The past year saw us award 290 grants totalling £7,650,790 to 254 organisations; the largest amount in the AHF’s history. This was partly a consequence of unbudgeted emergency funding (see the case study on the various emergency and additional funds we awarded during the year) being distributed through the organisation, coupled with the fact that the year was already budgeted to be the largest for spending for our most sizable programme, the Transforming Places through Heritage programme focused on high street and town-centre regeneration.
In Wales, we were incredibly pleased to agree a new funding agreement with Cadw that will invest up to £350,000 each year in the Welsh programme, leading to a nearly ten-fold increase in early-stage project support. There will also be a limited number of capital awards. This new award is an endorsement of the relationship we have been building with Cadw in recent years and will enable us to support a much higher number of projects, and at greater depth. We were also able to award £345,000 in grants to projects in Wales during the year, significantly enabled by in-year funding from Cadw associated with COVID-19 recovery; the Heritage Impact Fund also received £150,000 of new funding to support social investments. One of the new grant awards in Wales was to Slate Heritage International, to explore possible uses for the Grade II* listed Maenofferen slate dressing mill; an area that has recently been granted World Heritage site status, in recognition of its slate mining and industrial heritage.
In the Transforming Places through Heritage programme, we awarded three new Heritage Development Trust pilot grants. These grants help support the creation and expansion of new social enterprise property developers, which focus on the regeneration and management of heritage assets. The three new awards went to Heritage Lab (in Ramsgate), Heart of Hastings and Heritage Lincolnshire. Each will use the funding to make a step-change in their plans to grow and deliver more heritage-regeneration projects and community benefits in the areas they operate. Five new Transformational Project Grants were also awarded, including to Refugee Action to help them create a new office and project space from a disused bank in the centre of Harlesden. We also distributed £80,000 of grants, thanks to funding from Historic England, through the Heritage Assets into Community Ownership (HACO) programme.
In Scotland, our strong relationships with Historic Environment Scotland and the William Grant Foundation continued. We were able to make many additional awards thanks to a generous in-year uplift of £200,000 from Historic Environment Scotland. Funding awards helped us to support a number of community asset and town-centre regeneration projects, including a new loan to Jedburgh Community Trust’s Port House project that will help fund the regeneration of the Port House into a multi-use office and co-working space for the town’s social enterprise and not-for-profit organisations.
Additional funding of £270,000 from the Department of Communities’ Historic Environment Division through its COVID-19 Culture, Arts, Languages and Heritage Fund allowed the AHF to support a wide range of valuable community and heritage-led regeneration projects across Northern Ireland, aiding the recovery and renewal phase. Led by a diverse group of charities and social enterprises, the funded projects were all focused on the short- and long-term revival of Northern Ireland’s villages, towns and cities through the reuse of heritage assets. One of the awards went to North Belfast Working Men’s Club, helping it fund urgent roof repairs to allow it to continue serving the community of one of the UK’s most deprived wards.
The AHF itself was also generously supported by a £2m investment from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, through Historic England. One million of this funding was for the distribution of business planning grants to organisations impacted by the crisis, while another million has supported our endowment for lending, specifically focused on addressing bad debt that arises due to the COVID-19 crisis. We are very grateful for this support.