I’ve always had a soft spot for the Heritage Lottery Fund. One of the original good causes when the Lottery was set up more than 16 years ago, it has been quietly going about its business and, with the bare minimum of fuss and kerfuffle, has been putting money into projects and programmes that have had a fantastic impact on our built, cultural and natural heritage.
More than 30,000 of them, in fact, which have shared around £4,500,000,000.00 between them since it all began in 1994. I’m spelling out each sum of money in this piece in its longest possible form, by the way, because they bear thinking about for a moment.
These are enormous sums of money and even more impressive, I think, when you remember that it’s all come from people buying Lottery tickets and scratch cards, and doing so of their own free will and in the knowledge (albeit in a subliminal kind of way in most cases, I concede) that nearly a third – 28 pence in the pound – of their stake is going to good causes. And there’s a lot of 28ps in four and a half billion quid, adding up to an amazing number of tickets sold – and that’s for just one of the good causes. It’s much the same for the arts, sport and charities too.
Lottery good causes
Anyway, back to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). As I mentioned in this blog a few weeks ago, the HLF is set to do even better in the future. Better, that is, in the sense that they will be getting an extra £50,000,000.00 a year once our changes to take the Lottery good causes back to their roots take effect this year, and the temporary diversion of dosh to help fund the Olympics has been turned off next year. So, from 1 April 2012, the HLF will have around £300,000,000.00 a year to distribute.
Now sharp-eyed observers of the Westminster scene will have picked up the fact that the Government is not at all keen on decisions being taken – and public money being spent – by organisations who have no particular relationship with, or direct accountability to, the people providing the money that’s spent (not to mention paying the wages of those who do the spending). It’s all part and parcel of the Big Society idea that we want to see freshen up our public institutions and ways of doing things.
Lottery distributors need to be independent of Government, of course, but that doesn’t exempt them, in my view, from the basic good principles of public conduct and customer care.
So three cheers to the HLF. Why? Because they have decided to mark their funding uplift with a comprehensive exercise in trying to find out what people actually want their Lottery money to be spent on and I commend you to take part in the consultation questionnaire. They will also be directly soliciting views from heritage and community groups, and organising events around the country to pull in more ‘local’ views and ideas.
Finally, congratulations to Simon Hulstone who I also wrote about recently. You may recall he was our representative in the Bocuse d’Or, which is a sort of Chefs’ Olympics where the world’s finest cooks prepare a meat and a fish platter which is then judged by an international panel of experts. It took place in Lyon at the end of last month. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland took the first four places respectively, marking a sensational result for Scandinavia, and a long-overdue reassessment, I suspect, by many people who thought that ‘variations on a pickled herring’ was all that this most beautiful part of the world could muster in the way of cuisine. Simon, however, finished an honourable 13th out of 24, with:
Dashi-poached Scottish monkfish loin with wild fennel pollen
Langoustine and caviar “buttons”
Lemon-infused salsify with smoked salmon
“Medusa” – monkfish liver and crispy shirazu
Royale of Jerusalem artichoke, truffle and pea
verjus and spring onion butter
Loin of Scotland’s finest lamb with sweetbreads
“Spiral” of shoulder
Textures of beetroot
Couscous “Domino” with cucumber ketchup and watermelon
Charlotte of asparagus and pea, foie gras bon bon
He came ahead of Italy, China, Spain and, let me see, Australia. So well done to him. I gather that his heart sank when he was allocated monkfish for the first platter – it’s a tricky one to pull off at this level apparently.
As this piece about the competition illustrates, Simon is clearly cross that he didn’t finish higher but takes consolation from his two young children. He writes: ‘Tansy and Cicely, who were there in Lyon, were still impressed – they said I was ‘fandabbydosey’ and ‘the best daddy in the world’.’
And I know there are a few million fathers who know exactly how good that feels.
Wrest Park, Thomas Archer Pavilion image © English Heritage
Monkfish image by Graham Holliday on flickr. Some rights reserved.