Nicola Collins, Fundraising Manager, Birkenhead High School Academy, Prenton, Merseyside (1,099 pupils): 'During an extensive rebuild, Birkenhead High School Academy unearthed some WWII tunnels which had been built in 1940 for pupils and staff. Despite their age, the shelters were in reasonable condition, so we decided to seek funding to restore them and open them as a piece of living history for the local community.
We contacted the Heritage Lottery Fund and an adviser visited the site and agreed that we could proceed with an application. We began by putting together an activity plan and gathering local statistics. We put the work out to tender and shortlisted companies and external agencies that could help with the project. A 6,000-word application was submitted, which outlined why the shelters’ restoration would be worthwhile. After 12 months of hard work, we were successfully awarded £81,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for our project “Reliving the Blitz”, and work began.
A wonderful WWII-themed grand opening was held for 100 invited guests. Entertainment included 1940s-style singers, vintage vehicles, a buffet lunch and a Winston Churchill impersonator greeting people as they arrived. The official ribbon-cutting was done by the Principal, using the same inscribed scissors that were used to open the shelters in 1940 by the then Headmistress, Miss Stephen.
As well as the restoration work, the funding went towards an audio experience within the shelters, oral-history training for volunteers, archiving research, equipment, the production of a professional DVD, promotional materials, travel and refreshment costs for local people who shared their WWII experiences, and the production of displays. Once the fund expires, the shelters project will continue to run for years to come.'