DCMS blog

Learn more about your local heritage

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Michael Wood

Historian and TV broadcaster

Historian and TV broadcaster Michael Wood encourages you to dig deeper into your community’s history.

Last summer, I spent several months travelling across the UK for the BBC2 series, The Great British Story: A People’s History. It was developed in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which at the time was piloting an imaginative small grants programme called All Our Stories.
Together, this provided the perfect backdrop to encourage people to get involved in digging deeper into their past and explore the place they call home or the community they belong to. This wasn’t about big picture stuff but the minutiae of everyday life.
The ensuing response was huge and HLF was inundated with applications. As a result the original budget was quadrupled, enabling thousands of people to find out more about the local history, customs and traditions that are important to them. A kaleidoscope of unusual stories of communities is starting to come into sharp relief with people in Salford remembering their lost pubs, school children in Sheffield learning about its role as the birthplace of football, communities in Nottingham discovering why the city is synonymous with bicycles and others in Leicester learning about its connection to the shoe industry. Those are just a few examples of a much wider portfolio of projects which are being led by or involve enthusiastic volunteers who are the lifeblood of such endeavours.
I’m proud to add I have become something of a cheerleader for this strand of HLF’s work and today will be joining them at the People’s History Museum in Manchester to launch a follow-on programme called Sharing Heritage. This will provide quick access to grants from £3,000 to £10,000 with a total annual budget of £3m.
MichaelWooddigging.jpgPeople will be able to tap into a sense of history, shared endeavour and community spirit with an endless range of possible projects …from collecting and digitising old photos to conserving wildlife and from managing and training volunteers to celebrating stories from the past. It’ll be exciting to see what emerges but a bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: “You never know what you’re gonna get.”
At a personal level, I take my heritage inspirations from where I grew up in Manchester. Whilst I no longer live there it continues to have a strong influence on my life and draws me back on a regular basis. That’s where my roots are and despite living in London and having been fortunate enough to travel the world, I will always be a Mancunian at heart. More and more, people feel a need to belong to and understand their surroundings and funding from ‘Sharing Heritage’ will provide a range of opportunities for them to get more in tune with the heritage right on their doorstep.
Sharing Heritage is set to inspire people to roll up their sleeves, get involved and get digging (either literally or metaphorically) – so what are you waiting for?
For further information visit: www.hlf.org.uk/sharingheritage

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