We’re now in the last few weeks before our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is submitted, and we’re feeling the pressure.  We have to get this right.  And the number one question I’m hearing now is “what are our chances and who are we up against?”  In the last round, only 4 projects out of 22 received funding, despite 11 of them being considered ‘High Priority’ – so the bare odds for any one project are tough!  And the truth is that we’re in a bit of a David and Goliath situation.  We’re up against projects from all over the country, including some big national museums in London.  Most projects will have bigger teams, most will have more money behind them, and most will have had longer to prepare.  But there’s one thing that the other teams won’t have, and that’s Swindon.   Swindon has great people, it has a history of innovation and a track record of surprising the country.  Do we have ambitious projects which seem to struggle from set-back to set-back? Sure.  I can think of a number, and I’m sure you can too.  But we’re a determined bunch, and we persevere, and we make change happen.  And making change happen is what the HLF, and our project, are all about.

Our project will make change for our heritage.  We’ll be able to transform how we care for much of our museum and art collections, and most importantly, how we use them to inspire and engage people.  We’ll bring them right into the heart of Swindon, and make them available for people to explore the fullest history and creativity of our great town, and how our town fits into the story of the UK and the world.  We will use it to help educate and inspire our children and young people, whilst entertaining and informing people of all ages.

Our project will make change for people.  We’ll be able to increase the opportunities to develop skills and get involved in their heritage through volunteering, whether that is investigating and digitising our collections, welcoming our visitors, or tending our rooftop gardens, inspired by Richard Jefferies.  People will feel closer to the heritage and history of our town, proud of our achievements, and able to tackle the challenges of the future.  And they’ll have had a good time, whether socialising with friends, using the museum for community events, or simply taking some time out to relax, unwind, and enjoy our town’s incredible art.

Our project will make change for whole communities.  By working with great local partners, and telling the story of Swindon’s past, and how it continues to shape the future, we can show the world what Swindon is really about, and fill our children with pride when they tell people where they’re from. We can unlock Swindon’s heritage, taking it from the preserve of the few, and making it accessible to the many.  And we can drive Swindon’s economy.  We’re a charity, which means there are no profits and returns for shareholders, but there are returns for the town.  Figures from the Association of Independent Museums predict that our new museum and art gallery will contribute between £4-5m into the local economy every year – and that’s before any regeneration impact.

So, will we win the bid?  No-one knows. But I do know how the story of David and Goliath ends.    So can we win the bid?  Absolutely!

And, whatever happens, I believe in Swindon.