Sir Peter Luff


Speech to the Association of Independent Museums

Friday 24 June at the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh


Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to speak at this year’s conference.

The last time I was in this place I was wearing what I have come to regard as the HLF uniform – hard hat, high-vis jacket and steel-capped shoes.

It was one of many exciting heritage projects - at the building site stage - that I have visited in the last 15 months - and that National Lottery players have helped to fund.

In the world of heritage, we all owe those players a great debt.

Here in the Royal College of Surgeons, HLF funding has enabled the transformation of a private, professional institution, aimed at a specialist audience, into this public facing museum.

It joins a long list of significant projects in Edinburgh and across Scotland that we in the HLF are proud to have been able to help.

I enjoyed meeting many of you at last night’s dinner in these wonderful surroundings.

I thought I understood the wide range of organisations that make up the membership of AIM, but my visits to places as diverse as Beamish, SS Great Britain and the Holocaust Centre have brought home to me, vividly, just how varied this organisation is.

I’m told that this conference grows year on year. 

It’s certainly encouraging to see delegates from such a wide range of museums – including those exploring my secret passion for industrial, maritime and transport heritage - as well as the high proportion of Scottish delegates.

SLIDE – Generic museum images with buildings and people

I have been Chair of HLF for just over a year now.

In that time, I’ve been to all regions and countries of the UK and had the privilege of seeing a wide – almost a bewildering - range of HLF-supported projects.

Although I’ve only seen a fraction of the 40,000 projects we’ve funded over the past twenty-one years, I gave gained an inspiring insight into the dedication and commitment of the enthusiasts – both paid and voluntary - who sustain, interpret and celebrate our heritage.

One of those enthusiasts is Carole Souter, to whom HLF said farewell in May.

Well, perhaps more au revoir.

She was an outstanding Chief Executive over her thirteen years.

Many of you came to know her well in that time.

I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing her every happiness in her new life, which already seems to be packed full if her ebullient tweets are anything to go by!

HLF’s work carries on  - we are looking forward very much to the arrival of our new Chief Executive, Ros Kerslake, in two weeks’ time.

She, like me, is concerned about the sustainability of the various heritage sectors, their diversity and the skills they need to succeed and flourish.

And these are the three main themes of my remarks today – sustainability, diversity and skills.


Independent sector

Some of you may have been at the Museums Association conference in November when I announced a package of measures to help heritage organisations become more sustainable in the longer term.

I would like to take this opportunity to underline again the support that HLF can offer.

Since the introduction of our current strategic framework in 2013 we have challenged ourselves to ensure we have a package of measures in place that reflects your needs.

To put it simply we’re there in your good times - and we’re there in your bad times.

I acknowledge that these are very challenging times for many museums, especially those in the local authority sector.

I know this audience is not made up of representatives of local authority museums.

Equally, we all know that changes in the funding and governance of those museums are likely to have an impact on AIM membership.

Clearly, as more local authority services move to trust status, your sector will grow.

This will put significant demands on organisations like AIM.

Demands to provide information and support. And this information and support is vitally needed.

We at HLF have growing concerns that too often the hasty move to trust status is being seen as a panacea to counter reductions in local authority funding.

That’s why I want to send a clear message to local authorities.

HLF expects to see each of these newly independent civic museums strengthened - not weakened - by becoming a new trust.

At HLF we will support those making the change as much as we can – help them to adapt and to innovate.

Later in the summer we will announce the details of the Resilient Heritage programme that I outlined in my speech at the MA conference.

I can confirm now that it will combine Catalyst small grants, Start Up grants and Transition funding.

I am pleased to say that we will offer larger grants to help organisations revise their:

- and to help them plan for the future.

More of that a little later in the year.

We know that some local authorities will look to this new fund to support the transition from local authority control to charitable trust. 

It is right that councils do this, but I say, ‘Use our funding wisely and thoughtfully’. 

Give yourself adequate time to:

I say this because taking the time to get it right makes for the best use of public money – and National Lottery money is just that, public money.

It’s also the only way to protect the decades of investment, of curatorial care and of public benefaction these local museums embody.

And the ultimate responsibility for the collections will remain with the local authority. If the trust fails, which some re sure to do, then the council will have to step back in.

So it’s worth getting it right first time.
However, we do recognise that problems will occur.

As I said last month in HLF’s evidence to the DCMS Select Committee ‘Countries of Culture Inquiry’, local authorities and museum stakeholders should speak to us quickly if they are getting into trouble.

That’s especially true if they received National Lottery funding in the past or if they are contemplating radical options now.

If a local authority is worried about a museum, it should come to us early, discuss it early, and talk about the problems early in the process.

An early warning really matters – and helps everyone involved.

On a more positive note, many AIM members are thriving and innovating.

I have seen this in the HLF-supported organisations – large and small - that I have visited, here in Scotland and around the United Kingdom,

So, for example, I have high hopes of Kilmartin Museum in Argyll, a project still in delivery, where National Lottery funding is providing:

And, although I’m not sure it’s really a museum, never mind an AIM member, what better way to experience the heritage of the Scottish lochs than by boat?

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company are creating the "Loch Lomond Experience" heritage attraction by restoring the historic paddle steamer Maid of the Loch to steam operation. They are upgrading Balloch Pier, to complement the previously restored Balloch Steam Slipway, also supported by HLF.

An operational Maid of the Loch will give people the opportunity to experience a working, living, steamship and provide a new - vital - transport link to the lochside communities.

SLIDE – montage of examples mentioned below

South of Hadrian’s Wall a lot is happening too.

The Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden with their Collecting Cultures grant of £200,000 to acquire works from artists in the Great Bardfield group. Recent acquisitions include XX (to be added when slide is obtained)

A series of HLF grants over the years has completely transformed Chatham Historic Dockyard, from a closed royal dockyard to a unique and exciting 80-acre site comprising historic buildings, museum galleries and warships.

I was privileged to speak at the opening of the most recent phase of the development, Command of the Oceans, last month. It’s quite a place.

The glorious variety of museums we are helping to invest - in strenghtneing the heritage and accss to it -  has delighted me.

It’s bound to attract a wide range of audiences.

Indeed, the commitment to diversity of the new HLF-funded projects that I have seen is impressive.

Which leads me to my second theme – my conviction of the urgent need to see heritage organisations of all kinds opened up.

To see them reach out to new audiences.

To see them become hungry to be more inclusive.

To see them dismantle the barriers that too many people face before they can get involved in heritage - or which deny them the chance even to experience it.

Looking again at AIM members, in a recent Major Batch round, I was delighted by an award of £12m to Beamish Museum for its next expansion phase - even if it goes hard with me to see the decade of my birth now become a suitable heritage theme for the museum’s latest village.

Surely the 1950s were only yesterday?

Another Major Batch award of £6m to the Great Central Museum will see a heritage steam railway develop into a truly modern museum.

These sites are situated in areas of significant socio-economic and ethnic diversity.

They have understood this and, successfully, joyously, told a diverse range of stories.

In doing so they have attracted an encouragingly wide range of people to visit, to volunteer and to work.

National Lottery funding will help them do even more of this.

In my year as Chair I have talked with many of you about the strengths of the independent museums sector.

The things that have struck me time and again are:

Of course these qualities are found in other parts of the museum sector too, but for you to succeed they are not optional – they are essential.

In the new funding environment that’s increasingly the case for all museums.

But I want to emphasise the importance and urgency of the diversity challenge too.

Not just to independents but to the whole sector - from the largest nationals to the smallest volunteer run museum.

If you want HLF to fund you then we want you to think about how to include `more and a wider range’ of people in your project – as active participants, visitors, staff, volunteers and trustees.

About exactly how you will widen and diversify your audiences and workforce.

After all, it’s National Lottery money that HLF spends and that comes from the public – people from all walks of life across the whole of the UK.

We should work together to achieve shared goals across the sector.

To ensure:

SLIDE – Resilient heritage?

And so to my third theme.

To survive we also need continual investment in training - and a heritage workforce that reflects our population.

That’s why I am delighted to announce that the much anticipated third round of our popular and successful Skills for the Future programme opens to applicants today.

We will be awarding another £10m this year to add to the £47m we have already invested in Skills for the Future projects since 2009.

Those of you south of the border may know that this is one of our major contributions to the Culture White Paper in England.

But our programme will bring benefit right across the UK.

Indeed, the first of our information workshops about Skills for the Future is happening in Edinburgh next week.

There are others advertised on our website – please do take a look.

If you want to talk to colleagues who have worked on projects - then there are over 90 to choose from, many still in delivery.

In Scotland there has been some wonderful work going on.

The Royal Commission, before it merged to form Historic Scotland, trained a new cohort of archive specialists.

West Dunbartonshire Council recognised the lack of public engagement skills in its museum workforce and developed an education-focused training programme.

Museums Galleries Scotland is recruiting and training XX new people to look after museum collections across the country.

I’m delighted to be joined by one of the former trainees from this project today and I’ll be introducing her to you to say a few words a little later.

For those of you unfamiliar with Skills for the Future, it is a strategic grants programme designed to do three things:


and third,


It is focused on new entrants to the paid workforce.

The projects we fund develop high quality, work-based training programmes.

These programmes bring together experts with novices, helping them learn on the job.

We expect most of our grant to be spent on ensuring the trainees are paid - and get the best possible experience to set them up for a new career in heritage.

Skills for the Future is about removing barriers and encouraging entrepreneurialism.

We know the heritage world doesn’t yet have a full set of Apprenticeship standards in place and that means it can’t always draw down support from the Skills Funding Agency.

Progress is being made but meanwhile we’re offering Lottery money to help the sector find solutions to its urgent training needs now.

We know small organisations and businesses tell us they can’t afford to take on trainees or deal with the bureaucracy around qualifications.

So we’re offering Lottery money to help with the wage bill and give project management support.

We know that heritage sectors have tended to recruit from a narrow pool of talent. Some sections of our population haven’t seen themselves reflected in recruitment materials or ever considered the sector that is one for them.

So we’re offering Lottery money to help organisations draw in expertise and recruit in new ways.

And, importantly, we know not everyone can afford to volunteer as a way into a heritage job. That not everyone wants to go down the academic route to a career. And that many people need jobs close to where they live.

So we’re offering Lottery money to support more people from a wider range of backgrounds to take up paid training placements at the heritage projects on their doorsteps. 

We’re helping you to break down barriers.

With this third round of Skills for the Future we want to go even further.

By now you may just have picked up that I am absolutely committed to inclusion.

I want us to use the money National Lottery players give us to make a meaningful difference to the diversity of the audience for heritage - and to the heritage workforce.

One of my first speaking engagements at HLF was at our ground-breaking Inclusive Heritage conference last year.

We brought together the heritage and disability sectors in dialogue. You can find the proceedings on our website.

In February my Trustees gave enthusiastic endorsement to a new Equality and Inclusion Action Plan to be delivered by all of us in HLF this financial year.

It’s in this context that we are asking applicants to the third round of Skills for the Future to do everything they can to open up training opportunities to new people.

You probably know that our funding is based on an outcomes framework.

Skills for the Future applicants will be asked to address the outcome that ‘more people and a wider range of people’ will benefit from Lottery investment and this outcome will be weighted in our assessment.

We very much want to build on the success of projects that have gone before.

Our Skills for the Future programme evaluation – which you can also find on our website – tells us that the sector has started to develop some good practice around recruitment and interviewing –

and that there is more we can do in this positive direction.

These trainee statistics are drawn from the first two rounds of Skills for the Future. We ask all trainees to complete a starter survey and a completer survey and this data is based on 1400 starters up to March 2016.

The figures tell their own story.

Look at the high number of postgraduate students who have completed a Skills for the Future traineeship. I’m sure, in part, this reflects the particular and challenging job market young graduates faced just after the economic crash.

Back then we positioned Skills for the Future as a way of enticing these educated, digitally-savvy young people into our sector.

Today, we’re in a different place.

I want to see more emphasis on people at the other end of the qualifications spectrum.

In our programme guidance published today, we make it clear that we won’t prioritise projects which look set to recruit young postgraduate students as Skills for the Future trainees.

This is the sort of thing we’d like to see more of.

Hazel Pennack – thought to be the only female boilermaker trained in the UK for over 200 years. She trained with the Boiler Engineering Skills Training Trust and is now training in Hatch Heritage and Steam Engineers in Swindon.

These men and women have benefited from a Cultural Cooperation positive action project and took part in a wide range of museum placements. [XX on the left] is now working in XX and [XX in the blue] is at XX

This young woman is one of 36 16-18 year olds for whom the Prince’s Foundation created a new qualifications pathway as a thatcher.

Paul Walters – career changer; portfolio craft career and entrepreneur; taking on new staff to cope with work in a heritage area where skills are in short supply – plastering.

Chris Haig, Young man with aptitude, and a vital niche heritage skill.

And staying with the Scottish theme, now I’m delighted to invite that trainee I mentioned earlier to join me.  

Sam Bannerman from Museums Galleries Scotland.

Thanks to Skills for the Future, Sam is now working as a curator at St Andrews Preservation Trust.

Over to you, Sam!


If you’d like to speak to Sam about training, she’ll be around the conference for the rest of the day.

A final word from me before I invite questions.

An application to Skills for the Future won’t be the first priority for all of you.

But I hope it will be a priority for each and every one of you to ensure that all of the work you do is inclusive and continually reaches out to new people.

I encourage you to see our strategic framework as a toolbox to help you do this.

As you know, our three Open Programmes - Sharing Heritage, Our Heritage and Heritage Grants - can make contributions from £3,000 to several million pounds.

Our outcomes framework includes the outcome that ‘more people and a wider range of people will have engaged with heritage’.

For me, that rather timid phrase ‘wider range’ is very important.

In gatherings like this and at heritage sites across the country we should routinely see more disabled people, more young people and more people from a wider range of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.

Put simply, we must do more to present ourselves as a sector that wants to make a lasting difference for heritage – and for people.

People of all backgrounds and all ages.

For the national heritage belongs to all of us and can, no, should inspire all of us too.