Fiona Talbot


Fiona Talbot Carnival Conference March 2013

Here’s One We Made Earlier. The 2nd Carnival Archive Conference March 15th and 16th 2013

Fiona Talbot Head of Museums, Libraries & Archives HLF: Keynote Speaker

Fiona Talbot Transcript (Click to read/hide)

Hilary Carty

Our first speaker is Fiona Talbott. Fiona is Head of Museums, Libraries & Archives at the Heritage Lottery Fund. We’re very grateful to Heritage Lottery Fund because they are the backers of the Carnival Archive Project. Fiona has worked not just at HLF but over the last 25 years, and we were talking this morning about how those 25 years moves so quickly when you’re working in an art form that you care passionately about; Fiona was previously Head of Arts & Museums in Hackney as well, so lots of stories to tell. Fiona’s going to speak to us this morning about HLF and the new strategic framework, but also about how HLF can support carnival. Please give a big, warm welcome to Fiona Talbott.

Fiona Talbott

Thanks Hilary and thank you all for being here today.

I’m going to talk a bit about HLF and how we can support you. Now I’m aware I’m probably talking to an audience where some people who know about us and some people who don’t, so apologies if you think, well I’ve heard all this before, and apologies to the others here who think I might not be saying enough, but I can pick things up at the end in Q&A.

What is the Heritage Lottery Fund for those that don’t know?

We are the distributing body for the lottery receipts for heritage, and by heritage we’ve always taken a decision that we’re not going to define what it is, we let you define what you think your heritage is. I think that’s quite important because hopefully there’s been a big shift in what that word, ‘heritage’ means now, that it’s not the great and grand country houses of the UK, but it’s about peoples’ oral histories, it’s about community archives, it’s about museums, it’s about landscapes and historic parks, so hopefully we’ve shifted what heritage means to the general public.

We’ve been around since 1994; next year is our 20th birthday, so they’ll be big celebrations about that. In that time, I’m going to go to talk a bit more about how much money we’ve given, we’ve given out over £4.7 billion to heritage organisations, so that’s a significant amount of money we’ve put into the sector.

Just so you’re clear we’re project funders. We can’t revenue fund, so we can’t fund running costs, we’re there to fund projects, and I’ll talk a bit more about the sorts of projects we’ve been funding in carnival and what we hope to fund in the future.

Why am I here?

I’ve been asked to speak because I have an overview of museums, libraries and archives, and this one here is specifically about carnival archives. What we try to do in HLF is get out as much as we can, speak to people, so we can spread the word really that lottery funding for heritage is there for all of you. Sometimes it’s very easy for people who are in the know and have the right connections to be able to access things, and our view is that we want to get there, talk to people down on the ground so you’re aware that we’re there to fund you.

I just wanted to say as well, in terms of the images you’re seeing, that these are all images from projects we’ve funded. We’ve funded only 14 projects in carnival archives, which isn’t a massive amount, but it also includes UKCAA as well. We’ve funded probably about a £1 million into carnival, which again sounds a lot, £1 million is a lot, but in relation to £4.7 billion it’s not a huge amount, so let’s see more of those projects coming through.

I also just wanted to give an example of amusing items we’ve got in our archives of photos you’ve provided. I thought this one was quite funny < slide >. I think this is Leigh-on-Sea Carnival. One of the significant things about that was part of the money we put towards it was actually to help re-establish a carnival as well, so it was to build up the archive but also to re-establish the carnival. Although we’re about heritage we’re also about the future as well and taking things forward.

I’m going to go on to what our broad principles are up to 2018. What we want to do for the next 5 years in funding is to move away from HLF used to be. HLF used to have three aims, which those of you who have applied to us probably know off the top of your head, which is:

Conservation of heritage

Participation in heritage

Learning about heritage

They were good, they certainly shifted the heritage sector to understanding that it’s not just about looking after the heritage, it is about how people engage with it, experience it and learn from it. I think we feel we’ve shifted, certainly larger organisations, into being more about engagement. What we want to do with our next phase of funding is be more flexible, so we’re less about setting specific aims and what we’re saying is we’re about heritage and we’re about people, those are the projects we want.

I think the important message you need to take away first of all is that we’re about flexibility this time. We want you to come to us with your projects. We’re going to do much less shaping of projects in future. I think there was always a view that there was a typical HLF project, and that’s probably because we used to work very closely in saying, ‘this is what you could do to meet our learning aim …’, ‘this is what you could do to meet our participation aim …’ Because we’re getting rid of that, we’re going to assess things in a different way, we hopefully will get more creative projects, a wider range of projects.

If you’re sitting there being a bit sceptical about all this, thinking, are they really going to fund things like that, I think I also need to say that we’ve got the highest amount of funding for heritage that we’ve ever had.

There’s a belief that the early 2000s were a golden age, because there was around £330 million going into heritage, but because of the recession ticket sales have gone up dramatically with the lottery, a mixed blessing really, but it does mean we’ve got around £400 million now to put into heritage each year, which is a massive amount of money. Given we’re trying to be more flexible, and there’s more money, hopefully we will be able to see a wider range of projects actually being funded.

The other thing we’re very conscious of is that a lot of funding and support bodies have disappeared since 2010 under the Coalition Government, and that we are probably the only big funder now in town, and we have to take that very seriously. We also have to look at how things have changed for organisations out there; it’s tough we know that. We’re actually looking at how we can use our funding, not just for shall we say the creative and artistic type projects, to support organisations through a difficult time, and I’m going to talk about that towards the end of my talk.

We want to make sure that we’re there really to help organisations and heritage sectors become more resilient, to look at different ways of getting them through what is a difficult financial time, so that’s another reason why we want this framework. We don’t want to be so specific, we want you to come to us and say what you need in order for HLF to support you.

What’s going to be different?

Instead of us being so prescriptive we want to be more permissive in what we’re hoping we can allow you to do. We want you to come to us to tell us what your needs are, rather than it being more top down and us saying what we think the needs of the heritage sector are. As I said earlier, we want to do less shaping of projects, that doesn’t mean to say we won’t be working with you the way we used to do. We still put a lot of money into our development functions, our Development Officers. I know, for instance, Stuart Hobley in the East of England has worked very closely with this organisation that we’re in today. We’re still going to have that development support and function, but it’s going to be more of a dialogue now and less shaping by us.


This is the big change really for HLF. Instead of being very prescriptive about the sort of outputs, i.e. the things you would do, that might be the amount of activities you put on, the amount of people you’re going to get through, the types of people you’re going to get through in terms of your projects, what we want to do is actually fund the differences now, so we’re looking at outcomes rather than outputs, we’re looking at change. The types of words we’d expect to be using when we’re demonstrating what we’re expecting, and what you might be telling us, are looking at things like, ‘improved’, ‘better’, ‘more’, ‘positive’, so it’s about the change we can affect rather than just the things that we fund.

Having said we’re not going to be so prescriptive we still actually have a number of defined outcomes we would like your project to achieve, and I’m going to run through these. If people want more information they’re on our website, the address is at the end, so you can see it there, but we’re going to have three areas we want to see that change happen in.

The first is heritage.

That we’ve got better interpreted and better explained heritage; better managed, identified and recorded, and in better condition. The two things in green with the ‘w’ beside them < slide > are the things that we’re weighting in our assessment. They’re the things that our Trustees think are important, so better managed and in better condition. Better managed might be about improving the governance of your organisation, it might be about attracting new Trustees, it can be about what you think you might need to do in order to better manage your heritage, so again we’re keeping it broad.

The second ‘basket’ of outcomes is outcomes for people.

Here the two weighted ones are about developing skills and learning about heritage. I think that’s very appropriate of carnival because there are a lot of different skills that people can do with carnival archives, whether or not that be about developing costumes, or actually learning how to catalogue and digitise a carnival archive; lots of opportunities there.

The other ones are changing attitudes and / or behaviour, volunteering time, and having an enjoyable experience. We never had that before as anything we wanted to see out of our funding, and now we’re saying, ‘let’s see people enjoy themselves.’ I know some of you are sitting there going, yeah well how are you going to prove that, and I think to some extent the proof is in the pudding, we’ll see as we start funding things, but if people are spreading the word that they had an enjoyable experience, and they’re suggesting that people come back and experience it from projects we’ve funded, then I’d say they enjoyed it.

Finally to be broader as well.

We’re looking at outcomes there might be for communities, and by ‘community’ that doesn’t mean to say, for instance we’re in Luton today, we’re talking about Luton, it could be a local area of Luton, or it could be a community of interest, so it could be the carnival community, so again we’re trying to be as broad as possible by what we mean by ‘community’.

The weighted things there might be about environmental impacts or about more and a wider range of people engaging with heritage, but the other three are equally important, local economy boosted, and again I think this is another area carnival is very good at; the local area is a better place to live, work or visit; and your organisation more resilient. I think there are 14 outcomes in all.

I’m just going to fund through our funding programmes and relate it to what I’ve just said, so, how can we help you with the types of funding programmes we’ve got.

What we’ve done is introduced a new grant scheme called, ‘Sharing Heritage’, which is £3,000 - £10,000. We’re very conscious that we used to start at £10,000, and actually for a lot of organisation £10,000 is a lot of money, it can be very daunting, so we’ve introduced a new entry point of £3,000 - £10,000. All you have to do in order to get the money there is demonstrate one outcome for people, so if I go back to the people one < slide >, you’ll have to just demonstrate one of those five, that’s all you need to do to get to the £3,000 - £10,000 grants, and it doesn’t even have to be one of the weighted ones.

The other programmes, and again for those of you who know HLF you’re probably quite familiar with this, we’ve changed the name from ‘Your’ to ‘Our Heritage’, there’s a significance in that, which I have to confess I’m not sure what it is, that’s £10,000 - £100,000, and you just need to demonstrate an outcome from heritage and an outcome for people.

So we’ve now got two programmes, one round for under £100,000, so we’re hoping that makes it easier for you to access good sums of money that would make a big difference to your organisation. It’s only one round, the assessment process and timescale for a decision is still the same, 10 weeks maximum, although we’re hoping with Sharing Heritage it should be a lot less. We’re trying to be less bureaucratic, get that money out to you a lot quicker.

The other two programmes, Heritage Grants, well ‘Major Batch’ we call them, they’re still a two round process, and that’s for £100,000 up to no top limit, it’s how you define it. I suspect I’m talking to an audience who aren’t necessarily going to be looking at that level of funding, because usually for over £2 million there’s generally some sort of building involved, museum, or an actual archive or something, but it’s there so you can see that funding.

Sharing Heritage are the very small grants; Our Heritage the medium sized grants; and Heritage Grants the large grants. There is lots of information about the difference between those programmes on our website.

What are you going to need to tell us in order to get some money?

As I said, you don’t have to contribute to all of those 14 outcomes I mentioned, you really just have to think about your project. That, I think, hopefully is the big difference this time. Think about what you need the money for, have a look at those outcomes, don’t look at them first and then think, how can I shape a project around that, think about what your project is, and I think what you’ll see is the outcomes will generally fall out of it. If you are thinking about doing something around carnival you’re bound to be engaging a wider range of people; you’re bound to have people volunteering skills and time, so I think it’s a case of thinking about the project, think about what you want to do with your heritage and then have a look at those outcomes, show how you can meet them for us.

One encouraging thing I want to say here is, and again you probably can’t read the figures on that < slide >, but that pie chart shows how the pie of that £4.7 billion has been divvied up. The red one, which is the biggest, is actually community and voluntary groups, so even though we funded massive schemes, new museums, historic houses, in fact, because of the amounts of projects that get through to us that we fund, the biggest proportion of money actually goes to the community and voluntary sector. I think that’s a really important point. It is good news; it means that you’ve actually got a very good chance of getting money. Although we thought with the recession we’d be getting less projects through, because people might not have the match funding, certainly we didn’t think local authorities would be coming with so many projects, but we’ve actually still got as many as we had in the past, so I think it just demonstrates that it’s important we get that money out.

There are two things I want to finish with, which I thought would be of relevance to carnival groups, two changes really.

The first is that we actually want to support private owners of heritage a lot more. That’s not about private owners of historic, fantastic buildings, that’s actually about people who might have significant heritage they’ve kept themselves because it means something to them, that they don’t necessarily want it to be part of an organisation, and we’ve certainly had quite a few of that from carnival groups, people who have built up personal archives.

We perfectly understand that there’s a sense of emotional ownership there so we’re going to fund projects up to £100,000 for private collections. The big issue is that the public benefits have to outweigh the private gain, but again if you’re looking at an archive, if it’s about somebody who maybe wants to work with a local community with their own archive, they want to get it digitised, they maybe want to do some digital activities on a website, that’s the sort of thing where the public benefit far outweighs the private gain, so it’s that sort of thing.

What we don’t want to do is just fund projects where we might be doing a bit of conservation work on an archive and then the private owner could possibly sell it and make money from it. We don’t want that. We want it to have that public benefit that must outweigh the private gain.

Probably some of you in the audience have got collections that you think, yes I’ve always wanted to get it known more widely it’s just I haven’t had the money to do it, or, I haven’t had the ability to work with anyone to do it, so hopefully we’ll be able to make a difference by making that slight shift in our policy to say that we will fund private owners and private collectors.

The final bullet point, for those that can’t read it, says that we would encourage private owners to work with public archives, museums and libraries if possible, but that’s not essential, we’re just saying it might help because they’ve got some expertise, and there might be synergies from the type of collections you’ve got. We’re not forcing people to do that, we just think it might be worth looking at.

I think I’ve probably covered most of those points < slide >, just that second bullet point really is that there’s still an issue about HLF about what ‘access’ means. We don’t accept that cataloguing and just digitising something, putting it on the web, is enough to say that you’ve increased public access, because you don’t know really how people are using it, or if people are really accessing it in the way that you want it to be used. If you are going to catalogue and then digitise something we would expect some sort of activities on the web, or maybe it’s a phone app or something, so we’d want some creativity there about engaging with people as well, it’s not enough just to catalogue. Apart from that, as I say, we’ll fund private owners under £100,000.

The final bit I want to talk about, and this is new, is start-up grants. One of the things we’re really conscious of is that a lot of, certainly local authorities, are moving away from feeling that looking after heritage is their responsibility, primarily because they’re being driven by having to look at where their funding can maximise benefits, and unfortunately heritage is one of the areas I think that’s beginning to suffer.

Our response so that is we’re going to provide what we’re calling, ‘Start-Up Grants’, we’re just working on it now. They’ll be launched in April, and that’s to help organisations either take on some heritage that the local authority might be wishing to divest itself of, so that might be some sort of collection they no longer feel they can care for properly, or it might be about a heritage group coming together, that our money could be used to help you start up in terms of getting the constitution right, bringing together a Board of Trustees, or it could be about a small organisation already in existence but you might want to take the next step as to how you can actually look after some heritage, or engage people in some heritage you already own. We’re going to try and be, again, as broad as we can around start-up grants.

One of the things we do have, in terms of our needs, is we’re conscious, because there’s this start-up, that we’re taking a risk, and the organisation may well set itself up but it might not succeed, but we accept that we will take some risk on this. I think one of the other things I should be saying is that HLF will take on a bit more risk over the next few years.

The start-up grants will only run from the £3,000 - £10,000, so it’s not a huge amount of money, you really have to think about what you might need to use that money for, but I think certainly for carnival organisation that might want to take their next step of development these could be a real lifeline for you.

I just wanted to finish on showing you another couple of pictures < slides > we’ve got from some of the projects. All the photographs you’ve seen so far have actually been of carnivals or people in preparation for carnival, they’re all in colour, and the next two, actually you probably can’t see that very well, but it’s a bottle type structure from Somerset Carnival. I think this is from the 1920s, and that’s one of the projects we funded which was bringing together a whole range of photographs from Somerset Carnivals.

I’m going to finish on was this one, which is obviously some sort of early street carnival. This is in the UKCAA archive, but when I was putting this presentation together I was showing my colleagues some of the slides, because we had a huge range to choose from, so I’ve only got a small selection, and this one was fascinating actually because we didn’t have any information on it so we don’t know where it is. I wondered if anybody in the audience recognised it. When we put it on our system we didn’t put any more information other than it was one of your photos. We didn’t think it was Luton, we thought maybe West Midlands somewhere. We were trying to guess from the buildings.



Fiona Talbott

General consensus is possibly Northampton; I will go back and tell my colleagues. We were having a bit of a guessing game as to where it was.

Last slide, what next?

That’s the HLF website, It’s got all the information I’ve given you and a lot more besides. It also has details of our regional offices. We’re probably the only organisation now who still has offices locally based, Cambridge, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, London, Exeter, etc, so if you want to discuss a project my advice always is that your first point of call is to contact your local regional office. They’re more than happy to talk things through, give you an idea if you’re on the right lines. If you want details of your regional office they’re all on the website. Thank you very much for listening.

Hilary Carty:

Thank you very much Fiona. It’s really interesting to see the span of work that Heritage Lottery Fund does support. I think it’s a much wider range than you would at first think when you hear the word, ‘heritage’. One of the things I noticed when I joined the London Committee last year is that HLF is really trying to broaden out, get that message out, that it’s contemporary heritage, it’s oral heritage, it’s not just the bricks and mortar.

Fiona Talbott

We can’t stress that enough actually, what we loosely term, ‘intangible heritage’, heritage of a local community, whether that be through oral traditions or through dance, music, these are just as important, if not more important than, as Hilary said, the bricks and mortar, because actually those are the things that can get lost very easily as people move, people die, memories get lost. I think we can’t say enough that it’s not just about buildings, it really isn’t, and it’s about what you think is heritage to you, to your local area, your local community.

Hilary Carty:

Any questions for Fiona?


I’ve heard about HLF before, and I really wanted to know how much of that funding that goes to community projects goes to projects for people in the African and Afro-Caribbean communities; I know you’re reaching out now, but I don’t know if you were reaching out before [IA 33:31 – 33:58].

Fiona Talbott

To be honest I couldn’t give you a figure off the top of my head. I know we have it, because we do take that quite seriously, we obviously want to make sure we’re not disenfranchising particular groups. That’s an interesting point, what you were saying about the way you might try to access our funding. I think that is something we do need to consider. I see myself quite a lot of applications and some people know how to write those types of applications, and others don’t necessarily.


[IA 30:39 – 30:52]

Fiona Talbott

Our development teams do run surgeries actually. There are certain areas which we call ‘cold spots’, where we haven’t put a lot of funding in, and they concentrate their surgeries in those areas. I’ll take the issue back to my colleague Aretha George, who I think has been here before, and we can raise that as an issue, about different ways of being able to access our funding, and perhaps there just needs to be more of an awareness actually amongst staff.


[IA 31:29 – 31:40]

Hilary Carty:

I do know that HLF do have development teams and those development teams, as Fiona says, run surgeries to actually support you if you’re not familiar with the whole system. One of the things you can do is to have a look on HLF’s website,, and they do put on there events that are happening, surgeries that are happening, I know I’ve seen them for the London region. If you have any problems then do contact the local office and ask them specifically.

There’s one other question over here?


How many times can you apply?

Fiona Talbott

You can apply as many times as you want. I’m sort of laughing because I think it does depend very much regionally. I think some regional offices discourage after a certain amount of successful applications, which isn’t good. There is no limit.

I think there used to be some ridiculous view that people felt you had one bite of the cherry, so people used to save everything up for one big project, and that’s not the case. I can think of a few organisations actually who over the years have been really successful and have about five or six grants from us. The only thing I would say is that you do need to be careful that it doesn’t look like you’re coming us for continued revenue funding, it does have to be a discrete project, but there isn’t any limit, and over £400 million to get out of the door, we need those projects coming to us.


Do you deal with applications as they come in, or do you have set deadlines when you consider funding?

Fiona Talbott

They are dealt with as they come in. They are dealt with in batches in a way because decisions are either made by the head of region and a team, or they go to the Committee, as Hilary was saying she’s on the London Committee, or they go to the Board. Committees meet every 3 months, the Board meets eight times a year. The only thing we do batch once a year is the ones over £5 million. The turnaround is 10 weeks for grants under £100,000, so the batching occurs regularly.


[IA 34:19 – 34:29]

Fiona Talbott

We dropped it about 18 months ago I think, 5%. From a local authority we would expect that to be hard cash, but that’s not definite, but we probably expect it. From smaller organisations it can be in kind. We’ve tried to be as supportive as we can financially in very difficult times, because we realise the match funding just isn’t out there now, not the way it used to be.

Hilary Carty:

Thank you very much to Fiona. I would suggest if you put questions in through Tola and her team and they can field them in through to Fiona and get responses that way.

Fiona Talbott

More than happy to send you things back by email.

Hilary Carty:

Thank you very much indeed.

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