back to article Bletchley Park Trust can’t crack COVID-caused revenue slump without losing staff

The Bletchley Park Trust, the host of Britain’s National Museum of Computing and the site of critical feats of wartime code-cracking, has hit financial strife and expects to lay off around a third of its staff. The Trust posted news of its plight late last week, writing that it “is proposing to restructure as a result of the …

  1. demon driver

    It says a lot about the world and how it is organised when it leaves the existence of such institutions to the whims of short-term economic fluctuations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not really, this isn't due to "short-term economic fluctuations" as much as "No visitors". At least most UK museums are centrally-funded and don't rely on admission charges.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Museums not centrally funded

        "At least most UK museums are centrally-funded and don't rely on admission charges."

        Well that's where you are wrong, most museums are not centrally funded, only the large national ones. Most museums rely on ticket, cafe and shop sales.

    2. codejunky Silver badge

      @demon driver

      The short term economic fluctuation is a shutdown of the economy which is not something generally expected. Agree with the lockdown or not the economic damage is huge as a direct result of locking down. People losing their jobs is a direct consequence of doing lockdown.

  2. steviebuk Silver badge

    I'm sure they are trying

    But why haven't they hit YouTube. The computing museum part appears to have a channel yet last updated 4 months ago. Why haven't they been using social medium to get their message out there.

    The Centre for Computing History also has issues but has hit YouTube alot more to get its message across about money issues but not just that, showing you more areas of the museum and history but in a virtual way.

    Even The Tank Museum before covid and during used YouTube and Patron. During covid they've been trying to convince people to buy from the shop and their online talks have been really good along with the dog Fin.

    I'd be curious how much the CEO is on. There was a charity years ago in London, can't remember the name now, that I volunteered at one day due to struggling to get IT work. They take old PCs, rebuild, refurb and ship off to Africa. The one day I was there it was awful and never went back. They didn't monitor people probably so one boxed up shipment went with power leads. I commented but no one appeared to care. They'd take people on day release from prison not because they cared but because they got money to do so. Showed us around and the toilets were fucking awful. One cubicle in a large room. A cubicle that looked a bit fucked as is. One urinal all in a shared room with no door to lock. So the few woman that worked there had to share it and eveyone just had to put a sign up.

    My point? We then got to the CEOs office. It was massive, clean and nice, he was tan tastic because he'd "just got back from a business trip in South Africa". It was fucking clear he was just rinsing the place of its money for his pleasure. Fuck the working environment for the staff. Fuck the charity. I assume he didn't stay as with him in place they'd have gone bust long ago, but I did find them recently but still can't remember the pissing name. Fuck my bad memory.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm sure they are trying

      Did you let the charity commissioners know? They can't deal with scammers like this if no-one tells them.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: I'm sure they are trying

        If you spend any time in the charity sector, you'll find that an awful lot of businesses masquerading as charities. Even the well-known ones are now basically businesses that pay people to raise funds via aggressive sign-up campaigns on the street or call-centres.

        Then, there's the whole problem of sending dated IT to Africa – it's long been considered much better to buy modern low-specc'd kit, assuming even the places you're sending it to have reliable electricity supplies.

    2. PeterO

      Re: I'm sure they are trying

      Please don't mix up "The computing museum part " (properly called The National Museum of Computing" or TNMOC for short) with the Bletchley Park Trust (BPT) . They are two separate organisations, with TNMOC paying rent for their buildings to BPT. TNMOC is facing the same lack of income from visitors as BPT but it makes more use of volunteers for it's operations. The volunteers have been working hard during the closure to make it as safe as possible for reopening (and to do lots of redecoration).

      TNMOC has been regularly putting "#AskTheExperts" interviews on it's YouTube channel while it has been closed, the latest going up only 4 days ago (so not sure where you got 4 months from).

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: I'm sure they are trying

        Because I'm an idiot and didn't sort by videos. My mistake.

        Never reported the charity at the time as I was a little clueless to such things back then.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I'm sure they are trying

        I was going to mention the same thing

        The Bletchley Park Trust has been (if anything) rather hostile to the technological history of the site and seems to prefer to concentrate on "the lovely buildings and grounds"(*), with all those geeks being an inconvenience they'd rather not handle.

        (*) NOT the "huts", where Important Stuff Happened and which they'd happily bulldoze in a heartbeat if given a chance

        1. smudge

          Re: I'm sure they are trying

          (*) NOT the "huts", where Important Stuff Happened and which they'd happily bulldoze in a heartbeat if given a chance

          Disagree. We were there last year, for the first time in maybe 10 years, and one big improvement that we noted was the restoration of the huts.

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
            Linux

            Re: I'm sure they are trying

            Not done by the Bletchley trust, but by the National Museum of Computing, who have also gone to the trouble of creating a virtual tour.

            https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=pq6v8gMmxMw

      3. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: I'm sure they are trying

        There was a massive disagreement between TNMOC and BPT a few years back, big enough to lose BPT a trustee or two who were instrumental in getting BPT enough money to continue its existence (and actually persuade BT to cede the full site to the trust)... BPT's argument was that they now had to be commercially minded to not disadvantage other commercial businesses on the site, despite TNMOC having a very close and beneficial relationship with BPT before that. BPT even fired several of their veteran tour guides who continued to tell people to visit TNMOC as well for Colossus and the other history of BP and how it relates to modern computing. It was a mess.

        I visited the 'improved' BPT once after that, and as much as it was a slick experience, I vowed to never go back and do a TNMOC tour instead (which I did after my BPT one). It's sad for many people who work for BPT, but for the management I have *zero* compassion.

    3. JerryMcC

      Re: I'm sure they are trying

      Searching for "TNMOC" (The "computing museum part"'s proper name) on both Facebook and Twitter will find you plenty of social media activity.

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: I'm sure they are trying

      Bletchley Park was set up on the back of a social media campaign…

      However, as I think a lot of people are finding out: social media campaigns don't really pay the day to day bills. Donations have been skewed towards the (chronically underfunded) NHS and carers. Government funding has mainly been for job retention scheme with some scraps thrown to culture sector. With debt already at record levels, unemployment rising and tax revenues set to fall, there isn't going to be enough money around for a lot of things.

      1. Andy Taylor

        Re: I'm sure they are trying

        Bletchley Park was not set up by a Social

        Media campaign, it has existed since the early 1990s.

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: I'm sure they are trying

          No, it wasn't, but the relentless social media activities by some people helped massively to highlight BP's plight of having to scratch about for scraps and it improved BPT's situation a lot in the 2000's!

    5. quartile

      Re: I'm sure they are trying

      All Charity employees on more than £60k have to include their income in their annual return to the Charity Commission. In their last return for calendar year 2018 there was one employee on £100-£110k and two £60-£70k. The report for 2018 also records a healthy surplus against budget of more than a million. I wonder where that went since then?

      http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends43/0001012743_AC_20181231_E_C.pdf

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm sure they are trying

        Gotta keep that surplus for the CEO's snout...

      2. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: I'm sure they are trying

        "The report for 2018 also records a healthy surplus against budget of more than a million. I wonder where that went since then"

        Well, the same report that you linked to shows that their staffing costs are 2.2m a year... so that million will be close to being depleted by now if they kept the 91 staff (again from your link) on furlough for the entire lock down period.

        Personally I don't think 3 people in a company of 91 being paid in excess of 60k is excessive - looking at their turnover I'd have expected at least a few people to be on quite a high income, they're responsible for quite a large charity.

    6. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: I'm sure they are trying

      >But why haven't they hit YouTube. The computing museum part appears to have a channel yet last updated 4 months ago. Why haven't they been using social medium to get their message out there.

      Probably because the relevant staff have been furloughed.

      Whilst the furlough scheme has saved outgoings, one of the conditions is that staff can not be doing the job they would normally get paid for; however, they can volunteer elsewhere... So in some respects TNMC needed to get some volunteers to enhance their social media profile and help write funding bids...

      1. JerryMcC

        Re: I'm sure they are trying

        Already answered above:

        1) TNMOC has been regularly putting "#AskTheExperts" interviews on its YouTube channel while it has been closed, the latest going up only 4 days ago (so not sure where you got 4 months from).

        2) Searching for "TNMOC" (The "computing museum part"'s proper name) on both Facebook and Twitter will find you plenty of recent social media activity.

  3. MJI Silver badge

    This is the theme park isn't it?

    I have heard enough to put me off visiting the theme park side.

    I only want to see the code breaking computers. TNMOC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is the theme park isn't it?

      I'd strongly advise to ignore all the negative opinions regarding Bletchley posted here, and do both museums. First, go round Bletchley Park to get the "feel" of the huts, and also to have a look at the various encryption machines they've got in block B (I think). Then, visit TNMOC to see the Bombe, and some other really interesting old machines.

      When I took my family, we camped nearby and took a day to wander around Blethcley Park, and a second day to do TNMOC, but then we (as a family) read most of the signs put up by the exhibits in Bletchley park, (There was also a small exhibit about Bill Tutt when we visited) and then on the second day we played around with pretty much anything that was "hands on" in TNMOC...

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: This is the theme park isn't it?

        Interesting as I had read it was full of actors.

        1. GerryMC

          Re: This is the theme park isn't it?

          I can't remember seeing any actors (other than in a film clip) when I was there two years ago. Unfortunately I couldn't schedule it to visit TNMOC on one of the days that it was fully open, only got to see the Colossus and Heath Robinson, still worth it .

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is the theme park isn't it?

      Hmm- I think you're underestimating it. I'm a volunteer at part of BP and I'm impressed by the sorts of things you see walking around - the huts are such a humbling experience as you see simple doors, hatches, in trays and tables, pencils, paper and the real tools they used and you reflect on the pressure the people were under their for years - and their achievements. There are loads of 'genuine article' things to see in context - the machines they used, how they did it, what it meant. They had to invent the cool stuff we take for granted today, and we're lucky they did.

      It wouldn't work if it were like disneyworld - it's more like visiting the real place it happened and comparing it to what GCHQ and NSA do today - and that is a big part of what makes it awesome in the true sense. I was lucky to see Tony Sale demo Colossus after he rebuilt it - I was amazed at just how good that group of people and their successors were and how they solved genuinely hard problems with an amazingly crude set of tools. NMOC is an amazing place too - but both that and BP are understated, you need to think about what they mean to get the most out of the place.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: This is the theme park isn't it?

        I actually had a nice chat with Tony Sale in a quiet moment of the fairly early days, when not many people were visiting. They treat Colossus really gently. They wind up the supply voltage slowly on a variac, and then very slightly under-run them. The also wind the supply down slowly when they want to shut down. There is a trip switch so that if there is an interruption of the mains, it won't come back on again suddenly.

        The valves are very hard to get hold of so they are extremely careful with them. I was rather surprised at the types used. I was expecting lots of triodes, but they are mostly pentodes.

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: This is the theme park isn't it?

          Watching Colossus whirr away with Tony Sale pottering about was one of my highlights on a very cold, drizzly winter day when I visited the 'old' BP (before the grand restoration). That thing churned out an extraordinary amount of heat...

  4. smudge

    So why don't they...

    ... restart their online shop? Which disappeared long before anyone had heard of covid-19.

  5. wolfetone

    Good.

    Remember how Bletchley Park treated TNMOC a few years ago?

    Pepperidge Farm remembers, and karma's a bitch.

  6. TVU

    "Bletchley Park Trust can’t crack COVID-caused revenue slump without losing staff"

    This only shows that the British government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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