How targeted support has helped Knowsley's heritage thrive

How targeted support has helped Knowsley's heritage thrive

A group of young people perform an Indian classical dance called Bharatanatyam.
Performers at the Global Roots Festival organised by Knowsley Young Producers. Photo: Knowsley Council.
As Knowsley celebrates its 50th birthday, our Engagement Manager, Shanna Lennon, highlights how heritage is thriving in the borough.
Engagement Manager Shanna Lennon standing at a stall in Knowsley

The Borough of Knowsley was formed in 1974. A product of the 1972 Government Act, the borough brings together several towns and villages east of the city of Liverpool including Knowsley, Kirkby, Prescot, Huyton, Whiston, Halewood, Cronton and Stockbridge Village.

In 2022, Knowsley celebrated its year as Liverpool City Region's Borough of Culture with a borough-wide celebration of heritage and culture hosting over 60 events that attracted over one million people. It was a big year for the borough as 2022 also saw the opening of Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot, a striking timber-framed Shakespearean theatre with heritage at its heart. 

Since 2021, I have been supporting local organisations, helping them apply for funding for heritage projects that connect people in Knowsley to stories that matter most and build on the pride that they have for the area. 

People watching the outdoor planetarium at the Cronton Sun, Moon and Stars event
The outdoor planetarium at the Cronton Sun, Moon and Stars event as part of Knowsley Bourgh of Culture. Photo: Knowsley Council.

National Lottery funding making a difference in Knowsley

During our last Strategic Funding Framework, Knowsley was identified as an Area of Focus – one of 13 places that had historically received lower levels of investment from us and would benefit from targeted support to apply for our funding.

In the time Knowsley was an Area of Focus, from 2019 to 2024, the number of successful applications from organisations in the borough almost doubled. 

Our work in Knowsley is built on our foundations of previous large investments in the borough including a £4.1m Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) in Prescot in 2012. This heritage-led regeneration means that the area surrounding Shakespeare North Playhouse boasts independent businesses and public spaces that celebrate the character of Prescot’s historic town centre.

The investment has given us the confidence to aim high and deliver ambitious and game-changing projects that have been driven by our communities and their connection to their heritage.

Melanie Lewis, Chief Executive of Shakespeare North Playhouse

The development of the new theatre provided an opportunity to engage people further in the town's connection to Shakespeare. We've proudly supported two heritage projects at Shakespeare North Playhouse with £265,892 which enabled 45 Community Curators to undertake 900 hours of research. These local people went on to share this new knowledge on hoardings, during the build through guided tours, on beer mats in local bars and in the physical make-up of the building including a 10.5m embroidery.

A section of a large-scale embroidery that shows different images relating to Shakespeare North Playhouse
A section of the 10.5m embroidery on display at Shakespeare North Playhouse. Photo: Ellen Hunter.

Melanie Lewis, Chief Executive of Shakespeare North Playhouse, says: “The investment the Heritage Fund has given to Knowsley over the last few years has given us the confidence to aim high and deliver ambitious and game-changing projects that have been driven by our communities and their connection to their heritage.”

We've since awarded Shakespeare North Playhouse £228,850 for their Our Town’s Sound project which will take local people on a journey to uncover the heritage of language and local dialect.  

Building strong foundations to support heritage

Our support for the development of Shakespeare North Playhouse is just one example of how a place-based approach has helped to embed heritage in the borough – small grants have also proven to be effective.

One Knowsley received our funding for a community grants programme that saw 25 voluntary, community and social sector organisations in Knowsley awarded grants between £250 and £3,000 to explore and share heritage that mattered to them. One grant recipient, Rhiannon Canavan from L14 Community House reflected on how a relatively small grant was having a huge impact. She said: “We’re going further and further, and we are not stopping at that, and it’s our community who are doing it!”

Shanna Lennon with volunteers from a project that received a community grant
Shanna Lennon, Engagement Manager with volunteers from Friends of Court Hey who had a project under the community grants scheme. Photo: One Knowlsey.

It’s been a privilege to work with so many passionate people that are so invested in their community. I'm pleased that these small grants have led to organisations applying directly to us for further support. This is set to continue, with a Heritage Network being created through the Knowsley Golden Thread Heritage project which we're supporting. The network will help more groups to realise the potential of heritage projects to spark joy and create opportunities for local people. 

Heritage at the heart of Knowsley's future

As Knowsley Borough Council reveals its plans for its golden year, supported by a Heritage Fund award of £180,000, it’s exciting to see how ambitious organisations in Knowsley have heritage central to their plans for the future. I Iook forward to seeing what comes next.

Our work in Areas of Focus was guided by a vision for heritage as key to supporting thriving places and communities.  We’re building on what we’ve learned to continue our targeted support.

In October last year, we launched Heritage Places, our £200m strategic initiative to forge long-term partnerships with towns and cities across the UK to tackle longstanding heritage issues at scale.

Inspired to apply for funding?

As part of our Heritage 2033 strategy, we are continuing to support heritage projects in towns and cities across the UK that boost local pride and contribute to the local economy. Explore some of the inspiring projects we’ve funded near you. 

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