JUST a quarter of churches are open for longer, or attracting
new people, after receiving a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund
(HLF), and half have not recorded any new visitors at all, a survey
of 100 grant-recipients has shown.
The results of the survey, conducted in 2010, were presented to
the Historic Churches Liaison Group Conference at St Chad's Roman
Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham this month. Delegates from church
trusts around the country heard that, in order to apply for grants,
they must show that they plan to ensure that more people engage
with the building. They were offered reassurance, however, that
this need not be a cause for anxiety.
The head of historic environment at the HLF, Ian Morrison, who
was the main speaker at the conference, said on Wednesday that each
grant-application now needed to outline "some way of involving more
people with the buildings. This can be in a really simple way, such
as developing a website or a guidebook, or doing tours of the
church." The requirement was applied "proportionally and
pragmatically: we will not expect a small, rural church in Norfolk
to deliver the same kind of activities as an urban church in the
middle of London. We will take into account what they already
A consultation about HLF's general strategic framework for
2013-18, carried out in 2011, secured a response that was "broadly
very supportive" about the change in emphasis, Mr Morrison said.
"People understand that getting more people interested in buildings
will help to secure their future." His conversations with
churchwardens, however, had shown that some "already feel they have
a lot on their plate, and this additional requirement is another
thing for them to worry about". He sought to reassure them that the
grant would pay for the engagement activity. Showing in the
application that such an activity was planned required a "very
simple statement", and a member of the HLF development-team would
guide applicants through the process.
The conference heard examples of how access can be improved.
Stuart Beattie, from the Scottish Churches Trust, described
"Pilgrim Journey", a national network of pilgrim routes introducing
"pilgrims" to places of worship. Philippa Woodcraft, from the
charity Through the Roof, explained that many places of worship
needed to improve access for people with disabilities, and that the
charity could help to achieve this.
Mr Morrison's presentation is available here.