Gary Lintern is a County Durham-based photographer who runs stargazing tours.
Until early 2020 the popular tours catered for up to 30 people at a time and included an introductory talk in a venue (for example in a local hotel), followed by a night time stargazing tour at locations across the North East. The tours proved to be so popular that Gary was looking to expand his business and take on more staff, until the COVID-19 pandemic led to him having to cancel all events from March 2020.
In order to deliver stargazing tours both online and in person with social distancing, Gary needed to invest in new camera and audio equipment, and applied for support from the North East Business Support Fund which is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund, receiving a grant of just under £3,000.
The new technology will allow Gary to lead virtual stargazing tours via Zoom and to lead socially distanced in-person tours.
The grant has been used to purchase new camera equipment which links to a telescope and allows Gary to share stargazing footage online. It has also been used to buy new audio for in-person events which means that Gary can be heard by a socially-distanced group outdoors without having to raise his voice – reducing the risks of virus transmission.
“This experience and the grant funding has enabled me to adopt a more hybrid approach to my business, combining socially-distanced in-person events with online tours. This spreads the risk and allows the business to be profitable again,” said Gary. “Going virtual with my events has also meant I can reach people beyond the North East and start to build up relationships with new customers.”
The North East Business Support Fund is administered by North East Enterprise Agency NBSL.
NBSL is approved by BIS, Customer First, and Investors in People and has a team of experienced accredited business funding advisers, who work with people and businesses across the North East to identify solutions that aid development and growth.
NBSL relaunched The North East Business Support Fund (NEBSF) in 2018. The inaugural round of funding was launched in 2012, since then NBSL has provided funding and support to businesses from an array of sectors spanning all corners of the region with a recent impact report finding that the fund has yielded an impressive £4.40 economic boost for every £1 invested.