After five years, I’ve really learned one thing about the work of The National Lottery Heritage Fund – that it’s all about people and their stories.
Pride, power – and fun
I’ve visited projects in almost every corner of the United Kingdom and everywhere I’ve gone I’ve seen pride in what has been achieved.
I’ve seen joy – whether at the opening of wonderful new facilities at the Art Fund Museum of the Year, St Fagans in South Wales, the new archive for Cornwall Kresen Kernow in Redruth or the Lews Castle Museum in Stornoway.
I’ve been moved by the impact of parks projects on the lives of the volunteers and by the spirit of reconciliation I witnessed at the new Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre in Huddersfield.
I’ve had fun getting soaked during a very wet boat trip at Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories and I’ve been overawed standing in the dish at Jodrell Bank.
And I’ve seen the power of heritage in helping to transform places like Glasgow, Manchester, Hull, Bristol, Liverpool and Walthamstow.
What links all these heritage projects and so many more is the understanding that it’s the people that matter.
Once upon a time...
I began my last public speech at the opening of the Science Museum’s stunning new Medicine Galleries with “Once upon a time...”. Everyone loves a story, and at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, what we really do is help the nation’s storytellers.
By inspiring their interest in the stories of the past, The National Lottery helps people write happier endings to their own. We help people to begin their lives again – become healthier, learn new skills, volunteer and find new careers.
"A nation that does not properly understand its past cannot safely navigate its future."
Our work should place people at its core, in three different ways:
- the people who play The National Lottery: we owe it all to them and we must ensure they are acknowledged proudly and thanked clearly, so they can see how their money is spent
- the people whose diversity we must reflect: the nation’s heritage and The National Lottery are, by definition, theirs, so diversity - in all its forms - is central to our work
- the people whose lives we change: we do not improve that heritage for its own sake, but to tell the stories of our nation and its people, building stronger communities and changing the lives for the better
Saying thank you
And at the end of my own National Lottery story I thank the thousands of people I have encountered – staff of The National Lottery Heritage Fund and of other heritage and cultural organisations, museum directors, park rangers, archivists, enthusiasts, volunteers, experts, civil servants, local authority members and so many more – for their support, encouragement and kindness.
Together we have helped the people of these amazing islands to tell their stories – and, in many ways, to live more happily ever after.
As I said at my interview five years ago, this also matters because a nation that does not properly understand its past cannot safely navigate its future.
I’m sad to be standing down from a role that has brought me such satisfaction, but I am confident that the refocused, rebranded and relocated National Lottery Heritage Fund is in great shape to continue this important work.