Dear FAME members,

Over the last few days myself and Doug Rocks-Macqueen, FAME’s Deputy CEO, have been speaking to FAME members. We have managed to speak to or contact most of our members and have brought together comprehensive views on what is happening across commercial archaeology, shared below.

We have also asked how FAME can help you. In general, the requests from FAME members, so far, to the Board, CEO and Deputy CEO have been to:

  • Contact ALGAO to:
    • Encourage their members to be flexible regarding the data sources required for DBA etc. Some datasets are available digitally but many are not. Contractors can often propose very acceptable alternatives and counties need to judge such proposals on their merits.
    • Site inspections – can there be some clarity on how this will happen from ALGAO members —– are they allowed to continue with monitoring and meeting on site?
  • FAME to lead on public communication that we are taking H&S seriously, and make sure this is known further up the chain – we need to make sure clients know that we are showing that archaeology can be done safely, and so sites don’t need to be prematurely shut down
  • Set up some kind of forum for members to talk to each other. It could speed up exchanging best practice in relation to the crisis e.g. ideas for team working, handling contacts, etc

We will be addressing these requests as soon as possible.

We have also been asked to post, on our website, links to advise on how to apply to these government support programmes, practical advice on how to carry on and best practice for dealing with the virus. We have done this and these resources can be accessed here –

They will be updated constantly so please bookmark this page. Also please let us know if there is other topics you would like us to cover and if there are other ways we can help you.

To give you a general sense of the sector and what your fellow members are experiencing:

  • In terms of projects being cancelled, almost universally, nothing bad has happened yet. A couple of members, in the last few days, had some small projects, such as DBAs, cancelled or delayed.
  • Community heritage and archaeology projects have been postponed, for members involved in such work.
  • A non-FAME member has stopped all fieldwork and a member is winding down work to concentrate on post-ex work.
  • However, everyone is concerned about future work with comments such as:
    • Some cash reserve but if CV restrictions last 6 months or more there will be serious problems.
    • If projects are cancelled they will have to lay off 20-25 staff right away.
  • The centralised system for allocation of archaeological work in some parts of the UK is threatened by the possibility that public sector employees will not available to review and approve archaeological programmes, grant licences etc At a local level LPA archaeological advisors may also be required to reduce the service they provide, and FAME will need to respond swiftly to specific examples we hear about.
  • All have responded that they are putting in their own measures to combat the virus and that their clients have said everything is to keep going.
  • Everyone has working from home in place for office staff.
  • Concerned about government support, most seems to be unusable by our members – though as I write this rash of new initiatives have been announced and we will analyse them in due course.
  • Changes being made:
    • Implementation of self-contained teams, and staff not moved around within them, so as to stop any spread
    • Using local people as much as possible to reduce co-driving.
    • Additional cabins on site to allow more space for people
    • Staggering breaks of staff to minimise contact time
    • One person/one vehicle policies
    • Asking staff to go to 4-day weeks to stretch out funds

While countries such as Spain and France have implemented shutdowns, they have not been expanded to the construction sector, though there is no guarantee that will not happen here. Some companies in countries around Europe are shuttering work even when not required to do so we expect some work to drop off in the near future, even without a Government mandated shutdown. Assuming there are not widespread cancellations in the near future, most organisations will carry on for the next few months without collapsing. However, beyond that…

Doug’s view is that the government will be forced to make much greater support available before our members suffer, along the lines of Denmark or Norway – paying 80% of workers wages, etc. (and that was then announced by the Chancellor after I wrote this). Government will have to intervene in the entire economy to keep almost everyone from going bust.

Projections and models of the crises estimate this will last for months, maybe 18 months; possibly as a series of waves.  If that transpires, private sector construction would likely have flat-lined – even with a Denmark-style intervention (that is now occurring). He sees several possible outcomes for this:

  1. The government steps in and launches a housebuilding/infrastructure plan not seen since the 1950s and 60s which would keep work going.
  2. Significant ramping up of support e.g. universal basic income, grants to keep companies running, etc. so that when the crisis ends demand will still be there.
  3. The worst-case scenario is one in which support is not significantly increased and the sector slowly atrophies. Even with 80% of salaries covered, a year or more of covering the remaining costs without significant work would be beyond the abilities of most, not just in archaeology but in most sectors.
  4. Like scenario 3 but that the government will be desperate to restart the economy and keep people busy. We might be looking at a manpower services (MSC) type scheme to get people working again. In that case the sector should prepare a list of projects that will employ our members to manage and train members of the public while at the same time keeping the public engaged. Having a series of shovel-ready proposals for mass employment could mean we get the funding over others.

Obviously, the situation is changing daily and we will adjust these projections in due course.

Please do alert us to any issues you are experiencing that we might be able to help with or any other resources we should share with your fellow FAME members.


Kenneth Aitchison



20th March 2020