Preston's Harris Museum tries again to win lottery funding - with councils' support

The Harris Museum is bidding again for lottery funding to enhance the building.
The Harris Museum is bidding again for lottery funding to enhance the building.
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Preston’s Harris Museum will once again seek to secure a multi-million pound grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as part of a plan to keep the attraction “innovative and relevant”.

Preston’s Harris Museum will once again seek to secure a multi-million pound grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as part of a plan to keep the attraction “innovative and relevant”.

A bid was made back in 2016, but was unsuccessful.

Now, Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council have each agreed to contribute £1m towards a new application, which is due to be submitted on Thursday.

The bid is based on a plan create a “seamless attraction” out of the museum and art gallery – owned by Preston City Council – and the county-run library which is also housed in the building.

An appeal will be made to HLF bosses for £4.5m – out of a total project cost of £10.5m – which would enable the Harris to be “an animated cultural and community hub for the people of Preston and Lancashire”, according to the application.

“The Harris should become a factory for stories and memories, celebrating Preston’s past, present and future, providing a range of opportunities for users to be creative and have their voice heard,” the document adds.

A successful lottery application needs to demonstrate a “significant contribution” from the public sector.

The two local authorities joined together to form the “Re-imaging the Harris” project in 2015. Lancashire County Council agreed its share of the cash at a meeting of the authority’s cabinet.

Member for Cultural Services, Peter Buckley thanked the team behind the bid and said he “hoped for a successful outcome this time”.

Other potential funding sources include Arts Council England, as well as local fundraising – which has a target of over £800,000.

According to a report presented to Lancashire County Council’s cabinet, the 2016 bid received “favourable feedback” from the HLF. That application was for over £10m, but this year’s round of allocations does not include so-called “major batch” bids – meaning there is less money on offer.

Lancashire County Council’s contribution – if the HLF money and other funding is secured – will come from additional borrowing.

Members were told that the project should improve the operational efficiency of the building and its services.

The HLF has advised that the bid must be “transformational” in order to stand a chance of success.

The Harris has recorded a 15 percent increase in user numbers over the last two years, with over 350,000 visits to the attraction in 2017/18.