MAKING gin and visiting a pub might not be the best activities to combine with driving a train, but that’s what a government minister did while visiting the Stratford area.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s Whistle Tour hosted organizations that received government stimulus grants during the lockdown. The local tour was organized by Shakespeare’s England.
Mr Dowden has stopped at Stratford’s Shakespeare Distillery and the Telegraph Hotel and recently refurbished the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, now the City of Culture.
After lunch at the Fleece Inn in Bretforton, he called at Toddington station on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, where he boarded Pacific class footboard no. 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co for the short journey to Winchcombe from where he drove to Sudeley Castle.
The Herald joined him at the Shakespeare distillery, where directors Simon Picken and Peter Monks showed him around the company’s recently expanded site before making his own bottle of gin, which he named Blythe Spirit in honor of. of his wife.
Mr Monks said: “We were delighted to host the Secretary of State and to have the opportunity to speak to him about the challenges we have faced during the pandemic, but also the positive effects that the financial support has brought. available to us has had on our survival and recovery.
“It has been a challenging year, but we have remained positive about the future and have plans in place to continue to grow our business as restrictions continue to be eased.”
The mood turned serious in the distillery’s ‘gin school’ when the Herald asked Mr Dowden how the government could help local recovery, given that the district of Stratford has been the fourth-largest economy hit hard in the UK and that the Royal Shakespeare Company was unable to do so effectively. function.
Mr Dowden said it was why he fought for a £2billion investment, which he called “the biggest investment in our history”. He argued that this saved the RSC from going under.
Mr Dowden added: ‘Somewhere like the RSC got a massive amount of funding, so that’s supported them and means they’re there at the end, and without that they would have gone.
“The challenge now is to get people back – they may have socially distant visitors, but that’s not enough for them to operate profitably. We therefore want to move on to the fourth stage of the roadmap so that businesses can operate normally again. Then we want to bring visitors back to those places – and especially now that we no longer have international visitors – to make sure that people in their own countries take advantage of the wonderful opportunities available to them.
A further lifting of restrictions on June 21 still cannot be guaranteed, Mr Dowden said.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure we can reopen in stage four, but we clearly have to take into account the increase in cases in some areas, especially the Indian variant.
“We will review the data over the next few days and see if we are able to move on. I really hope we can, but public health must come first. »