United Kingdom (Commonwealth Union)_ The Hamish Ogston Foundation has set a monumental record by investing a staggering £12.26 million in the Commonwealth Heritage Forum’s heritage skills program, marking the most substantial investment in heritage skills in the history of the Commonwealth. Over the course of the next four years, this generous funding will be channeled towards bolstering the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme, a noble initiative aimed at providing training to over 3,500 young individuals in heritage skills across countries where the capacity to address heritage preservation is limited.
The program, which was launched in May 2022 at the Commonwealth Secretariat, holds the distinguished honor of bearing the name of Her late Majesty, commemorating her remarkable seven decades of service to the Commonwealth of Nations. The first phase of the program, backed by an allocation of £4.6 million, helped trainees in nations including India, Barbados, Singapore, and Antigua. In its subsequent phase, known as Phase 2, the program extends its focus to celebrate His Majesty, The King’s Coronation and his role as Head of the Commonwealth, solidifying its commitment to safeguarding heritage.
This comprehensive training initiative is geared towards cultivating hands-on craft skills and sustainable strategies essential for the restoration of historic buildings at risk and the effective management of change in the historic environment. Its primary concentration is directed towards countries where local stakeholders have identified the most pressing need and where the capacity to manage or restore endangered heritage is sorely lacking. Emphasizing the empowerment of individuals from disadvantaged and underprivileged backgrounds, the program is steadfast in adhering to the values cherished by local communities.
The practical training component of the program will be implemented across a minimum of twenty sites spanning the Caribbean, West and East Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, encompassing regions such as Guyana, Barbados, Antigua, St. Helena, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, India, Pakistan, Fiji, and Malta. In a parallel endeavor, an additional £2 million has been generously donated to aid in the reconstruction of the earthquake-ravaged Christ Church Cathedral in New Zealand, further amplifying the commitment to heritage skills training.
Philip Davies, the Founder and consultant CEO of the Commonwealth Heritage Forum, eloquently encapsulated the essence of this monumental endeavor, stating, “Commonwealth countries share a special relationship – each part of an extended family of nations whose lives, histories, and futures are deeply entwined. Crafted by local people over many generations, this shared built inheritance is a tangible expression of the links that bind us together.” He expressed profound gratitude for the Hamish Ogston Foundation’s unprecedented generosity, recognizing that this substantial infusion of funding will serve as a beacon of hope for heritage preservation in numerous Commonwealth nations and nurture the heritage champions of tomorrow.
Moreover, it will catalyze conservation-driven sustainable regeneration, enhance local capacity, and create transformative opportunities for young individuals across the globe. He added, “This huge increase in funding made possible through the generosity of the Hamish Ogston Foundation will provide a future for the past in many Commonwealth countries and nurture the local heritage champions of the future. It will foster conservation-led, sustainable regeneration, helping to build local capacity and create life-changing opportunities for young people in nations around the world.”