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Thanks a Billion: How National Lottery funding has helped projects and people during the pandemic

Tuesday 9th March 2021 at 1am 0 Comments

AVA Festival Image: AVA Festival

National Lottery funding to support the UK-wide response to the coronavirus pandemic has exceeded £1 billion according to new figures released today.

As the first anniversary of lockdown approaches, the funding package has boosted the arts, heritage, sport and community/charity sector and helped protect the future of thousands of organisations across Northern Ireland during the last 12 months.

The £1.2 billion awarded has gone towards initiatives and programmes designed to tackle loneliness and isolation, provide support for the elderly and vulnerable young people, and those promoting physical and mental health in the community.

One such project to have benefited from the £30 million raised by National Lottery players every week is Newry-based Head Injury Support, a charity support group who work with adults who have acquired brain injuries that prevent them from returning to employment.

Head Injury Support received a grant of £447,984 from The National Lottery Community Fund, enabling them to run the ‘My Day, My Way’ project that will allow them to engage with an increased number of Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) survivors over the next four years.

The charity has distributed a range of engagement packs – including bingo books – and run three Zoom sessions every week during lockdown and Paul Murphy, a two-time head injury survivor supported by Head Injury Support, knows it wouldn’t have been possible without National Lottery players.

Paul, 56, said:“I’m always thankful. Thanks very much to National Lottery players for what they do.

“None of this would happen without funding. We are very grateful, and the money from The National Lottery is creating an atmosphere of community.”

Belfast music festival AVA – Audio, Visual, Artswas another organisation to benefit from an emergency National Lottery grant, receiving funding of £7,200 from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

AVA Festival had to be cancelled this year but thanks to the support of National Lottery players, it organised a large-scale, live-streamed event that attracted a total online audience of more than 300,000 people.

The virtual alternative gave many young people some critical lockdown respite and Sarah McBriar, Founder and Creative Director, hailed National Lottery players for keeping the arts alive.

Sarah, 32, said: “With this support National Lottery players are investing in culture, creativity and entertainment.

“Our National Lottery funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has been really critical – not just supporting the arts through the pandemic, but actually helping it evolve. I think that will have a big impact in the long run.”

Another Northern Ireland project to benefit from National Lottery funding is Belfast-based organisation HERe NI, who received a total of £24,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to continue its ground-breaking research into the history of the LGBT+ community.

HERe NI is the only organisation dedicated to supporting lesbian and bisexual women in Northern Ireland and the ground-breaking project, first powered by a £70,000 National Lottery grant awarded in September 2019, is the first Northern Irish heritage project of its kind. It has also received further National Lottery support from The National Lottery Community Fund for a five-year resilience building programme which switched to online and telephone support as the COVID-19 restrictions were introduced.

Director Cara McCann feared the worst when lockdown first struck but says receiving a slice of the £1billion was a lifesaver for Northern Ireland’s LGBT+ community.

Cara, 45, said: “The emergency money we got really saved us as an organisation.

“It was make or break time for us – and The National Lottery stepped in at the right time.
“People’s lives would be at risk. We save lives every day – I am under no illusions about that. The National Lottery are helping the most marginalised, vulnerable people in our community. I engage with these vulnerable people every day and see first-hand the difference this money makes. Sometimes it is the difference between life and death.”

Ros Kerslake, Chair of The National Lottery Forum added:

“Thanks to The National Lottery’s players, we have been able to offer comprehensive packages of support to thousands of projects throughout the UK over the last year.

"This funding has helped alleviate some of the significant and unprecedented challenges faced by the community, arts, heritage and sports sectors as a result of the pandemic. None of this would have been possible without the important work of amazing and dedicated people throughout the UK who keep these projects going.” 

To find out more about how The National Lottery supports good causes throughout the UK, visit


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