Sir Peter Luff



Speech to the Museums Association Conference

Thursday 5 November
International Convention Centre, Birmingham



Thank you for the invitation to address the Museums Association conference.

And thank you to the many museums that have made me feel so welcome and showed me such wonders over my first six months as Chair of HLF.

And thank you too for holding your conference here in Birmingham, in the heart of our nation and in a city I know very well.

Although there is often a degree of, let’s call it “constructive tension” between Birmingham and my home county of Worcestershire, I’m still very confident that you will enjoy your time here - and take full advantage of the city’s magnificent heritage. 

If you want a phrase that sums this place up you can do little better than use the words of author Lee Child, who said,

“I grew up in Birmingham, where they made useful things and made them well.”

It’s that heritage of making and trading things, and the affluence that resulted, that created the places, buildings and collections that are now the basis of some wonderful the Heritage Lottery Funded projects here in Birmingham.

The Coffin Works, where we’ll be heading after I’ve finished, which brought this listed coffin fittings factory back to life (no pun intended).

The marvellous Victorian splendour of Birmingham Museum and Gallery where the conference party will be later this evening.

And that symbol of civic pride, the Town Hall.

Simon Green, Director of Cultural Services, at Hull City Council said as part of a review of twenty years of our Major Grants,

“The key point is the power of the large grants. They allow you to advocate for arts, culture and heritage at a city-wide level. Their grand scale lets cultural professionals sit at the big table: it’s real currency for the profession.”

These Birmingham projects certainly prove his point.


My Interests

As the new Chair of the HLF, one of the first things I wanted to start doing very quickly was to meet the people who are making things happen – and see a range of the inspiring projects being delivered by enthusiasts  - professional and volunteers – in all sectors of our heritage.

I’ve now visited every country and region of the United Kingdom and been amazed and delighted by what I have seen of the Lottery’s power for good.

I’ve visited, admired and enjoyed so many museums, including

Beamish Open Air Museum, where I rediscovered my own family printing heritage
The William Morris Gallery, where I met volunteers whose lives wee being transformed by the work they were doing
SS Great Britain, where I saw my hero, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s cigar case
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, where I marveled at the power of portraits in a nation’s history 
RAMM in Exeter, home to a million thoughts - and Gerald

Of course here special mention must go to the dazzling Staffordshire Hoard Gallery in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I will be forever grateful for my gift of an Anglo-Saxon warrior rubber duck, now sitting proudly on my bath edge in Worcester.

I’ve also visited all of our offices around the UK, and that’s helped me to reflect on what I want to see HLF do over the coming years - how to translate my passion for our heritage into action.

Yes I am passionate about heritage; it’s why I wanted to be Chair of HLF. 

I‘m extremely fortunate to take over an organisation that has been brilliantly led by its previous Chairs and Chief Executives.

I must pause here to pay tribute to Carole Souter and her excellent leadership over the past thirteen years. I’m genuinely sorry she’s leaving us. I’ve hugely enjoyed working with her and I’m sure all of us wish her well when she moves onto the next stage of her career, next year.

We’re both absolutely clear that HLF’s focus must be on sustaining and sharing the heritage of the whole of the UK. And that means sharing with everyone - breaking down barriers to those excluded from participating in heritage, or who have not yet had the chance to experience it. 
This includes young people, people from ethnic minority groups, and disabled people. 

After all, the National Lottery money HLF spends comes from the public – people from all walks of life.

HLF must ensure the projects we fund reach across class, across ethnicity, faith, age, geography and abilities.

Our goal must be to ensure everyone can have a stake on our heritage, and a fulfilling heritage experience. 

So today I want to talk to you about the things that are important to me, the differences I want to make during my time as Chair. I’ll outline my priorities and some of the changes you’ll be seeing next year.

I am clear that this is about evolution not revolution. The present strategic framework, A Lasting Difference for Heritage and People, is still the right, the proper direction for HLF.


A responsive funder

Of course museums are fortunate in having, in England at least, a strategic development body, Arts Council England.

As the two leading funders of culture and heritage Arts Council England and HLF work closely together, with complementary funding streams to help the magnificent range of museums, large and small, from major national venues through to specialist collections.

We ensure that our strategic interventions play to our respective strengths and distinctive approaches.

HLF with our mix of open programmes to respond to your needs and targeted initiatives like Collecting Cultures to provide support in strategic areas.

ACE with its development role, for instance with Major Partner Museums and museums development network.

HLF has always sought to be a responsive funder by talking, listening and responding to you.  Our strategic framework gives the flexibility to respond to the needs of the heritage sectors, recognising that the needs and pressures in any one sector are not set in stone for the framework’s five-year lifespan.



I understand the fear about the impact of spending cuts as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

I have heard the powerful arguments against such cuts and I have enormous sympathy with them.

I admire the passion, anger even, of many of you about this threat. If protecting our nation's culture isn't worth passion, what is?

As Neil MacGregor is quoted as having said in the recent NMDC document, Museums Matter,

“The point of the museum is to allow the citizen to be a better citizen.”

And that is a supremely important point. Something to fight for.

But I think we all know that further cuts are coming and that it will be many years before they are reversed, if ever.

This is a particular concern for local authority museums, whether they are a directly delivered service or an independent trust.

The cuts to councils’ budgets will inevitably put intense pressure on the non-statutory services, including two vital heritage areas, museums and parks.

What we must do is ensure that the museums – and the parks - affected are helped to adapt.

This CSR is not necessarily a tipping point leading to disaster.  

Change, however hard it may seem, is better embraced when you can anticipate it and have some power over it. HLF can support that change.

The recent work by Arts Council England’s shows a surprisingly small 7% decline in local authority spending on museums over the ten-year period prior to 2014. However I know many of you will have experienced cuts to your budget of much more than that, and are already struggling to provide the level and quality of service to which you aspire and that your local audiences deserve.

At HLF we recognise this. We know through our conversations with you that our funding is crucial.

We feel now that the best support we can provide is to help you do things differently to thrive in the future.

In a recent speech here in Birmingham, Deborah Bull, Director of Culture at King’s College London, remarked that organisations become institutionalised when they are prized for what they are rather than what they do.

She was making the point that organisations have to adapt to the external environment in order to survive.

However valued museums may be, you know that it is essential that they continue to adapt and change.

Understandably, and especially at a time of austerity, many of you will look to HLF simply in terms of “How can I get the cash?”

This new environment, though, is an opportunity for more museums to be helped to build relationships with HLF and its officers.

I hope that HLF can be seen as not just a funder but, built on our experience of over twenty years of funding heritage, also a signpost to the guidance and advice as to how others cope with, and even embrace, change.

I can promise that HLF will be alongside you. Through our funding we hope that we can help build your resilience, build your capacity, develop your skills to help your museums have a dynamic and exciting future.

I’m delighted that today I can announce a package of changes that are specifically designed to respond to needs that we have heard; and to support the heritage at this time.  I think they will be of particular interest to the museums community.

But please note these are announcements in principle. There will be consultation on many of the details before they are implemented in 2016-17. So please don't ring your local HLF office yet!



First, I can announce that we are combining three separate strands of funding designed to build capacity in organisations and enable change. Transition funding, Start Up grants and Catalyst Small grants will be rolled into one programme to make it easier for you to get your hands on the money you need.

What’s more, in response to needs expressed by you we will provide larger grants than the current upper limit of £100,000.

We’ll also allow them to run for longer to give you access to the money and the time you need to think about your future plans for new ways of working. 

So far we have helped 51 museums with over £1 million of funding.

For example the Geffrye Museum in London reviewed its operating model in response to funding cuts. It provided training for staff and volunteers to help them prepare for organisational change, while reviewing income generation strategies and enhancing the museum’s fundraising capacity.

Bede's World in the North East used our funding to support activities to take the organisation to a cooperative structure including the recruitment of a post to lead that transition.

And one further measure to support your resilience is a new opportunity to apply for funding to build endowments following our recent investment through the Catalyst programme. The fundraising environment is a challenging one and we want to encourage you to take a long-term approach and attract new donors for your museum. 

This opportunity will open next year and my Board wants it to be flexible enough to support small and large organisations.

Seventeen museums were successful under the earlier Catalyst Endowment programmes, just over half of the total number made across the heritage sectors.



These are our responses to help you change and adapt. Now let’s turn to the second area – the people who work in museums and, of course the skills needed to face the future.


Skills for the Future

We created the Skills for the Future grants programme in 2009 and ran it again in 2012 to meet high demand. The programme funds significant, paid, work-based training opportunities to bring new people into the workforce.

Across all four nations of the UK, 24 museums or museum services have received direct grants. Many more have hosted trainees and reveled in their fresh ideas.

The projects have varied in focus.
The British Museum has invested in specialist curatorial expertise and ensured exchange with partner museums across the country.

Norfolk Museum Service and National Museum Wales have delivered horticultural and farming skills.

Northern Ireland Museums Council has nurtured community engagement skills.

And Cultural Cooperation has given challenge to the sector to recruit for the cultural diversity skills we so clearly need.

I’m pleased to say that National Museums Liverpool didn’t need any challenge on that front. Here is a short clip filmed at their partner institution, Whitworth Art Gallery, to show what Skills for the Future investment can achieve.

We have decided to offer a third round of Skills for the Future next year.

I very much hope to see more proposals that are serious about diversifying the workforce and bringing in people from wider backgrounds – perhaps those who don’t already have postgraduate degrees.

I appreciate that for many of you the immediate future is about survival and you are facing tough challenges.  However we believe that securing skills gaps, and creating new opportunities for young people to thrive, should be a vital part of our collective mission.

What else might a new Skills for the Future programme achieve?

The annual digital survey from NESTA tells us museums are less confident using digital technology than the cultural sector in general.

Our Skills for the Future evaluation points to the value of the fresh skills introduced by ‘digital native’ trainees into the workplace.

Yet, we’ve seen very few Skills for the Future applications focussed on the need for digital innovation in museums.

I’ve had many conversations with you over the past few months and you’ve told me of your concern that museums are being `hollowed out’ of curatorial staff. 

I hope Skills for the Future will provide more opportunities for us to invest in curatorial and collection skills too, creating a new generation who can engage the public with our rich heritage.



Skills for the Future won’t meet all of your workforce development needs.  I encourage you to look to Heritage Grants to build in training opportunities into your wider projects.

I have a strong interest in science and engineering where apprenticeships are common. They provide an ideal gateway into the workforce, especially for young people. They help break down barriers to employment and can lead to the very highest levels of management responsibility – look at companies like Rolls Royce.

And because in apprenticeships young people earn while they learn, those that can’t afford university fees or unpaid internships can find a way in.

In HLF we’ve employed seven apprentices over the last four years. Now qualified with business and administration qualifications, I’m proud to say six are still in employment, some in HLF, and one is in higher education.

In the museum sector I’ve been told about the work of the Royal Air Force museum. With Barnet and Southgate College, they have developed a nationally recognised qualification accredited by the Institute of the Motor Industry. 

The Institute of Conservation and the V&A have been working hard to develop the Conservation Technician Qualification. 

I know, too, that some of you have delivered Cultural Venue Operations apprenticeships with great success.

I suggest to you we need more career pathways, more commitment to diversity and more innovative partnerships with organisations outside the heritage sector that can help us think in new ways.

And so the third area.


Young People

I want us to do more for young people – those of secondary school age and beyond.
A very short film we made to trail our Young Roots programme last year gives us an idea of the potential that exists.

There must be more that we can do with that energy and enthusiasm!
In my short time at HLF I’ve been impressed with the range of projects that we’ve funded through Young Roots and other of our small grants programmes.

The Deaf Access project in north Wales is just one example - young deaf people have interviewed older people in the community, learning about Welsh history and deaf heritage and developing new skills and confidence in their abilities.

Projects like this one make an important difference to individual young people - but they are by definition local and small scale. I want to raise the ambition and achievements of the heritage sector in working with young people.  We need their ideas!

Our research last year, looking at HLF investment over 20 years in 12 places, told us that too many young people still feel left out of shaping our heritage stories.

Since then, we’ve been talking to the heritage and to the youth sectors. You’ve told us you want larger grants to and embed high quality work with young people. You’ve identified that there are clear opportunities to ensure greater numbers of young people can participate fully in making heritage places and activities their own.

We want to see a vibrant heritage sector with more confidence to deliver and sustain work with young.

My Board has agreed that in the next year we will launch a new initiative. We will invite proposals for partnership or consortia bids which seek to make a real difference for young people under 25.
We will award a small number of substantial grants and if this is successful we’ll consider funding more in the future.

This will be an opportunity for organisations with a track record in working with young people. We want to invest in quality so:

Each of the heritage areas we fund will give us different ideas and respond to different challenges. I know from your track record that you will give us creativity. We don’t rule anything out at this stage. If you’re proud of the work you do with young people start thinking now about how you could scale it up – with a consortia of other museums across a region or perhaps with a range of non-heritage organisations in your local area.

Needless to say, we will invest in the public engagement staff you need to deliver this new ambition. And the resources to make these opportunities fully accessible. 

I spent the day at HLF’s Inclusive Heritage conference last week and that reinforces my call on you to create truly integrated experiences for all the young people you want to reach. Addressing diversity remains one of the most serious challenges to all heritage sectors, as I am sure you will agree.

And, finally on young people, we in HLF will do our bit to innovate too.  I don’t just want to see more young people at the heart of your work, I want to see them more involved in HLF business too.

So, for the first time in our history we will recruit and train a youth panel to help our Trustees judge which applications to support.  And we will work with them to be advocates for the value of youth-led heritage work, encouraging more activity in all of our programmes.

We will announce the details of this initiative in 2016 and I look forward to your response.

I like to look for positives and our recent work with the RSA on place, heritage and identity – including the recently published Heritage Index -  has demonstrated to me the untapped potential still out there for heritage generally.

Put simply, the index is a set of over a hundred data sets for a particular local authority area on both fixed heritage assets - like museums, historic houses or nature reserves - and heritage activities like membership of the National Trust or participation in archaeological digs.
We think it can help communities better understand their heritage, identify its potential, and capitalise on what make their areas distinctive.

Those looking to develop local heritage to boost tourism, employment or leisure and learning opportunities for local people can see the ways in which a local area is special or unique.

It strikes me that the Index could be used as a way of engaging young people in heritage, those areas that have low levels of heritage activities may well be those that are ripe for looking to get young people more engaged.

Just think about what the earlier film showed as to the huge range of heritage that young people see as important to them, what they define as their heritage and what you could do with that enthusiasm.


I hope the package I’ve outlined for you today chimes with what I’ve been hearing from you in my journey around the UK. 

That journey has reinforced the decision I made earlier this year when I applied to be Chair of HLF. 

I wanted to see heritage become more inclusive and diverse, especially with young people who are the future of our heritage.

I wanted to see a stronger sector that had the tools, the skills and the creativity to continue to inspire and excite people, to reflect and enrich their communities.

What heartens me, but does not surprise me, is that I now know from talking to you that’s what you want as well.

I look forward to working with you, facing the serious challenges, yes, but also the opportunities of the future.

Thank you, all of you, for the inspiration you provide, the knowledge you share, the understanding you spread, the participation you enable, the beauty you offer and the questions you stimulate.

The nation needs you to succeed because, as I am fond of saying, a nation that does not understand its past cannot safely navigate its future.