How Walsall’s heritage is thriving
Walsall is known as the ‘town of a hundred trades’. Its bustling heritage scene includes Walsall Leather Museum and historic green spaces like the Arboretum, first opened in 1874.
Since 2021 I have been helping organisations in Walsall with information about our funding and supporting applicants with tailored feedback.
Walsall as an Area of Focus
Walsall is one of 13 places across the UK selected as an Area of Focus by the Heritage Fund for 2019 – 2024. Despite challenges from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the cost of living crisis, we have supported Walsall’s diverse communities to deliver a range of impressive projects.
It’s my privilege to work with many people and organisations from across the area who are passionate about heritage and proactive in developing projects to engage wider audiences.
Through Area of Focus status we have been able to better work collaboratively across the region, and support local organisations to unlock the potential of heritage projects to benefit local communities.
Benjamin Parker, Heritage Programme Officer at Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council
National Lottery funding is making a difference in Walsall
We’ve funded organisations working on some great nature recovery projects:
- The Bumblebee Conservation Trust (awarded £222,628) is creating urban bee habitats at their community volunteering hub.
- The Froglife Trust (awarded £248,148) is creating wildlife corridors for reptile and amphibian wildlife.
- The Learning through Landscapes Trust (awarded £249,708) is helping 26 schools and community groups learn about and improve their natural spaces.
Several first-time applicants for our funding have been working to increase under-served communities’ involvement with heritage:
- Rosetinted Financial Services CIC (awarded £41,476) used Walsall’s rich heritage and creative activities to improve the wellbeing of women in their support network.
- Plasma of Hope (awarded £9,873) ran trips to heritage sites for young people with genetic blood disorders and their families, who struggle to access heritage.
Building strong foundations to support heritage
We’ve also been working with Walsall Council to develop their ability to support and encourage projects to preserve and share heritage. In 2020 we awarded £249,000 to fund a full-time Heritage Programme Officer, a part-time Conservation Officer, a Heritage Strategy and Action Plan, a Heritage Forum and a community grants programme. With this in place, we’ve seen a healthy pipeline of project ideas coming through.
Walsall Council has also thought innovatively to secure additional funding for heritage. Its community grants programme used a crowdfunding model to make the most of public support. The council also secured UK Shared Prosperity Funding from the government to support heritage activities.
Heritage at the heart of Walsall’s future
It’s my pleasure to be involved in such interesting and impactful work, and I look forward to seeing everyone’s great work grow beyond 2024 and into the future. Our initial investment in Walsall has been a great success, and the council is ambitious about heritage having a central place in its plans for the future.
The Heritage Programme Officer and Conservation Officer are heavily involved in the Guildhall project, which is working to regenerate a historic building into a creative hub with a multi-million pound Cultural Development Fund grant. The council has also launched its own Heritage Spark programme to help local organisations explore new partnerships and project ideas.
Benjamin Parker, Heritage Programme Officer at Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, told me: “We have sought to make the most of the diversity of Walsall’s collective story. Through Area of Focus status we have been able to better work collaboratively across the region, and support local organisations to unlock the potential of heritage projects to benefit local communities.
“We have set out on our Walsall 2040 journey, and we know that our heritage will play a key role in delivering that prosperous future.”
Inspired to apply for funding?
As part of our Heritage 2033 strategy, we'll continue supporting heritage projects in towns and cities across the UK that boost local pride and contribute to the local economy. Heritage can be anything from the past that you value and want to pass on to future generations. Explore some of the inspiring projects we’ve funded near you.