Having been established in the immediate aftermath of lockdown restrictions meaning the entire UK heritage sector effectively went into hibernation, the £50 million Heritage Emergency Fund released grant funding quicker than ever before to ensure organisations could cover costs such as core staff salaries, essential maintenance and utility bills.

56% of applicants had three months or less remaining in cash reserves. “This is the biggest heritage crisis I have seen in my lifetime. Every area of heritage we support has been severely affected, from wildlife trusts and gardens to museums and historic railways,” says Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund. “Many of the places we know and love faced permanent closure within weeks of the start of lockdown.”

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The highest proportion of grants were channelled to organisations that manage historic buildings and monuments – 29% of the entire portfolio. Community and intangible heritage, including cultural associations and those supporting traditional skills, accounted for 26%, while museums, libraries and archives received 19%. Industrial, maritime and transport heritage sites received a tenth of the Heritage Fund support.

“We realised that heritage would need significant support to survive, and we have worked incredibly hard to provide a lifeline and get grants out of the door in record time,” Kerslake continues. “We cannot save everyone and challenges still lie ahead, but we are grateful that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to help so many.”

Grants were awarded between £3,000 and £250,000 across the full breadth of the UK’s heritage sector. £217,500 was given to Glastonbury Abbey to help maintain its ruins and grounds and to provide PPE for front of house staff in preparation for reopening. Meanwhile, the equally vital sum of £9,300 was directed to The Listening Gallery, which offers visitors to the Yorkshire Dales chance to listen to stories in a heritage phone box.

“We know heritage still faces challenging times ahead, and we want to help where we can,” Ros Kerslake concludes. “We are planning additional UK-wide recovery and resilience funding and support from later this year, and we’ll share more details as soon as we can.”

The Heritage Emergency Fund has now closed but National Lottery Heritage Fund continues to offer support for heritage organisations via the £88 million Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage in England.

An additional £1.5 million will continue to be ploughed into the Digital Skills for Heritage initiative, set up to help the sector produce guides and delivering webinars.

Information on all the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s work can be found here.

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