Case study: heritage supporting revitalisation in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft

Case study: heritage supporting revitalisation in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft

a night-time view of Great Yarmouth's waterfront
Great Yarmouth.
Heritage Fund investment has helped kickstart regeneration in the seaside towns with broad economic and social benefits.

Over the last 30 years we’ve invested over £27million of National Lottery funding into the Great Yarmouth area. The projects we’ve funded range from community heritage to transformational work restoring large historic sites and building collaboration between local partners.

The place

Great Yarmouth boasts a large amount of heritage from its heyday as a seaside destination and the legacy of the fishing industry but struggles with severe deprivation and a lack of engagement with culture.

Heritage and culture are at the centre of a long-term strategy and investment in the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft area. This is helping to establish these places as cultural destinations and create the right conditions for regeneration.

Investments have helped local organisations restore historic sites, celebrate public programmes and engage in cross-sector collaborations.

Robyn Llewellyn, Area Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund

The projects

Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft benefitted from the Great Places Scheme

As part of the Great Places Scheme, our joint initiative with Arts Council England and Historic England, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft were awarded £737,900 in 2017. Working with nine local delivery partners, the Making Waves Together project drove the cultural re-imagination of both seaside towns.

Public spaces and heritage assets were animated with arts, events and activities to attract visitors and investment to the area. Affordable space was provided for local artists and creative enterprises looking to set up shop.

Cross-sector collaboration was encouraged between organisations responsible for heritage, arts, community and economic development. Bringing these stakeholders together was key to making culture and heritage central to wider regeneration plans.

An older woman and a young child do craft activities together
The Lowestoft Folk project connected people across generations in creative activities exploring local folk heritage.

Our long legacy of National Lottery investment

Examples of projects we've supported in the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft area include: 

  • 2016: £1.77m awarded for vital repairs to Great Yarmouth's historic Venetian Waterways, conserving local heritage while opening up new opportunities for tourism, nature conservation and regeneration.
  • 2018-2019: An artist-led intergenerational project exploring local folk traditions, Lowestoft Folk had a meaningful impact on participants' perceptions of folk heritage.
  • 2018-2021: Burgh Castle Roman Fort in Great Yarmouth hosted a ‘culture therapy’ project, demonstrating how heritage can foster confidence, mental health resilience and a sense of belonging.
  • 2021-2025: Lowestoft Town Council is restoring the Grade II listed Lowestoft Town Hall with £3.2m in National Lottery funding. This work will establish a community venue to engage local people, improve residents’ lives and transform the town’s historic heart.
People boating at Great Yarmouth's Venetian Waterways
People boating at Great Yarmouth's Venetian Waterways.

Transforming the Winter Gardens: Great Yarmouth’s Heritage Horizons project

Recently we’ve invested £12.3m in a transformational Heritage Horizon Award for Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s project Winter Gardens – Reimagining the People’s Palace.

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: “This exciting regeneration will be a stunning addition to what we are able to offer residents and visitors and demonstrates our commitment to regeneration in the borough. Such an important and complex piece of work would simply not be possible without the Heritage Fund showing this level of support to the vision for the building.”

A computer generated image of the refurbished Winter Gardens
Our funding is restoring the Winter Gardens to revive this Victorian landmark as a vibrant community and events venue for the 21st century. Credit: Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

The impact

Making Waves Together, the Great Places Scheme project, shows what's possible from partnership working across an area. Between 2017 and 2020 the project made tremendous strides engaging both existing and new audiences through heritage in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft:

  • 745,884 audience opportunities were created 
  • over 13,000 residents took part in arts and heritage initiatives, many for the first time
  • 63 local schools took part, involving 6,300 pupils
  • 50 new networks were established between the heritage sector and other key stakeholders
  • 199 volunteers reported not just enjoyment but also higher civic pride in their town’s identity

Councillor Sarah Whitelock, East Suffolk Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Leisure and Tourism, said: “Making Waves Together ended in 2020, but residents [are] experiencing more heritage and arts opportunities than ever before. Lowestoft has fully embraced the value of culture on building stronger communities, enabling creative industries to flourish and reinventing our historic assets into creative venues to help transform our town centres.’’ 

Great Yarmouth's tourism industry saw steady growth between 2017 and the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In 2018, 7.6m visitors generated £635m in value and supported 12,622 tourism-related jobs.

Robyn Llewellyn, Area Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: "Over the past decade, we have seen great change sweep through Great Yarmouth, bringing vibrancy to the seaside town and wider area. Investments made possible thanks to National Lottery players have helped local organisations restore historic sites, celebrate public programmes and engage in cross-sector collaborations."

The future

Great Yarmouth Borough Council's Tourism Strategy aims to deliver ambitious projects that expand and enrich the town's cultural and heritage offer to further enhance wellbeing and economic prosperity. The ambition is that by 2030, visitors will come all year round to enjoy the area’s natural and built environment and diverse culture.

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