- Why the Heritage Fund decided to provide partnership funding to The Common Room
- About the Heritage Fund’s role in investing in heritage and making the best use of public money
- How heritage has an important role in boosting economies and enhancing people’s lives
After more than a decade working at the Heritage Fund, The Common Room is one of the most memorable and rewarding projects I’ve been involved in.
Like the Heritage Fund, The Common Room is passionate about using heritage to create positive and lasting change.
The Common Room is relevant, powerful and useful and is a wonderful example of the difference that heritage can make to people’s lives.
Now or Never Opportunity
The Heritage Fund has very set processes when awarding grants to ensure we award funds responsibly and deliver value for money. As we are dealing with public money, applicants must be able to demonstrate they have everything they need in place to develop their projects properly.
Prior to The Common Room project, the position of the Mining Institute was absolutely on the brink. If they had come to us six months later, we would probably have had to say unfortunately we can’t do it. Luckily, they approached us just at the right time and were able to get the right team together to succeed.
It was clear how important the heritage is and we understood it was a now or never opportunity. The reality was without funding, the building would have been closed and sold and the archives would be dispersed.
As an investment manager, I have to detach myself from the projects because my responsibility is not just to heritage but also to the Fund and ensuring the best use of public money. Our job is to look at the facts and present our assessment and analysis of the situation to the decision-makers.
Together with my colleagues, I was aware that this really was the last chance for The Common Room and everything it represents but at the same time there was a level of calculated risk involved.
We were delighted when our Board agreed to fund The Common Room. It was clear to our decision-makers that this was an excellent project and exactly the type of transformational project we should be funding. The strength of the project and the team behind it had really shone through.
A Living Heritage
Unfortunately, the North East is an area that does not have all of the advantages of other areas and we need places like The Common Room to enhance young people’s lives, giving them opportunity, education and inspiration.
From taking pride in the North East’s industrial past, to inspiring the engineers of tomorrow, The Common Room isn’t just about preserving something, it is about making it relevant and showing people that is has a future and can still make a difference.
In some ways, heritage is a time capsule of the past but you can’t keep it in the past. It has to be a living thing with a purpose and that’s what really resonates in The Common Room project.
The Mining Institute was intentionally established at the heart of Newcastle as a reflection of its power and influence in society. Now for The Common Room, there couldn’t be a better location to go forward into a new era.
The Heritage Fund is also supporting the nearby Newcastle Cathedral and the historic Bigg Market regeneration scheme. These places are all closely linked, not only geographically, but also in the wider context of reimagining Newcastle City Centre as a greener, fairer city of creativity and innovation.
We fund a lot of smaller grassroots projects in the former coalfield area. The Common Room will also allow us to reach into those communities and celebrate that local history and heritage on a larger scale. We’re really excited that it will give us a focal point to bring the whole network together.
A Place of Welcome for all
The Common Room project has completely transformed Neville Hall from a reflection of industrial decline to a beacon of hope for future prosperity.
The Common Room is a place of regional, national and even international importance. Its magnificent archive is used by people across the world and is considered one of the most important mining and engineering resources. That level of influence and the fact that its knowledge is instrumental across the globe is amazing.
The team behind The Common Room had a vision to show that, yes there is wonderful heritage, but it can still be innovative and make a difference to people’s lives today.
The connection forged between the individuals, academia, and the public and private sectors will create a positive place of influence, ideas and innovation.
The Common Room will be a real hub of activity. It will go forward into a new era as a comfortable and inclusive place where everyone is welcome, a place of genuine and lasting change for the people of this region and beyond.
Born and raised in the North East, Ellen Creighton lives with her family in Harbottle, Northumberland. She studied History at Manchester University and then Architectural Conservation at Edinburgh. She has worked at The National Lottery Heritage Fund since 2009. As the Casework Manager for the Fund, she was responsible for the organisation’s £200m investment portfolio in the North East. She now works as a Senior Investment Manager making recommendations to decision-makers on future funding.