Heritage organisations including Titanic Belfast, National Trust NI and Creggan Country Park have been awarded funding, along with self-employed tour guides, stonemasons, coppersmiths and conservators.

The awards made to 50 organisations and 41 individuals aim to safeguard jobs for the long-term and enable recipients to adapt and prepare for reopening or restarting work when restrictions permit.

Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic has received £1.63 million from the Heritage Recovery Fund © Titanic Belfast

“The risks to historic sites, attractions and essential heritage jobs and skills from a sudden and dramatic loss of income as a result of the pandemic, have put the heritage and visitor economy in crisis, and we hope this funding will play a vital role in their recovery,” states Paul Mullan, director, Northern Ireland, National Lottery Heritage Fund.

“Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, creating economic prosperity and supporting personal wellbeing. All of these are going to be vitally important as we emerge from the current pandemic.”

Heritage Recovery Fund

Awards in the latest round of Heritage Recovery Fund grants include:

  • £1.63 million to Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic
    To support the recovery and reopening of the attraction, as well as protect the future of its heritage – a significant driver of global tourism and economic growth for Northern Ireland
  • £325,100 to National Trust NI
    To protect the future of some of Northern Ireland’s significant heritage and tourism assets
  • £167,300 to the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland
    To continue telling the story of the unique heritage of the railways and help to re-open its Whitehead site and museum
  • £72,900 to Creggan Country Park in Derry/Londonderry
    To carry out essential maintenance and protect the natural heritage of the park, ready for its safe-reopening
  • £49,000 to Ulster Architectural Heritage Society
    To support the organisation’s stability and develop their online offering
  • £40,000 to the Indian Community Centre
    To cover essentials costs and protect the heritage of this community in Northern Ireland
  • £3,000 to an experienced heritage tour guide
    She lost all work during the pandemic and will use the grant to adapt her services and keep doing the job she loves
  • £5,000 to a stonemason
    He runs workshops and plans to use his grant to protect his skill and inspire the next generation of stonemasons

The total of £5.28million, part of an overall £29 million allocated to support the arts, heritage and culture in Northern Ireland, is being distributed by The National Lottery Heritage Fund on behalf of the Department for Communities.

By the time the financial year comes to an end the funder will have awarded more than £500 million of National Lottery and UK Government funding to over 1,500 heritage organisations – approximately double its figures for an average year.

Recipients’ relief

Judith Owens, CEO of Titanic Belfast, describes the support pledged to the organisation by National Lottery Heritage Fund as “a lifeline for our recovery to operate and maintain our heritage assets”.

With income having “dropped to zero overnight” last March, “the impact was further exacerbated given that we were coming out of the quietest part of the tourism calendar when cashflow and reserves were at their lowest and preparations had been made for a bumper high season,” she explains.

Department for Communities funding will, Owens hopes, enable the site to “rebuild the business to tell the story of RMS Titanic and Belfast’s industrial heritage through Titanic Belfast, SS Nomadic and the historic Titanic Slipways”.

Self-employed and freelance workers have been hit harder than most by the pandemic’s economic impact. The award of grants to 41 individuals in this latest Heritage Recovery Fund round will offer much-needed respite for industry professionals such as Fergus Purdy, a specialist conservator from Belfast.

Fergus Purdy working at Castle Ward © National Trust NI

Through the course of his three decades restoring and caring for historic pieces of furniture, Purdy has worked on highly significant items including the Chairs of State in the Throne Room of Hillsborough Castle.

“As a result of the closure of heritage sites during the current Covid-19 pandemic, much of my work has been suspended, and many conservation projects have been cancelled,” he explains.

“With work from the heritage sector accounting for 100% of my income, the pandemic has been particularly difficult, and will continue to be so, with many of my clients indicating they will not be in a position to commission work from me for some time. This grant will mean I can continue to keep my business viable during these uncertain times.”

More information on all National Lottery Heritage Fund programmes can be found here.

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