DCMS blog

First World War Centenary: what will be our legacy?

by

Jenny Abramsky

Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) explains how Lottery money is available to help communities across the UK explore their First World War heritage.


Next year will mark 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War. Whilst sadly it didn’t prove to be the war to end all wars, its impact was and remains incredibly far reaching; it dramatically changed society as it had been for centuries and shaped the modern world we live in today.
Speaking with friends and colleagues about the legacy of the First World War, I have been struck by how varied their interpretations have been. Poignant, tragic, cataclysmic and wasteful are just some of the words they used to describe this war; but brave, inspirational and proud were all equally prominent. What is obvious is that the experiences and views of this war are diverse and that a single approach to marking this Centenary just isn’t going to be appropriate.
Solder and mother image from the IWM

Centenary legacy

So today, the HLF is launching First World War; then and now, a £6 million small grants programme designed specifically to help communities mark the Centenary in the way that best suits them. We are offering grants between £3,000 and £10,000 so that people, and in particular young people, can explore, conserve, and – what I believe is most important – share their First World War heritage. It is my hope that together we will create a Centenary legacy that future generations can look to and draw upon.
At HLF we have already started to build this legacy, having invested £12 million since 2010 into projects exploring the First World War. Major grants include £4.5 million to enable the Imperial War Museum in London to develop its new First World War Galleries and £2.7 million to the Tank Museum in Dorset.
We have also awarded grants to a range of inspirational smaller community projects. Volunteers in Huddersfield have been researching the history of their local rugby league, in particular the impact the War had on their local club. Local people in the Wylye Valley in Wiltshire are finding out how this rural community was transformed during the early months of the War when a six mile site of temporary army camps were set up to train soldiers to fight in France; and black families in Liverpool have been researching their histories and learning about how their ancestors were involved in the war.

Fascinating stories

There are so many First World War stories to explore, communities might find it difficult to know where to start. There are the experiences of the soldiers from across the British Empire, who fought, died and survived not only the battlefields of Flanders, but also Mesopotamia and Gallipoli; there are the doctors and nurses who dealt with extraordinary trauma resulting from this new era of modern, industrialised warfare; there are the women, who for the first time left their homes and their families to work in the fields, work in the factories and the offices; and there are those people who were left behind, to ‘keep the home fires burning’.
At HLF, we are laying down the challenge to local communities across the UK to seek out these fascinating and important stories, many of which may now be hidden away, lost from living memory. Our funding is ready and waiting to help create a Centenary legacy that will ensure they are remembered and live on for at least another hundred years.
Find out how to apply for a grant. Follow us on twitter @heritagelottery #understandingWW1

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