Birdfair update from CEO Tim Graham

Gillian Lloyd

Birdfair - New Year Newsletter from CEO Tim Graham

As I write to you from the depths of our 3rd lockdown, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year and to give you all some very good news. 

We are delighted to announce that the final total for our donation to BirdLife International, with respect to Birdfair 2019 will be £168,719. We are very pleased that this is a substantial sum and will make an enormous difference to the Western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary and Critically Endangered Birds in Cambodia, the chosen beneficiary project for 2019.

A number of factors have meant that this donation is smaller than those in previous years:

  • Bad weather during the 2019 event led to reduced visitor numbers and additional costs were incurred to make attendance in the wet weather safe. 
  • 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 and Rutland Wildlife Trust had to ensure that the event itself and individual exhibitors were compliant with the new 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 the 2020 Birdfair event had to be cancelled because of COVID-19, the costs from January 2020 until after the cancellation process in April 2020 had to be included. This was the first year in the history of Birdfair that the event had to be cancelled and no precedent had been previously set for this. 

In previous years, the donation has been made at a public event during the spring of the following year. In 2020 this had to be cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions, instead we announced our donation, along with our partners the RSPB and beneficiaries Birdlife International, at a webinar in July.  A payment of £102,000 was made to Birdlife in March 2020 and a further payment of £25,000 in September 2020.  After our accounts were complete and we had held our AGM, we made the final payment in December 2020.

All Birdfair accounts are audited as part of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust’s audit process and completed by our Auditors RSM UK. Our accounts are submitted to Companies House and the Charity Commission.   

Virtual birdair

Birdfair 2020

Planning for the 2020 Birdfair was of course well underway when the first national lockdown was announced in March. As a result, we took the decision at the beginning of April to cancel the year’s live event.  

The 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. So it 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 Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust produced over 70 hours of content. The most-viewed live session was the “State of the Earth” discussion with Dr Jane Goodall and Chris Packham.

We are very pleased to tell you that Virtual Birdfair attracted twice as many online visitors as our live events – and even more since, and engaged the interest of a new and diverse audience.  

The cancellation of the 2020 live event has meant that unfortunately the operating costs for the financial year 2020/2021 were unsupported, putting the continuation of Birdfair at risk. After negotiations with The Wildlife Trust’s Strategic Development Fund and Emergency COVID funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust have successfully managed to secure bridging finance for Birdfair until March 2021 to help it reach and resume normal operations.  I am sure you will agree this demonstrates a strong commitment to the future of the event.

Birdfair 2021

We are still watching the news about COVID 19 very closely to decide whether Birdfair 2021 will be able to go ahead. We will be making contact with everyone and intend to provide updates in February and March. 

We are very proud to be able to share with you that since it began in 1989, Birdfair has raised over £5 million for nature conservation. It has helped birds from albatrosses to white-winged guans and help to protect ecosystems that are under threat of extinction across the globe. 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