Ros Kerslake: Keynote Speech At AIM National Conference 2017

The role of museums in understanding our individual and collective identity has never been more important, HLF chief executive Ros Kerslake told the AIM conference today.

In her first major speech to the museums sector, Ros Kerslake said:

Museums have a key role to play in helping people understand identity. 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. 

“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’.”

Museums are a key beneficiaries of HLF’s open programmes, especially £100k+ Heritage Grants and the annual £5m+ Major Batch awards.  Ros Kerslake told the conference that this is likely to still be the case.

She said that HLF will be working with the museums sector to consider a number of key questions, likely to include

  • 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?

“Demand for our funding has never been higher.  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.”

HLF’s Resilient Heritage Funding was introduced in summer 2016 to support heritage organisations in making the shift to being ‘cultural businesses’. 

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.  Research shows that our investment in capital schemes for refurbishment, new galleries and new visitor facilities has a direct impact on increased revenue, with 81% of museums surveyed reporting an improvement in their financial sustainability. This increase comes from a range of sources including cafés or restaurants, retail, entrance fees, hiring out spaces and public programmes.  I really would urge applicants to think about these opportunities when applying for funding.”

Ros 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” she said.

She also heralded a stronger push from HLF for museums to acknowledge the National Lottery and the contribution made by National Lottery players. 


Additional Information

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% 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%); venue and room hire (67%); public programmes (65%); café/restaurant (62%); retail (including gift shop) (50%); admissions and entrance fees (50%)




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