By Andrew Holt

Today, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is announcing over 500 successful projects across the UK which will be receiving a total investment of £4.5m to help people explore their community’s heritage, through its All Our Stories programme.

This grant programme - developed to coincide with BBC Two’s history series, The Great British Story: A People’s History - aims to get thousands more people involved in exploring the local history, customs and traditions that are important to them.

Small grants will enable people across the UK to find out more about their own local heritage – often complex, sometimes quirky but always fascinating – at a truly grass roots level.

A kaleidoscope of unusual stories of communities is already emerging, such as why Nottingham is synonymous with bicycles, how people in Salford want to remember their lost pubs and how football has been a vital part of Cambridge’s identity for over a century.

All Our Stories, launched in April, was so popular that HLF has quadrupled the amount it had originally set aside for projects. Grants range from £3,000 up to £10,000 and have been granted to all sorts of organisations, from small community groups, residents’ associations and local history groups to larger heritage organisations and charities.

The grants will bring communities together to explore the past, as well as providing those people with the skills and expert advice - delivered by top academics - to delve into their local community’s history in a lasting and well-informed way.

Speaking today at the All Our Stories project launch at the Museum of London, Dame Jenny Abramsky, chair of HLF, said: “These grants seem to have struck a chord – perhaps it reflects the wonderful community spirit of the Olympics – but clearly people of all ages and backgrounds and lottery players themselves want to look into and celebrate what has shaped their communities over the years.

"We have been bowled over by the response and the great news is that we have been able to find the money to support so many fascinating projects. We’re looking forward to hearing more about the colourful stories that emerge; they will create a unique picture of these islands at an important time in our history.”

Historian Michael Wood presented The Great British Story which was broadcast earlier this year and encouraged people to get more personally involved with the heritage in their own backyard.

He said: “We British love our history, and no wonder: few nations in the world, if any, have such riches on their doorstep, and so much of it accessible to all of us. It is fantastic that so many people have been inspired to get involved, both from The Great British Story series, and HLF’s All Our Stories.

"Thanks to lottery players people can now dig deeper into their own past and I’m certain many surprising stories will be uncovered which will not only bring to life the excitement of local history, but will illuminate every community’s connection with the national narrative.”

Cambridge United Football Club is among 542 successful projects being announced today.

Their project is using volunteer researchers including supporters, managers and students from the university and local schools who will help gather information to create a database, make a film and produce a smartphone app that will encourage people to explore the club’s 100 year history.

Cambridge Fans United spokesperson David Matthew-Jones said: “It’s Cambridge United Football Club’s centenary year and the memories of past players, fans and managers will be collected to bring alive the story not just of sport but of a community.”

Other successful applicants today include:.

The Raleigh – a workers’ history of an iconic Nottingham bicycle factory

Experiences of the first Chinese immigrants in Swansea and the surrounding area
The Fenland in Roman Times, the Fenlands

The Lost Pubs of Chapel Street, Salford

‘When I was Younger I Remember’ - 50 years of being an Area of Outstanding Beauty on the Isle of Wight

Potteries Tile Trail – Stoke, West Midlands

Living Along the Cut: Canal Memories – Pontycysyllte, North Wales

To support All Our Stories, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is providing funding so that projects can work closely with universities and benefit from the professional support of heritage experts.

The AHRC funding will be encouraging early career researchers to work with community groups to share and develop their research skills.

HLF will also be commissioning The Media Trust to help projects create a new type of digital record of the work they do.

Although the All Our Stories programme is now closed to further applications, HLF will be launching a new £3,000 - £10,000 community heritage grants programme, ‘Sharing Heritage’, in February 2013.

It will use a similar, simple to access application process and will also be designed to reach new applicants working at grass roots.

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