Coinciding with the publication of new research that states 72% of UK adults have found solace in outdoor spaces during the Covid-19 outbreak, the National Lottery has sought to highlight the work of several individuals who have embodied the sector’s collective approach to the current crisis.

The study also highlights that 43% of people cite heritage sites as making them feel more relaxed and less anxious in difficult times, with 49% saying such institutions make them proud of their local area.

One of the people singled out for praise is English Heritage’s operations manager at Stonehenge, James Rodliff. Having worked throughout the lockdowns as visitors remained away and 92% of the workforce was on furlough, he is credited with playing a pivotal role in maintaining the 5,000 year old landmark and helping devise a plan for safe reopening.

Art Fund – Going Places – Oct 2023
James Rodliff stands next to an image of himself projected onto Stonehenge © Matt Alexander/PA Wire

Rodliff says he was “surprised and humbled” by the National Lottery’s recognition and “certainly didn’t expect to turn up to work and see my face up in lights.” All his English Heritage colleagues across the country have “worked exceptionally hard” to care for their respective sites, he adds.

Sector saviours

Other individuals singled out for praise by the National Lottery include:

  • Mick Byrne, a volunteer from the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire
  • William Colvin, who has been working to rescue the deconsecrated Cushendun Old Chuch and subsequently keep it functioning and accessible during lockdown
  • Uzo Iwobi OBE, founder of Race Council Cymru Wales
  • Susan Pitter, The Jamaica Society, Leeds
  • Luke Strachan, CEO of Wild Things
  • Lee Turner, Penllergare Trust, Wales
  • Jade West, volunteer Co-ordinator at Skylark IX Recovery Trust in West Dunbartonshire

“Without the graft and tireless effort of these wonderful people, our much-loved heritage would be more at risk than ever this year,” notes Sir Tony Robinson, who digitally hosted the event.

“As a nation we have a deep love for our open spaces and historic places. Understanding our heritage makes us feel closer to where we live and can bring a great deal of joy,” he adds, referencing the newly-published research.

The National Lottery has supported almost 1,000 heritage organisations and projects since the pandemic hit UK shores in March, with Ros Kerslake CBE, chief executive of National Lottery Heritage Fund, saying it is the tireless effort of people such as those celebrated in the event at Stonehenge that “keep these places going and make our visits memorable”.

“I would like to thank each and every one of them for their passion, commitment and the profound and positive impact they are having on the sector,” she concludes.

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