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HLF links grants to improved access

31 May 2013


"The Great Salisbury": one of a series of monu­mental "six-footer" paintings by John Constable - and the work that he thought was his best -Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831, has been secured for the British public at a price of £23.1 million with tax concessions. The funding was raised through many grants and donations, including £15.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The painting will be on show at Tate Britain until the end of 2013, after which it will tour the UK

"The Great Salisbury": one of a series of monu­mental "six-footer" paintings by John Constable - and the work that he thought was his best -Salisbur...

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 do."

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.

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