In the spirit of something different to do during these cold dreary days, I thought I’d entertain you with this fun idea…
I recently learnt that many of our famous London tourist spots are sponsored by the National Lottery, and may not have existed in their present form if the Brits didn’t like to play the lottery so much(!). Since I’m one of those guilty lottery-playing Brits, I thought I thought I may as well get involved. I had no idea that over 50% of us in the UK submit our lucky numbers on a weekly basis to both the National Lottery and the EuroMillions (the most popular lotto game in the UK). And aside from the fact that I am still waiting my turn to win (getting a little impatient!), it’s quite interesting to know that the National Lottery is actually one of the most philanthropic institutions in the world, distributing billions pounds to charity and various public purposes and actually supports many of our tourist attractions around London. I had no idea because let’s be honest – playing the lottery doesn’t exactly scream charity!
With that in mind, I was curious to understand more:
The British Museum
While the National Lottery was not responsible per se for the creation of the British Museum, the concept of using the lottery as a means of raising funds was. The museum was founded in 1753 with the help of Sir Hans Sloane’s vast cultural collection, but had no building to exhibit the items in. The British Parliament decided to organise a lottery for the benefit of the museum. Despite several allegations of fraud, the project was a successful one: sales revenues covered the purchase of Montagu House where the British Museum first opened its doors to the public in 1759. Fun fact: the winning ticket number was 46885!
Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of Arts got 12.7 million pounds from the National Lottery for their project “Reveal, Celebrate and Explore” which kicked off in 2014 and will be completed in 2018 before the academy’s 250th anniversary. The project is supposed to make the Royal Academy’s cultural heritage more accessible to the public. This includes new areas, restoration of historic environments and digitisation of parts of the College’s cultural treasure.
Jimi Hendrix home (I love this one)
In December 2013, the National Lottery announced that they’ll provide 1.2 million pounds to the restoration of some attic rooms on Brook Street 23 to the condition they were in 1968 when they were designed for the guitar legend Jimi Hendrix and his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. Hendrix rented the rooms in the late 60th century and described them as “the only home I ever had.” The apartment became a museum of Hendrix’s life and musical legacy, which opened in February 2016. Interestingly, the apartment next door, on Brook Street 25, is the apartment where the baroque composer George Frideric Handel lived for 40 years in the mid-1700s, and where today you can find the Handel House Museum.
Victoria Park is one of hundreds of parks around the UK whose creation sped up with lottery money. The idea has been to renew London’s parks and disseminate knowledge about their historical heritage, making it more accessible to the public. Victoria Park was awarded a 4.5 million pounds grant by the National Lottery in 2010 to improve and develop the park with cafes, public toilets, activity rooms and so on…. and I LOVE Victoria Park, so I’m glad I’ve somehow managed to contribute to it’s existence.
Do you remember when the Cutty Sark burnt down in 2007? I had just arrived in London and didn’t understand the significance until a few years later. It’s one of the most famous clippers that sailed under the British East India Company. The ship was launched in 1869 and sailed until 1877 between China and London and later with wool from Australia for nearly 20 years. After that, the ship was used for various purposes, and in April 2012 it reopened as a museum ship in Greenwich in east London, where you can both go on board and admire the hull from the bottom. The National Lottery sponsored this restoration project with altogether 22.75 million pounds. Without this money we could have hardly experienced the Cutty Sark as we can today!
I don’t know about you, but being one of those people that ploughs my money into lottery tickets every so often hoping for a win, it’s good to know that while I’m waiting my turn…. my money is being invested into the city I love.