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Sir Tony Robinson honours Hastings Heritage champion with National Lottery Award

23rd Hydref 2023

Britain’s foremost face of popular history, Sir Tony Robinson, has honoured an inspirational heritage campaigner with an iconic National Lottery Award to celebrate her incredible work in transforming the museum experience and championing opportunities for disabled people in the heritage sector.

Sir Tony Robinson and Esther Fox with her National Lottery Award.

Sir Tony Robinson, who presented 20 seasons of Channel 4’s archaeology series, Time Team, visited Hastings Museum today to announce Esther Fox as the winner of the Heritage category in the 2023 National Lottery Awards.

The National Lottery Awards
are the annual celebration of the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding. A judging panel whittled down 3,780 incredible nominees to just seven winners and Esther faced stiff competition to become the winner in this year’s Heritage category.

Esther Fox is the Project Lead for Curating for Change, an England-wide heritage project that aims to tackle the underrepresentation of D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people both in the museum workforce and within museum exhibits.

A true champion of opportunities for disabled people, Esther has been crowned as a winner for her incredible work in improving experiences for disabled people in the heritage sector.

The rich and diverse history of D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people is rarely exhibited in museums, with few objects in collections reflecting the history of disabled people. Esther and her team aim to change this through exhibitions and events exploring disabled people’s histories, as well as by championing D/deaf and disabled people in curatorial roles.

Curating for Change is committed to enhancing opportunities for people wanting to pursue a career in the museum sector. A landmark Fellowship and Traineeship programme includes paid work placements with mentoring and training opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people, with 20 partner museums across England taking part.

Thanks to a grant of nearly one million pounds (£950,900) from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Curating for Change is able to undertake its crucial work to transform the museum experience and champion opportunities for disabled people. Over the past 5 years, more than £3 million of National Lottery funding has supported 21 projects specifically addressing D/deaf and disabled communities within the heritage sector.

Sir Tony Robinson and Esther Fox with her National Lottery Award.

Esther said: “I’m truly delighted to have won and that our work is being recognised. It’s so important that our museums are representative of all people and all histories, so we can see ourselves reflected, not hidden. In particular we must provide opportunities for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent curators to uncover the fascinating and often overlooked histories of disabled people, for all to enjoy. Our Curating for Change Fellows are leading this process, so this award isn’t just an honour for me, but for the whole team too.”

Presenting the award, Sir Tony Robinson, said: “This National Lottery Award is well-deserved recognition not only for the wonderful Esther, but for all the hard work of the team behind this important project. Together, they have been working tirelessly to ensure that more D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people can experience the joys of visiting our many and varied heritage attractions. Accessibility is vital to bringing these destinations to a wider and more diverse public.

The project also continues to address the ongoing underrepresentation of disabled people working in the sector, at the same time seeking to reveal the often hidden stories of disabled people through history.”

Sir Tony added: “Esther is setting such an amazing example, helping to make our wonderful heritage more inclusive and accessible for everyone.”

Winners in each category received a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy.

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps people like Esther continue to carry out incredible work in their communities.