We are all, in every aspect of our lives, living in an unprecedented time of uncertainty and challenge as we face the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its short and long-term impacts.
I know that this is very strongly felt within the heritage community. Just weeks ago, we were looking forward to continuing to fund, support, and celebrate the achievements of thousands of projects in every community across the UK.
Now, every place, every person and every project we work with is facing a very different and uncertain future.
Our treasured heritage
The vital social distancing measures that have been put in place across the UK have seen beloved heritage sites close, volunteering and projects halted and access to our natural world greatly restricted.
However, we have also seen some really creative responses starting to emerge through digital channels as heritage organisations explore how they can share their heritage online and give people access in a different way.
Another positive we can take from this is the resulting outpouring of emotions as people suddenly become distant from their heritage. People are sharing their love for their favourite sites, their favourite wildlife, their favourite groups and much more. It has shown just how treasured our heritage is and just how important it is to our wellbeing and our communities.
"It has shown just how treasured our heritage is and just how important it is to our wellbeing and our communities."
These shared responses are a clear demonstration of the passion and dedication of everyone involved in the sector. And this commitment is going to be vital as we all face the difficult decisions and hard work of navigating this crisis. We are proud to work with you all.
Responding to your concerns
Last week, we received over 1,250 responses to our survey asking for your views and concerns on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Thank you, this has really helped inform how we can help.
And, in working through our response, we are working side by side with the UK and devolved governments, other funders and heritage organisations so that the help and support we offer provides the best possible outcome for heritage. We want heritage organisations to access the most appropriate emergency help and avoid duplicating any support.
Here is what we are going to do
First and foremost, we will continue to support the thousands of projects (over 2,500) we already have in delivery and development across the UK. As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis we will help those projects review and understand their needs, discuss changes of scope or cost and, wherever possible, be flexible on payments, grant conditions and reporting requirements.
Heritage Emergency Fund
In addition, to help respond to the immediate crisis and the impact of temporary closures of many heritage sites and loss of revenue, we are launching a £50million Heritage Emergency Fund. This emergency short-term funding will help address pressures over the next three-six months for those most in need.
"This emergency short-term funding will help address pressures over the next three-six months for those most in need."
And, responding to direct feedback from the sector, we will be accelerating our provision of digital expertise and support for heritage, increasing our investment to provide technical knowhow in areas such as online fund-raising, use of social media, technical infrastructure and use of devices. We are committed to supporting heritage organisations develop new digital and technical skills that will help navigate through this difficult period.
We believe however, that we must prioritise our emergency funding towards our existing grantees, safeguarding the investments we have already made in heritage. We must help where there is limited or no access to other sources of support; where heritage is most at risk; and where an organisation is at risk of failure due to the crisis. When we emerge from this crisis we want our precious heritage to once again be accessible to all communities, across the UK.
For the next few months therefore, all our support at The National Lottery Heritage Fund is going to be focused on supporting heritage organisations through this crisis. As part of this approach and to create the Heritage Emergency Fund, we have taken the decision to pause awarding any new grants through our open programmes for the next six months. We are also delaying our Heritage Horizon Awards until 2021/22.
We will be publishing further details about the Heritage Emergency Fund criteria over the next few days – please keep an eye on our website for news.
We are also working with heritage partners throughout the UK, joining forces so that we can support you in the best way possible. We will keep sharing any further details and changes with you.
"Across all our local teams, we want to work with you to ensure that we return our heritage back to our communities in the best state possible for us all to enjoy once this crisis is over."
Across all our local teams, we want to work with you to ensure that we return our heritage back to our communities in the best state possible for us all to enjoy once this crisis is over.
This will be a tough journey. We recognise that we are not going to be able to help everybody in every way, but we are working as hard as we can to help as much as we possibly can. Please keep talking with us – we are all listening.