Meet our committees: Megan de Silva
Why did you want to join an HLF committee?
I saw the advert on an email at work. I thought: “I’m passionate about heritage, people and communities and I really care about the environment. I’ve got all those skills that HLF want but there’s no way they’d appoint somebody like me.” I was at an early stage in my career, had no board experience, I’m dyslexic and I didn’t own a suit, so I nearly deleted the email.
But I went for it, and here I am having just been reappointed to serve another three years.
What do you like about it?
In a time of continuing cuts and huge uncertainty in the heritage sector I’ve found it really valuable to be part of something so positive. It’s amazing to see projects go through their journey from application to the opening night. I meet a huge number of people from all walks of life who have directly benefited from HLF grants whether it’s through their work or in their communities and it’s a privilege to feel that I’m representing them during decision making.
“I thought: 'I’m passionate about heritage, people and communities and I really care about the environment. I’ve got all those skills that HLF want but there’s no way they’d appoint somebody like me.'”
I love the fact that of all the different things I’ve done my role with HLF is the only job my 87-year-old grandma, who's played the Lottery since day one, understands and tells her friends about.
What have you learned from the role so far?
Having never been a member of a decision-making committee before I’ve learnt a lot of best practice about how to manage that kind of situation: when to listen and when's the best time to get your opinion across. This has benefited my confidence significantly and enabled me to take up a position as Trustee for the Institute of Conservation and play a more active and strategic role in my profession.
What has most surprised you?
Probably the number of applications and case papers that have to be read. However I am always pleasantly surprised by how much effort goes in to make them as easy to read as possible and they always arrive with plenty of time. I now look forward to the days when they arrive.
What would you say to anyone who is thinking about joining an HLF committee?
I’d encourage you to read the advert thoroughly and think: “Is that me, am I excited about this?”. I’d encourage you to read some of the HLF strategic documents so that you understand the organisation and its values. Don't be shy to contact the friendly HLF team and ask questions about the things you might be worrying about. And when you write your application, tell HLF how brilliant you are.
I was absolutely terrified of my first committee meeting and I can honestly say I’ve never felt more welcomed by a team of people.
What is your favourite HLF-supported project?
One of my favourite projects so far has been Gilfach Uncovered. It was one of the first applications I read and unfortunately committee rejected it several times before we approved the grant to Radnorshire Wildlife Trust. I feel like I’ve been on the journey with the applicant and seeing the resilience and determination of a small team to make their project succeed has been inspiring.