Lessons learnt from 30 years of place-based investment
It has been almost 30 years since the creation of the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Since then, we’ve invested £8.8m in more than 51,000 heritage projects, from small local heritage projects to major investment at scale. We launched our new strategy in March 2023 setting out our ambitions for the next 10 years, and our vision for heritage to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future.
We see the impact our investment in heritage has on individuals and communities right across the UK, how exploring heritage helps us understand ourselves and our society through our shared past, and how connecting with the beauty of our natural, built and cultural environment can inspire and bring joy. Heritage also has a core role in reflecting the close bond that communities have with the places they live and work. It brings to life their stories and is a foundation for the economic, social, and cultural life of villages, towns, cities and countryside.
That’s why our new initiative, Heritage Places – as set out in our 10-year strategy Heritage 2033 – puts place where it belongs, at the heart of inspiring change. We’ve been funding place-based projects since we started. We know that in the right environment, and with the right conditions, transformation is possible. Places, and their people, can thrive – from city centre initiatives to green spaces and seaside towns.
Bangor, Co Down, is a fine example where our funding has reconnected the town and its people with their cultural identity and been a catalyst for regeneration. It’s been wonderful to watch business, arts, community and the local authority come together to revive “Bangor by the Sea” and the “Open House Festival”; as well as rescue and transform a former bank and courthouse – The Court House – into a focal point for music, heritage and creativity. Much loved by the community it’s been shortlisted for a 2023 National Lottery Award.
However, we also know that it takes sustained investment over time to maximise the positive impact on a local area’s economy, from jobs and skills to wellbeing and community-building. The partnerships that are vital for the successful delivery of heritage projects take time to form and grow. Additional opportunities arise and flourish when the initial potential of projects is realised. Capital projects and skills development take time to be realised. Pride in place is an ambition we work towards, but we realise transformation doesn’t happen overnight.
That’s why we’re allocating £200m to the long-term funding of 20 Heritage Places to boost the capacity of these places and communities to develop partnerships and draw out the potential of these places.
In early October we were pleased to announce the first nine of an eventual 20 Heritage Places across the UK. These places are: Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon; County Durham; Glasgow; Leicester; Medway; Neath Port Talbot; North East Lincolnshire; Stoke-on-Trent; and Torbay.
Benefits of a long-term perspective
Our strategy consultation found that people wanted us to do even more to address the challenges heritage faces and to increase the positive contribution it makes to life in the UK. Our longer-term view in Heritage Places allows us to invest in heritage for the future as well as for the present and will better enable our investments to change people’s futures.
Our goal is to respond to local needs from the earliest stages as part of an exciting and ambitious long-term vision for every Heritage Place to enable profound transformation. Over the 10-year period, we’ll take an integrated approach across heritage, community and civic organisations, building close partnerships that share ambitions for people and place.
Heritage Places is our first major initiative within Heritage 2033, and we plan further major initiatives, including for our natural environment, with more to follow as the year unfolds. For now, though, we wish the communities and partnerships in these nine Heritage Places, bon voyage on their 10-year journey. We will be with them every step of the way. A final thanks to those who make this possible – National Lottery players – who enable heritage to continue to inspire, challenge, delight, and fascinate now and in the future.
Main Image: Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive, The National Lottery Heritage Fund (Steven Heywood)