Ecclesiastical’s Heritage Heroes announced

09 March 2022

Two Heritage Heroes have been recognised for their exceptional service to the UK’s heritage sector.

Sponsored by specialist heritage insurer Ecclesiastical, the Heritage Heroes Awards, now in their 12th year, are the Heritage Alliance’s celebration of the outstanding contribution Britain’s heritage volunteers make to society.

Volunteers are vital for the protection of England’s heritage. From caring for rural heritage sites to engaging the next generation of visitors, volunteers’ skills, passion, and commitment are the backbone of the heritage sector.

The awards were presented by Faith Kitchen, Customer Segment Director at Ecclesiastical. Each of the winners will receive an original hand-painted sign by Joby Carter, from Carters Steam Fair (the largest travelling vintage funfair in the world), showcasing the artistry and history of traditional fairground decorations.

The virtual awards ceremony coincided with Heritage Day1, a key event in the heritage sector calendar, with speakers including the Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society Nigel Huddleston MP, the Chair of the National Lottery Heritage Fund Dr Simon Thurley CBE, and the new Chair of The Heritage Alliance Pam Alexander OBE.

The winners of the 2021 Ecclesiastical Heritage Hero Awards2 are:

  • Ecclesiastical’s Heritage Hero Award – Richard Johnson
    This award celebrates Richard’s contribution to Change Minds, Norfolk Record Office’s mental health programme, which supports people in North Norfolk who have mental health conditions and enables them to research the lives of people in the past. Richard tirelessly advocates for Change Minds and has helped raise over £320,000 for heritage and mental health.
  • Ecclesiastical’s Digital Heritage Hero Award – Steve Ash
    This award celebrates Steve’s contribution to Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust’s Digital Project which harnessed video to keep Wentworth Woodhouse on the public’s horizon during the pandemic. Steve has developed films about the Trust’s people and places, aims, and achievements, as well as created virtual tours, events and digital games, which have engaged thousands of visitors and supporters.

Commendations were also awarded to recognise outstanding achievements among the other nominees for 2021. For the Heritage Hero Award, an Individual Commendation was awarded to Ian Thompson, a volunteer for the Milestone Society and a Team Commendation was awarded to the Coldharbour Mill Steam Team. For the Digital Heritage Hero Award, an Individual Commendation went to Ann Kilbey for her work with the Pennine Heritage Archive, and a Team Commendation was awarded to the YHA Digital Volunteers.

Faith Kitchen, Customer Segment Director at Ecclesiastical, said: “As the leading insurer of Grade I listed buildings in the UK, we’re passionate about Britain’s heritage. We’re proud to sponsor the Heritage Heroes Awards, and this year celebrates two incredibly deserving winners for their outstanding contribution to the heritage sector. Congratulations to Richard Johnson and Steve Ash!”

Pam Alexander OBE added: “This year’s Heritage Heroes nominees have once again demonstrated the incredible and forward-looking work done by heritage volunteers. Our 2021 winners have achieved truly impressive and inspirational results for the heritage they care about as well as standout support for their colleagues and their communities. By using archives to deliver real benefits for mental health, and by applying digital and film-making skills to broaden and deepen engagement in the heritage, our two winners show just how exciting, powerful and wide-reaching heritage volunteering can be. Heroes indeed; we are delighted to celebrate their achievements through these awards.”

Richard Johnson said: “It has been my privilege to be a contributor to this 'Project of All the Talents' and to help reveal the stories of people who are often ignored. The work done and the experiences gained have been their own reward; but the Heritage Hero Award does rather put the cherry on the cake!”

Steve Ash said: "It's a real honour to receive this award. The Digital Team at Wentworth Woodhouse is amazing and this award reflects the hard work and dedication that the whole team has put in. I'm genuinely excited to see where our digital adventure takes us next."