Meet our committees: Rachel Chiu

Rachel Chiu, Committee Member for West Midlands
Rachel Chiu, a committee member for the West Midlands, explains her passion for heritage and how it can help even the most marginalised communities.

Why did you want to join an HLF committee?

I work with volunteering and community groups and I'm involved with heritage projects as part of my work. I liked that HLF is not just about the buildings - it's about people too.

“It's quite an ambassadorial role - it's not just what you know about the sector, but how you engage with people.”

I wasn't sure whether I had enough of a heritage background, but they weren't looking for that – they wanted people who reflected the diversity of the area and the committee background. I thought: “You know what - I can fulfill the criteria, I'll go for it.”

What do you like about it?

It's really interesting to explore all aspects of heritage and to understand better what heritage organisations do.

It's quite an ambassadorial role - it's not just what you know about the sector, but how you engage with people. The decisions we make are not in isolation - we have to consider what the impact is on communties.

I work with homeless people, ex-offenders, vulnerable and marginalised communities -  how do these people gain access to, and be part of, the cultural conversation? I think heritage can provide these links. 

What have you learned from the role so far?

I'm learning all the time! I've learned about things I didn't know about before - church planning, natural heritage, community archaeology.

People can think heritage is staid and static but at HLF it really isn't - it's quite vibrant in terms of outcomes and work produced and all the new programmes. It's very open.

What has most surprised you?

I knew heritage would be vast - but there is a lot of detail! You have to learn to take in all the detail but not get bogged down in it. Every committee meeting is like listening to a room of enthusiasts - I'm learning all the time.

What would you say to anyone who is thinking about joining an HLF committee?

You don't need a heritage qualification, don't be put off by that. We need broad committees - not every member needs to be an expert. A lot of it is about common sense.

In terms of careers, it's also a great way to build contacts and meet people.

What is your favourite HLF project?

One project I loved was about recording the stories told by Sikh women and having them retold by a storyteller. It was amazing to see the women involved hear their stories being shared.

I really enjoyed seeing a project at Hereford Cathedral which was helping apprentices learn skills which are being passed down through the generations. I met a 19-year-old apprentice stonemason who was carving a cross above a doorway by hand; he will be able to tell his great-grandchildren that he carved it. It's the history of the old meeting the new - we're supporting not just heritage but ensuring that the skills don't die away.

Find out more

Discover more about our West Midlands committee and find current vacancies on our Board & committee recruitment page.

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