HLF Chief Executive

‘Demand never been higher’ – HLF Chief Executive tells AIM conference

HLF chief executive Ros Kerslake also told AIM Conference delegates meeting at the Historic Dockyard Chatham that the role of museums in understanding our individual and collective identity has never been more important

In her first major speech to the museums sector, Ros Kerslake said museums are a key beneficiary of HLF’s open programmes, especially £100k+ Heritage Grants and the annual £5m+ Major Batch awards. Funding programmes, such as HLF’s Resilient Heritage Funding, which was introduced in summer 2016, supports heritage organisations in making the shift to being ‘cultural businesses’.

“Demand for our funding has never been higher, she said. “For this year’s ‘major batch’ Board meeting, we received grant requests totaling £224m for an available budget of £40m.  This poses some challenging questions that we need to think about together.”

Research commissioned for HLF by DC Research as part of its submission to the Museums Review showed that investment in capital schemes for refurbishment, new galleries and new visitor facilities had a direct impact on increased revenue:

  • 81 per cent of museums surveyed reported some level of improvement in their overall financial sustainability since receiving HLF capital funding
  • More than half reported that capital funding made a major contribution to new sources of revenue income: trading/commercial income (71 per cent); venue and room hire (67 per cent); public programmes (65 per cent); café/restaurant (62 per cent); retail (including gift shop) (50 per cent); admissions and entrance fees (50 per cent)

“Museums have a key role to play in helping people understand identity,” she said. “And at a time when that role has never been more critical, they need to continue to develop ways of operating in a sustainable fashion, as cultural businesses rather than cultural institutions.”

Kerslake said that HLF will be working with the museums sector to consider a number of key questions such as:

  • Should HLF be capping major grants to ensure funding is spread across a greater number of beneficiaries?
  • Should there be an expectation of higher levels of match funding?
  • Is there a place for low-interest or interest-free loans?

“The Heritage Lottery Fund can fund projects and can support resilience, but we can’t fill the gaps in public sector spending. We would like to work with museums on developing their strategic options. We supported the parks sector with our groundbreaking Rethinking Parks report, looking at alternative and emerging funding and sustainability models; we are now in discussions with ACE and Nesta about a similar piece of work around ‘Rethinking Museums’.”

She also said there would be a stronger push from HLF for museums to acknowledge the National Lottery and the contribution made by National Lottery player.

She continued: “One way of getting best value for National Lottery players is through ensuring that our funding has long-term traction, ensuring that heritage organisations are fit for purpose and financially robust.”

Kerslake also indicated future thinking about funding new museums: “It’s a challenge for us, with increased demand, to strike a balance between funding new attractions and the existing heritage estate.”