It’s almost two months since I joined the HLF team in Wales, so I thought that I would take this opportunity to introduce myself and share a little of what I have seen and done so far.
I have worked at HLF, in a variety of roles, since 2002 after quite a varied career. My most recent role was as Programme Director for the Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund, and prior to that I was Acting Head of HLF in the South West.
My priority over the past few weeks has been getting to know the team in my new capacity, re-familiarising myself with Wales’s heritage and meeting our many stakeholders - from players of the National Lottery to meeting some of the great people behind all of the projects that we support.
An iconic lido
One of the first Welsh projects I visited was the Lido in Pontypridd, which reopened last week. Ponty Lido was one of the most iconic open-air lidos in the UK at a time when they were the height of sophistication and glamour. It was the Miners’ Welfare Fund that enabled the lido to be built in 1927, with local miners contributing a proportion of their wage into a communal fund to pay for the pool’s construction.
They paid for it, they worked for it, and their families swam in it.
And it is this that makes Pontypridd Lido such an important project for me, with its warming social story and the role it played in bringing the people of Pontypridd together.
[quote]"The miners paid for it, they worked for it, and their families swam in it."[/quote]
Sadly by the early 1980s the complex had sadly fallen into decline and eventually closed in 1991, just like many other once thriving pools.
But what goes around, comes around; the story of the lido was not yet over.
Saved by the community
Two decades later in 2012, with strong community support, ambitious plans were launched to restore the lido. Along with funding from other bodies - CADW, the European Development Fund through the Welsh Government, and of course Rhondda Cynon Taff Council itself - HLF grants helped bring about the revival of Ponty Lido.
The newly restored lido has kept its community ethos and there is something here for everybody – be it the three pools, the free entry for all children aged 12 or under living in Rhondda Cynon Taf, or the community hub centre and education packs helping to ensure the lido retains its status as a true community asset, and that its important history is not forgotten.
Original, iconic features of this Art Deco treasure have been fully restored, such as the turnstiles and wooden cubicles. And for the modern visitor there are also the brand new changing block, 26 degree pool heating, cafe and adventure playground to ensure the lido meets our needs today.
I have no doubt that Ponty Lido will be an excellent asset for the local community, and that it is a fantastic venue. It was clear from talking to project organisers, councillors and those taking a dip at the official reopening that it is set to be a hit with the local community once again.
From my short time as Head of HLF Wales, it is already clear to me that National Lottery players’ money is helping to make a lasting difference across Wales, through projects like this one in Pontypridd, and I’m looking forward to finding out what further fantastic projects Wales has in store for us.