Museums and heritage projects are among 70 initiatives to benefit from more than £36m government funding aimed at regenerating communities along the UK coast. The investment, made up of 26 awards from the fifth round of the Coastal Communities Fund and 44 awards from the third phase of the Coastal Revival Fund, will support innovative businesses and new museums, protect historic buildings and restore at-risk coastal heritage sites.
One beneficiary of the Coastal Communities Fund is the Blackpool Museum Project, which was awarded a £1.75m grant towards the creation of the town’s first museum, the Amuseum. Due to open in early 2021, the venue will form a key part of Blackpool Council’s three-year £100m investment plan. Blackpool has been identified as one of the 20% most deprived areas in England, but those behind the museum hope to transform the town by attracting visitors, creating jobs and uniting locals.
“Blackpool’s own community has polarised levels of pride in the town,” says Kerry Vasiliou, the learning and engagement manager at the Blackpool Museum Project. "There are people who are staunchly proud of their home or adopted town and understand what makes it such a special place to live and visit.
“However, there are large pockets of the community who do not feel proud of their town and we see the museum as a catalyst for change. It is important to know about the heritage of the place in which you live to understand how you can contribute to its future development and in turn your own.”
The museum, to be situated on the town’s Golden Mile, will celebrate Blackpool’s legacy as both a seaside resort and entertainment hub, through objects, film, music and performance.
“Real people telling real stories is at the heart of Blackpool Museum but the fact is, as each year passes, those who can speak with first-hand experience of Blackpool’s past golden eras become fewer,” said Vasiliou. “Capturing personal stories to preserve them for future generations becomes an increasingly urgent task.”
A £13m funding target has been set for the museum, which has already secured a £4m grant from the government’s Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund and £1.5m from the Lancashire Growth. The project has also been awarded development funding worth £400,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Another area given a boost by the Coastal Communities Fund is Morecambe Bay in Cumbria, which was awarded £2.35m towards a £5.55m project to develop "transformational" new attractions, including cycling and walking routes. The project is part of a wider plan to regenerate the area, the highlight of which will be an £85m outpost of the Eden Project scheduled to open in 2022.
Meanwhile, Wyre Council secured a £49,650 award from the Coastal Revival Fund to support the creation of a “historic quarter” in Fleetwood through developing and reviving the Fleetwood Museum and the Fleetwood Market.
So far, both funds have seen more than £180m invested in around 350 UK-wide projects. The most recent Coastal Communities Fund projects are expected to support over 15,000 jobs, and it is hoped they will lever in additional investment of up to £40m from public and private sector sources.
The projects are the latest in a range of initiatives to use museum and heritage assets as a driving force for wider regeneration in seaside communities. Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery, which will be renamed the Box, is currently undergoing a major redevelopment to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower pilgrim ship next year.
Evidence shows that the social and economic impact of such projects can be dramatic. A spokeswoman from Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate said: “Since we opened in 2011, we have generated over £68m for the local economy, train travel to Margate has increased by 64% and the gallery has attracted over 3m visits. In summer 2018, 10% of our visitors had never visited an art gallery in their lives before.”
Funded museum and heritage projects
Coastal Communities Fund
- The Amuseum: a project to create a new museum for Blackpool - £1.75m
- Experience Morecambe Bay: an initiative that will create transformational attractions in Morecambe Bay, Cumbria - £2.35m
- The Common Space: a project to create a micro museum and micro brewery, Isle of Wight - £99,000
- Cornwall Wave: a project to create virtual, augmented and immersive heritage experiences in five of the county’s coastal communities - £698,000
Coastal Revival Fund
- Creation of a fishing heritage centre in Grimsby, Lincolnshire - £50,000
- Regeneration of Southwold heritage centre, Suffolk - £35,000
- Creation of a historic quarter and redevelopment of Fleetwood museum, Lancashire - £49,650