You've probably already heard the great news today. If not, pop over to http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/news/docview.rhtm/651072 and then back here.
Yep, Bletchley Park has been awarded an amazing £4.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is the next stage in a process started by Simon Greenish, Kelsey Griffin and all the hard-working people of the Bletchley Park Trust. I've been lucky enough to see a little of the behind-the-scenes work going on over this bid and it's been a phenomenal mountain to climb. Today they have been rewarded handsomely for their efforts. I salute them.
So what is this money for?
Visitors to Bletchley Park often comment to me on the layout of the Park and the lack of museum-grade facilities. To be fair, they are often sympathetic when I explain the financial plight of the Trust over the years. Bletchley Park has never received any government funding or major corporate sponsorship. It relies on it's visitors and it's volunteers to remain open. The site has been in steady decay since GC&CS left at the end of the war and it's been a struggle, to say the least, to slow that damage. In many cases, reversing has been financially out of the question.
Until today that is.
The plans, as I understand them, are to 'refurbish' Huts 1, 3 & 6 (3 & 6 dealt with German air force and army Enigma messages). These Huts are of significant historical importance so I am giddy with excitement that within the next few years visitors will be able to go inside and soak up the atmosphere. Thankfully, the work will only take them as far as being safe to enter as a full restoration would invoke many health and safety regulations that would undermine their authenticity. Think bright green EXIT signs and the like.
Best of all, we'll get a new visitor's centre in the form of Block C. During the war, Block C was home to a complex and ground-breaking punchcard indexing system built by the British Tabulating Machine company (later ICL). Google have helped raise money for it's restoration, calling it 'the first search engine'. The block is derelict and quite dangerous. Now it's going to be converted into a gateway to Bletchley Park, providing visitors with a much smoother entry process and, of course, a great gift shop to exit through. All in all, this is part of a long-term project to restore the 'heart' of the park to it's condition during the war and to provide museum-grade facilities that do not impede on the atmosphere.
There's a catch.
In order to access the £4.6m, Bletchley Park has to raise an additional £1.7m from other sources. Only then are cheques written and the B&Q shopping list drawn up. So where's that money going to come from? Well, that's down to you and me. Today Bletchley Park launch 'Action This Day!', named after the famous memo Churchill wrote to the Imperial Chief of Staff ordering him to provide Bletchley Park with all the resources it required. This campaign aims to raise £1.7m though donations from both the public and companies willing to be a part of the Bletchley Park story. This is your opportunity to help an important piece of your history be preserved for the nation. Here's a quote from the press release that I think says it all:
The late Professor Richard Holmes said, "The work here at Bletchley Park... was utterly fundamental to the survival of Britain and to the triumph of the West. I’m not actually sure that I can think of very many other places where I could say something as unequivocal as that. This is sacred ground. If this isn’t worth preserving, what is?"
Please, have a rummage down the back of your sofa, smash a piggy bank or better still, pop in to see your boss and ask if the company has chosen a charity to support for 2012, or if they would consider holding their next off-site meeting at Bletchley Park. Anything, big or small, will help.