic. None of this means we are forgetting our past legacy or the activities which have made us who we are, rather we celebrate and continue to learn and be inspired by them, they are our heart. But, we need to continue to position our business and offer in the current and coming market – understanding our visitors’ expectations, wants and needs and then offering a day out that exceeds these; ensuring our customers know they are valued, are inspired by our site, its history and its customer service is vital and will ensure they become great advocates for us. We know 2020 and beyond will bring more challenges and more celebrations, we are rightly apprehensive of what we can achieve and the time in which we need to do it but we are united and committed to doing this. Jeff Luesley - Chairman MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE There can be no hiding from the fact that 2019 was a challenging year for the Trust in terms of external factors impacting on the site and the downturn in trading and income. The latter end of 2019 saw political uncertainty, Brexit fears and a stall in the economic growth of the country and as a business which relies on people spending their disposable income its no surprise, we saw a downturn. In addition, events such as the changes we experienced in Singing Cavern and its environment, the sewage leak which discharged straight into our tunnels and across our car park and the start of road closures to accommodate the investment & construction projects in the region cost us money and time, neither of which we have to waste on non-essential activities. But external factors and reducing footfalls cannot be a get-out clause to not come out fighting and making changes to our business model. We have implemented a Radical Profit Improvement Plan (rad-PIP) to cut costs, improve profit and increase operational efficiency. We have developed new ways forward such as bringing the 3d scanning projects in the caverns forward to help us better understand the movement within them and allow us to think ahead of changes and we are working closely with Dudley Council to support the investment projects which will be a major outcome for the region, whilst staying open and available for all. 2019 saw a lot of personnel changes, saying hello and goodbye to staff, trustees and volunteers. Its always sad to see someone leave for whatever reason, but new people bring fresh ideas and energy which is vital for our continued success. To accommodate these people and activities we have carved out new spaces, adapted existing areas and brought in additional offers, we need to keep attracting our current visitors back to site as well as engage with new ones. On the upside, 2019 saw many positives for the Trust, it was again an award-winning year with us winning the Visit England Best Told Story for the third year and which prompted a raft of news headlines carrying the wording “again”. Our volunteers were not to be left out with our Schools and Family Activity volunteers winning the Marsh Award for Volunteers in Museum Learning West Midlands Region, and the end of 2019 saw us win the Heritage Volunteer of the Year Award at the prestigious “Forging a Future Awards”. Our historic boats had some of the most successful outings to date at Crick and the local boat shows and we secured £25,000 of funding to purchase a new website and work with Raising IT a contemporary IT and web developing company in London. This went live in May as scheduled and we saw traffic grow to our site from the outset. More detail on our year, its ups and downs are detailed in this report, all of which will give you an idea of the hard work put in by all the Trustees, Staff, Volunteers and Supporters of the Trust and an insight into its many facets and complexities. It never fails to amaze me each year how much we get involved in and the many different areas we operated in. Traci Dix-Williams – Chief Executive MISSION & ASPIRATIONS The impact of Covid-19 has seen many charities have to dig deep just to survive. Getting back to normal is not an option for most, new models, new ways of working and new ways of engaging are all a priority now. The objects of the charity are - The advancement of education for the public benefit, in particular, but not exclusively, on the history, social history, heritage, economy, geology, geography, archaeology, architecture and other features of the Dudley canal tunnels, inland waterways, mines and its working boats; The protection, preservation, conservation, maintenance, repair, improvement and development, to a navigable standard, of the Dudley canal tunnels, inland waterways, mines and its working boats for the use and benefit of the public, and in particular, but not exclusively, by providing educational, historical and recreational facilities; PEOPLE Strategic Aim 1 – Put our visitors at the heart of everything we do.Strategic Aim 2 – Invest in our greatest assets, our team.Strategic Aim 3 – Be a vibrant part of the community. OPERATIONAL CONFIDENCE & EFFICIENCY Strategic Aim 4 – Be resilient, creative and adaptable.Strategic Aim 5 – Operate to the safest levels and be an exemplar for the underground experience.Strategic Aim 6 – Be forward looking and thinking and embrace opportunity and new ways of working. SUSTAINABILITY Strategic Aim 7 – Safeguard and engage with the unique environment we care for.Strategic Aim 8 – Raise our profile and identity.Strategic Aim 9 – Be financially aware and protect our assets and use our resources well. STRATEGIC Working with improved operational efficiency and looking forward more, particularly in terms of planning are key factors for the Trust. To maximise on income generation, we created a new post of Commercial Manager who with the Key Performance Indicators brought in in 2018 we established a set of targets and routines for all staff and kept focus in priority areas. With this at the forefront we were able to better plan our commercial events and get ticket sales in place earlier than we have previously and we were really pleased to see the Christmas offer sell out by Mid October. Changes in the environment in Singing Cavern saw us take advantage of an opportunity to trial 3d laser scanning. This proved invaluable from the outset and gave us data which was used immediately and which has helped us already better understand conditions and potential changes. New Trustees were recruited against a skills matrix and we welcomed new members with expertise in heritage management, business operations, geotechnical and natural landscapes as well as bringing their passion and enthusiasm for the Trust and the work it does. Sadly 2019 saw the Trust have to deal with a number of issues, many of which were outside its control, rock falls in the cavern, a large sewage leak which closed the site for two weeks, a burst water pipe which was undetected for many months and falling passenger numbers. All of this has had an adverse effect on trading and costs and has escalated the need to bring in new business models and refine operations in some areas. In addition, increased legislation in terms of operating both in abandoned mines and on the canals has added to the investment and financial costs of the Trust. In agreement with Dudley Council, the Trust is training its staff to be Mine Supervisors, team members are working with the Mines Rescue Agency to achieve their qualifications and Managers have written an extensive Mine Safety Management Plan which will support the training and be the template for all procedures going forward. Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust is represented on a number of groups and associations. The Innovation Way Group which encompasses all the major development projects taking place across the borough. The Castle Hill Attractions Group heads of marketing for all attractions and the council look to develop joint offers and promotions, map visitor journeys and experiences and share expertise on marketing and promotion. The Lapal Tunnel Advisory Board Providing support and guidance. Dudley Local Cultural Education Partnerships championing the best of cultural education for the youth of Dudley borough. Age Friendly Museum Network West Midlands sharing and promoting beneficial work in the region. The network believes museums and older people enrich each other and that aging is a shared experience. Cultural Health and Wellbeing Alliance bringing together cultural and wellbeing organisations to promote and share new ways of working. ENTERPRISE Overall, 2019 has been a year of learning in the enterprise department. With a brand new commercial manager post being added, with a need to hit the ground running, several changes have been made but many more planned for 2020 and beyond. Whilst the reduction in visitor numbers has been a major opponent to contend with, it has thankfully been partially countered by an increase in visitor spend per head. Having seen how the organisation runs, the plan for future is to focus on popular and profitable endeavours, whilst either revitalising or updating those that do not perform. GIFT SHOP 2019 saw huge changes for our gift shop, with new ranges being launched and older ranges being compartmentalised to make a more well rounded offer. The biggest change, both in terms of size and effect, is the decision made to shrink the shop space to make space for a small stock room. This has allowed for more forward planning of stock ranges, along with larger purchases to help keep costs down, both for the business and the end user. This has meant less space on the shop floor for customer facing product, meaning we have had to be decisive with our shop spend, and change the shops layout to maximise the potential of the sales space. Shop spend per head has been increasing steadily through the year, with a focus on quality items for sale along with use of visual merchandising techniques helping to end the year on a roughly 10% spend per head increase compared to 2018. The increased demand in the sector for branded content has not gone unnoticed, and we are in the process of growing our personalised gifts selection with the goal to stock a range of gifts that are affordable, practical, and unique to our site, making them the perfect memento of your trip. CATERING 2019 was the year of Groupon. The Groupon offer was amazing at bringing in new guests however it was not without its problems. Quite earlier on we came across issues with the booking tool and how this was set it. Once we were more familiar with the tool and able to makes changes so that it was better suited to how the site is operating, things greatly improved, including wait times for tables, and the waiting time for the offer to arrive. Groupon was extremely popular and as the school holidays arrived, we saw how much it was affecting our regular customers. We made some more changes to the booking tool to ensure we had a good balance between our Groupon customers, walk in customers and our regulars. Whilst Groupon was amazing at bringing in the guests, the offer was priced to low. As Groupon was available all week it affected our Sunday lunch offer. This is because all the tables we had were already booked out to Groupon customers before walk ins had a chance. A split of 50/50 was needed on a weekend to cater for both sets of patrons. With the Groupon offer came new staff to help with the increased volume of food being prepared. Many more items became handmade onsite due to the new team and this resulted in an ever-changing menu. We introduced a homemade shortbread which we sold over 800. The scones became homemade and resulted in a much more rustic appeal. The coffee machine was replaced with a barista machine. It’s much more reliable and after the staff training it produces much better results. We sold a whopping 23721 hot drinks of which lattes topped the charts at 6010! With many guests opting for the afternoon tea offer we saw less sale of the core menu items. The best-selling menu item was a bowl of chips, 2013 portions sold followed by a sausage roll of which we sold 1516. Vic Smallshire has been a great addition to the trust as the need for space to cater for guests was becoming increasingly difficult. As well as the gin tasting, fish and chip and picnic boat, Vic was also used to host small functions and children’s activities which in turn freed up space in our function room to accommodate the larger bookings. The majority of our trade was lunch time between 11am and 3pm with many guests coming over from the Black Country Living Museum looking for something different to their offers. COPORATE Our 2019 growth for corporate events and hospitality functions has been pleasant. We have hosted numerous unique corporate events, including a wake, a corporate day for visitors from around the globe and several wedding breakfasts in addition to our usual bookings of meetings and birthday parties. Uptake for bookings on the Vic Smallshire dining boat for private functions has been steady, and it is our hope that this will continue to grow as an asset for our organisation, as a unique selling point to differentiate us from similar organisations. Looking forward, we appear to be gaining extra traction in the wedding reception market, as we can provide a beautiful scenic venue for evening events coupled with a unique boat trip through the caverns to enhance the memories of the day. Making a name for ourselves in this crowded market is something that can be a challenge, but our prior mentioned unique selling points can put us in a fantastic position to carve out our share. If you are looking for an affordable, unique and stunning venue for your events, Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust is here to provide. HERITAGE ACTIVITIES VOLUNTEERING 2019 was an exciting and another award-winning year for our volunteers. The Schools and Family Activities volunteer team are key to making sure our school groups and families have a wonderful day out when they visit our heritage site. Whether it is as part of an education workshop or a family event, our activities are aimed at engaging visitors with the local history and enabling them to discover more about the Black Country heritage and the geological importance of the area. It was for this reason that the team won the Marsh Award for Volunteers in Museum Learning, West Midlands Regional Award. On a more local level, Cliff Sherwood, who has been involved with the Dudley canal, tunnel and caverns since the 1950s was recognised at Dudley Council’s Forging A Future For All Awards. He was presented with the Visitor Attraction Lifetime Achievement Award. Our volunteer team welcomed a number of new volunteers to the team bringing the total number of volunteers to 70. Volunteers continue to help with activities such as on the towpath, with our education groups and family events. 2019 saw a huge increase in the number of volunteer hours given by corporate groups. We are really pleased to build links with local businesses and value the support they can give. Activities included paining our function room as well as helping to keep the canal clear of rubbish. We were pleased that the partnership formed with The Meadows School in 2018 was able to continue. The school is a haven for children with special educational needs. The students, aged between 15 and 18, worked alongside our volunteers in our allotment garden where they have been able to learn about planting and growing fruits and vegetables. Another partnership which continued was the one we have with the National Citizenship Service’s Challenge, who brought young people to take part in a series of volunteering days with us to learn about the work we do, raise funds for us and then create a virtual reality experience telling our story which they took onto the streets of West Bromwich to spread the word about us. Students from Walsall College joined us once more at our Christmas events. As part of their leisure and tourism course the students planned and delivered a variety of craft activities which families could enjoy as they came to see Santa. Following the success of our first ever in-house volunteer awards in 2018 we were delighted to host our second volunteer awards. The glamourous evening gave staff the chance to show their appreciation once again for all the hard work that our volunteers do. We once again asked staff and volunteers to cast their votes and decide the winners for our volunteer categories which included, education volunteer of the year and towpath volunteer of the year. We also had two special awards which were presented by our CEO to two volunteers who had particularly stood out during 2019. ENGAGEMENT In 2019 we continued with our programme of activities, events and ‘out reach’ projects to expand the growth of our existing offers. Our team worked with school children in a range of workshops from topics like Sedimentary Rocks, Fossils to Life on a Working Boat, Wonderful Water, as well as plenty of interest in Black Country Canals & Industry. As well as our workshops and trails, the children were able to experience a boat trip. In the school holidays we hosted lots of family activities. Each week our Little Skippers event had a different theme, families enjoyed a 45-minute boat trip followed by an hour of things to make and do; Tunnel Teds day, all with teddies in tow of course, allowed preschool children to enjoy a variety of craft activities and games as well as story time on our boat. Then in the evenings we had Harry Potter Book Night, Explorasaurus Evening and Pirates & Mermaids Night. These evening events featured trails, craft activities and games for families to enjoy together. Our Harry Potter Book Night in particular was a great opportunity to engage with a new audience which wouldn’t naturally visit us. We were delighted to welcome even more young people to Cavern Explorers. Cavern Explorers is our loyalty scheme for families, offering much-coveted badges for every event they attend as well as a range of exclusive opportunities and free challenges on selected weekends during the year. Tunnel Tots ran every Monday morning throughout the year offering a nursery age themed boat trip for less than £1. With different stories and nursery rhymes each week it attracts both repeat visitors and new. The group also gets to enjoy a discount in the cafe with lots of activities for their little ones to keep them occupied whilst the parents enjoy a well deserved hot drink and a cake. Our Waterside Gallery has been full all year with a wide range of work by local amateur and professional artists and groups. The frequently changing programme features photographs, drawings, paintings and lots more and has been great to see the mix of work on offer. For its fourth year, Chit Chat continued to run in our Gongoozler cafe on Tuesday mornings. It is a group hosted by our volunteers that allows for anyone to come and join us, have free tea or coffee and have conversation with others. The purpose of the group is to combat loneliness within the community and help people form new friendships in a safe and welcoming space. It continues to welcome both regulars and new participants. EVENTS Events in 2019 have been an area of growth for the organisation. Our Easter boat trips towards the beginning of the year were extremely popular, and the decision has been made to slowly grow this event to eventually be in line with the scale of our Halloween and Christmas events. Issues inside Singing Cavern had an impact on our trips throughout 2019 resulting in closures, and this naturally impacted on our events. Halloween in particularly suffered greatly with half of the proposed Hallowe’en dates unable to go ahead. However, despite these setbacks the three remaining Halloween shows were well received, customers enjoying the atmosphere and show provided. The Santa event was a total sell out, in fact we added two additional boats which also sold out. This translates to over 7,100 customers who came and saw Santa on our trip. This does not include the education and school bookings who took additional slots midweek. This tremendous sell out (we had sold every available ticket before the events had begun) means we will be looking to increase this event in future. Our specialised boat trips (Gin Cruise, Fish & Chip Boat and Black Country Picnic Boats) on the Vic Smallshire have been very successful in 2019, with several customers expressing interest in hiring them out for private events in future. This is a great area we can grow, and as they were nearly all sold out in 2019 the aim is to increase the available numbers for them in future. OPERATIONS OPERATIONS January was a good start to year with first Board away day and the priorities of the visitor offer discussed at length; discussions included the investment in crew and their requirements, but also the role itself and how it could improve our current offer and the visitor experience. We also discussed the new offer for Hurst Cavern and the type of display needed, we felt a new display that gives the visitors a different experience to the current shows in Singing Cavern and Little Tess would be the most beneficial. The new display should be unique and interactive so the visitors feel they are engaging with the display itself, this will give the visitors a more personal and relatable experience as opposed to watching a show. New open water offers were arranged; this included the full launch of the open water boat Vic Smallshire. Vic was set to complete private hire experiences, but also the dining offer which included a “Black County Picnic”, “Cream tea”, and “fish and chips”; we were also set to launch the “Gin boat” which was ran externally but proved to be incredibly popular and successful. BOAT RALLIES We held the Parkhead Festival after a number of years – the event provided a good turnout but issues with silting, shallow water and weeds in the top pound made it difficult at end of the event. There was a DCTT presence at Tipton festival which included a stall and a trip. The trip boat was located closer to Fountain pub thank previous years which was a much better site for increased footfall and easier disembarking. The trip ran from outside the Fountain Inn up to Barge and Barrel pub near Factory locks and then tuned back to take passengers to the Portal building to promote ourselves. There were difficulties with getting Sagitta to Crick but team effort saw it arrive on time and have the best visitor numbers on board to date. HISTORIC BOATS Our historic boats Sagitta and Bittel have been out and about around the West Midlands engaging with the public and showing how life was lived and worked on the canals. We purchased Trusty to add to our workboat offer and to provide another display boat. They attended their usual timetable of events including Crick, The Black Country Boating Festival, The Tipton Boat Festival and Netherton to name but a few. Our historic boats are always well received and they are a great way of promoting the work the Trust does. When not touring the county, visitors to The Portal were able to see the boats moored onsite. The moorings are directly outside the entrance from BCLM so anyone walking over the bridge can view them with ease and visitors could better engage with them, the boats were open regularly for visitors to view and enjoy during the high season. We continued to hold a range of open days to showcase both the boats to our day to day visitors but also encourage new volunteers who are particularly focused on demonstrating these beautiful boats and relating the many stories they have to tell. STAFF TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT The Skipper roles became full time in anticipation of Mine Supervisor qualification. We now have a mix of full time, part time and casual skippers to cover all works as required. Full time Skippers will be trained and focused towards the strategic planning in the mines in order to understand and monitor the environment. Two new Skippers were appointed and trained as well as five crewmen. Becky Wright, Operations Manager, completed “Working at height harness training”. Becky along with 2 additional Skippers began working towards achieving the Mine Supervisor qualification. The final stage of work for extensive Mine Safety Management plan began. This included reviewing the current risk assessments improving the format, and it also includes “Safe systems of working” for all the common activities we run. The Safety Management plans is a simplified document based on the current “Domestic Safety Management” document for staff to refer to when needed; it provides the structure for the systems needed to work to our policies. CLOSURES A Sewage leak above ground that drained into Lord Wards tunnel unfortunately leading to a 2 week full closure, the closure was in place until repair works were carried out by the water board and any contaminated water had fully cleared. Water leak issue – caused by freezing temperatures effecting the pipes below ground, this has caused the carpark surface to depress in the entrance way but poses no significant risk, the pipe was repaired. Changes in Singing Caverns environment caused by extreme weather variations had an impact on the Limestone which is greatly affected by water and humidity; these changes impacted the cavern and some rock fall was identified therefore the cavern was closed whilst an investigation took place. Unfortunately this did have an impact on us during our main season; an alternative route into the system excluding Singing Cavern was agreed whilst the monitoring and investigative works continued. We had a number of bookings from professional canoes/kayak clubs to escort through the Dudley Tunnel to Parkhead which has worked well. We hope to extend the offer to include breakfast, use of facilities . FINANCE Separate accounts have been produced for the four organisations: Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust; Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust Enterprises Ltd; Dudley Canal Trust (Trips) Ltd; and Dudley Canal Trust. For Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust (the main charity), total assets less current liabilities (adjusted due to inter-charity & inter-company balances) are £72,926. Note that this does not include the Portal building, as this is shown in the Dudley Canal Trust (Trips) Ltd accounts. Following an independent valuation, the Portal building value has been adjusted to £975,000: this is a more realistic asset value, rather than the build cost of over £3 million that was primarily grant funded. For Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust Enterprises Ltd (the trading subsidiary), the total assets less current liabilities (adjusted due to inter-charity & inter-company balances) are £51,109. Dudley Canal Trust (the original charity), holds the asset of the lock cottage and land in the Parkhead area, shown as £96,475. This charity also holds investments totalling £59,926. Although a separate charity, these assets are deemed to be available to the main charity, as part of the transfer of charitable activities during the process of the construction of the Portal building. Income was primarily generated through the main charity and the trading subsidiary. For the trading subsidiary, activities resulted in a small profit of £4,218. However, for the main charity, overall for the year there was a deficit. This may be alarming, after many years of successful operations, but many factors, that were mainly externally-driven, helped to contribute, including: lower visitor numbers to the museum; additional crewing requirements for the underground trips; a large increase in the minimum wage level; closure of the caverns on more than one occasion due to environmental factors, during our normally busiest periods; and unexpected staff changes. Overall, the reduction in our funds was in the region of £176,000, which was covered by available funds from Dudley Canal Trust and unrestricted funds held by the main charity. However, great efforts by all in 2020 so far, in cost savings and grant income from various sources, including the National Lottery and the Job Retention Scheme, has meant that the main charity is likely to be in a stronger financial position at the end of the year than at the end of 2019, with a surplus for the year as a whole. The full Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust annual accounts and the Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust Enterprises Ltd annual accounts can be viewed On Companies House and The Charity Commission web sites.