Meet our committees: Atul Patel
Why did you want to join HLF?
I had just retired, and I was interested in doing something totally different.
I didn't have a heritage background, I didn't know anything about it, but I had some enthusiasm for it - and I could offer other things: property management, business, regeneration and regulation. Still, I was surprised to be invited for interview!
I was born in India and came here at the age of eight. I was the only Indian child in my school in Portsmouth. If anybody had told me then that Indian soldiers fought in the two world wars it would have made my life a lot easier with my peers! Looking at the history of the UK and India, we have connections that go back long before the British Raj. That's the great thing heritage can do - it shows we are all connected: heritage is for everybody.
What do you like about it?
I've been on committees before - but what I like about HLF's is that we make decisions. I'm always listening to the other committee members and other trustees - we have to make very robust decisions but we're all still friends!
“Looking at the history of the UK and India, we have connections that go back long before the British Raj. That's the great thing heritage can do - it shows we are all connected: heritage is for everybody.”
We also get to visit projects and attend project openings. You get to hear about and to see a lot more of the heritage we have.
What have you learned from the role so far and how has it benefited you?
I've really enjoyed learning about heritage - and how broad it is. It encompasses everything from sharing our varied stories, parks and landscapes to what the general public might associate with the word 'heritage': historic houses, castles and boats. It's broadened my horizons and taught me a lot about my heritage.
What has most surprised or challenged you?
As a trustee of the NHMF we receive applications to save the most outstanding parts of our heritage which are at risk of loss to the nation. The Fund receives grant-in-aid from the government and NHMF can provide financial assistance towards the acquisition of a range of heritage treasures including works of art.
I've learned how wonderful these works of art are. I wouldn't have gone to an art gallery before if I wasn't involved in HLF! Now I've started to introduce my friends and family, especially my seven-year-old nephew, to museums and galleries and he loves it.
What would you say to anyone who is thinking about joining an HLF committee?
Take my example - I knew next to nothing about heritage but I had a lot of enthusiasm to find out more and to bring my skills and wider experience to the table. We all have heritage, and are all connected it in some way or another.
What is your favourite HLF-supported project?
One that sticks in my mind is the Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum. It's run by about 200 volunteers - we gave them a significant but not huge grant, and it transformed the museum; they could create a proper room for archives, an education space, a function room. You really the see the difference a little bit of money makes to a smaller organisation - and how happy it makes people!