A quarter of a million pounds grant has been secured by the University of Bedfordshire to fund a capacity-building and skills development project for the communities of Luton, Bedford and Central Bedfordshire.
Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and overseen by the Arts & Culture Projects team, the project will launch this spring and run for approximately two and a half years, culminating in the summer of 2023.
It will expand on previous TestBeds activity with a focus on enterprise, extending activity to support cultural and community practitioners and organisations working across Bedfordshire’s heritage sector.
Emma Gill, arts & culture projects manager, was the driving force behind the University’s successful application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. She said:
“I am grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund which has supported the realisation of this project. COVID-19 has illustrated how vulnerable non-tangible and community heritage is if not supported.
“This is especially the case in Bedfordshire, including in Luton, where we have rich community heritage that is nationally and internationally applicable. But without local support and investment, stories will continue to be untold and practitioners will seek opportunities elsewhere.”
The University of Bedfordshire said the £250k funding comes at a time when diverse community heritage is at risk of collapse due to the impact COVID-19 has had on local people and the cultural sector.
The Heritage Project will be split into two parts, including a Heritage Impact Accelerator programme launching in April 2021.
The second component of the project is a Heritage Enterprise Hub, launching in the summer. This Hub will be a resource and programme of needs-driven training sessions and events for people in Luton and across wider Bedfordshire.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund helps to resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities. Anne Jenkins, area director of National Lottery Heritage Fund Midlands and East, said:
“We’re really excited about this new partnership with the University of Bedfordshire. Thanks to National Lottery players, this project will enable more opportunities that connect people with Luton and Bedfordshire’s rich and vibrant heritage.
“As we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this project will contribute to bringing people back together over the coming months, inspiring pride in communities and boosting investment in the local economy.”
Further information about the University of Bedfordshire’s Heritage Project and other cultural community activity can be found on the Arts & Culture Projects webpage.