I am writing to you from deepest lockdown to wish a belated Happy New Year and to share some good news.

We are delighted to announce that the final total for our donation to BirdLife International from the 2019 Birdfair will be £168,719. This substantial sum, although smaller than previous years, will make an enormous difference to the Western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary and Critically Endangered Birds in Cambodia, the chosen project beneficiary for 2019.

We are disappointed that the donation did not equal or surpass previous years but many factors outside of our control contributed to this: –

• Bad weather during the event led to reduced visitor numbers and additional wet weather safety precautions to ensure the continuation of the event incurred additional costs.

• The Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 (“PTR”) left several of our regular sponsors unable to commit to Birdfair in 2019 which led to a reduction in the amount of money raised from sponsorship. Also, the legal impact meant that Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trusts had to ensure that both the event itself and individual exhibitors were compliant with the regulations. This required a significant amount of additional staff time, and costs were incurred to obtain specific professional advice on the issues involved in complying with the regulations.

• When in 2020 the live Birdfair was cancelled due to COVID-19, we were also legally obliged to include all costs already incurred for set up, and cancellation, of the event in our accounts for 2019. This was the first year in the history of Birdfair that the event has had to be cancelled, and with insurance for a pandemic resulting in cover being null and void these costs were irrecoverable.

In previous years, the donation has been made at a public event during the Spring of the following year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the 2020 presentation was cancelled. Once our accounts were completed the full amount of £168,719 was received by BirdLife International.

All Birdfair accounts are available to view on request. They are reviewed by our Auditors, RSM UK.

2020 Birdfair

Planning for the 2020 Birdfair was of course well underway when the first national lockdown was announced in March. After the decision was taken to cancel the live event in April the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust Council, in our commitment to Birdfair’s legacy, and its great potential for the future, wanted to ensure that the event could be held in some form despite COVID-19. We wholeheartedly supported the Birdfair team’s proposal for a “Virtual Birdfair” which brought together all the attractions on a digital platform.

The Birdfair team at LRWT delivered over 70 hours of content. The most-viewed live session was the “State of the Earth” discussion with Dr Jane Goodall and Chris Packham, amongst others.

We are very pleased to tell you that Virtual Birdfair attracted twice as many online visitors as our live events, and engaged the interest of a new and diverse audience. We will be sending further information on the fundraising part of this as soon as our accountants have finished their work on this.

The cancellation of the 2020 live event has meant that the operating costs for the financial year 2020/2021 were unsupported, putting the continuation of Birdfair at risk. The Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust obtained a loan from the Royal Society of Wildlife Trust’s Strategic Development Fund, and Emergency COVID funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund to provide bridging finance for Birdfair until it can resume normal operations. This provides recognition of the commitment by the LRWT to the future of Birdfair.

Birdfair 2021

We are still watching the news about COVID very closely to decide whether Birdfair 2021 will be able to go ahead. We will be contacting everyone and intend to make the final decision in late February.

We are very proud to be able to share with you that since it began in 1989, Birdfair has raised nearly £6 million for nature conservation. It has helped birds under threat of extinction across the globe, from albatrosses to white-winged guans. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who works so hard to make it such a success.

Stay safe and well.

Tim Graham
CEO Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

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