Let’s talk about young people and heritage

Let’s talk about young people and heritage

Sarah Lanchin
With our open programmes there are lots of opportunities to apply for funding to connect children and young people to the UK's heritage.

This year marks the 25th Birthday of The National Lottery.

 At The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we have a long history of funding heritage projects with children and young people.

Since 2002 through Young Roots, and more recently Kick the Dust, an ambitious £10million programme to transform how heritage engages young people aged 11 to 25, we have encouraged bold partnerships between heritage and youth organisations.

What have we learned along the way?

Heritage and young people do mix...

Heritage touches all our lives and can mean different things to different people. This gives loads of scope for children and young people to decide what is important to them and what types of heritage project they would like to create. We have funded projects from hip hop to chip shops, YouTubers to virtual reality.

We know from our experience of funding creative and fun projects, that children and young people enjoy heritage and can become strong advocates for the future.  

young people
Participants in the Thriving Child in the North event. Credit: Muhammad Ibrahim and Tom Edwards

Engaging with heritage can help young people's confidence and understanding

Getting involved with heritage can be an exciting way for children and young people to learn about their communities and themselves and to tackle some of the big issues that we face as a society. They can develop their communication skills, improve their self-esteem, increase wellbeing and boost their confidence. 

I’ve been so encouraged to see young people, through projects we have funded:

  • getting to grips with our changing climate
  • re-presenting heritage so that it’s inclusive and reflects the identities of everyone involved
  • queering and de–colonising collections
  • giving voices to those whose stories have been silenced or lost in the passing of time

Let young people plan projects

Young people are more than capable of planning and executing exciting heritage projects.

But first we need to make sure that they know these opportunities exist. Secondly, we need to demystify the notion that heritage is only available for certain parts of society. One way we did this was through a live chat with young people about removing barriers to participation.

It takes time and patience to build good relationships and create different ways for young people to participate. For some it will be as collaborators, for some co-production or leadership, and for others it will be as a participant or audience member. And that’s OK.

Young people panel event
A panel at the Thriving Child in the North event. Credit: Muhammad Ibrahim and Tom Edwards



Whatever way young people choose to take part it’s important that it’s done with openness about what the limits are, and honesty about how much power and control your organisation is willing to share.

Importantly, remember to check who is represented within the project and who is missing.

We need to make sure we are creating the right conditions for them to join in.

Be creative with heritage

There is so much our funding can help you do. We have seen young people taking to waterways, looking after wetlands, blacksmithing, woodworking, curating, project planning, creating augmented and virtual reality, decolonising collections, commissioning projects, coordinating festivals, revitalising parks and much much more.

So what are we looking for?

Our new open programmes provide lots of opportunities to apply for funding to connect children and young people to the heritage of the UK.

Our outcomes now include a mandatory requirement to involve a wider range of people, which fits well with involving young people in heritage. There is also a brand-new outcome around creating greater wellbeing. Heritage projects can be a great vehicle for improving the wellbeing of children and young people.

Find out more

Find out more about what we're doing.

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