Celebrating 20 years of Heritage Lottery Funding

Celebrating 20 years of Heritage Lottery Funding

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF
The National Lottery was first played in the UK on 19 November 1994. Millions of us sat around the television to see whether our numbers would be drawn. Some of us are still using those same numbers today!

But whether or not we have been winners ourselves, at the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) we know many thousands who have been. We have distributed over £6billion to 37,000 projects, right across the UK. There has been at least one project, and often many more, in every local authority area. From Burns’ birthplace to Yr Ysgwrn, the Giant’s Causeway to Stonehenge, Birkenhead Park to the Great Fen, Derby Roundhouse to Birmingham’s Back to Backs, York Minster to Canterbury Cathedral, the Great North Museum to the British Museum, all are benefiting thanks to Lottery players.

It’s amazing to think that over 700 public parks and 700 places of worship have received grants as a result of Lottery players buying tickets. And that great architects have added new spaces to wonderful, established institutions (the Ashmolean, National Museums Scotland). New facilities have enabled heritage to be shown to better effect and seen by many more people (Blaenavon, the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield), and great pieces from our transport and industrial heritage have been saved and interpreted (the SS Great Britain and Cutty Sark, the Kennet and Avon Canal). What’s more, we have helped 4,000 people train to work in the heritage sector and created over 30,000 jobs in heritage tourism.

But for me, the greatest achievement is the new interest in, and excitement about, heritage. At HLF we aim to make ‘a lasting difference for heritage and people’. To do that, we need to fund projects that people care about. Not everyone will support every project, but I defy anyone to fail to find something that they love, that makes them feel better – or makes them laugh!

Sometimes we have led the way and helped change perceptions – I believe that we can honestly claim to have significantly increased the pace of museums’ engagement with learning, for example. Sometimes we have simply helped support the need and mood of the moment, as with our funding for projects that commemorate the First World War. Since April 2010 we have contributed £60million to such projects, including £6m to small, local projects, which have enabled 700 communities to explore and address different aspects of the conflict in a way that is appropriate to them.

I am often asked to name my favourite project. It’s a question I simply can’t answer. How could I choose? I do know that the power of heritage to move and engage, to inspire and educate, to bring people together and give heart back to communities, is a worthy cause for Lottery funding. And to the millions of people who buy their Lottery tickets in the hope of a big win, but with confidence that money from their tickets will be put to good use, I say ‘Thank you!’ and ‘Please, keep buying the tickets!’.

If you would like to know more about what we fund, and where, our website is a good place to start. And then, look around you in your local park, museum, gallery, historic house or garden. It won’t be long until you find one of those places that the Lottery has helped support.