Sir Peter Luff
Opening of the International Bomber Command Centre, Lincoln.
We meet in the sombre shadow of the possibility of new international conflict
Of a new chapter in the seemingly endless struggle against tyranny, inhumanity and brutality.
This gives an unexpected perspective to this important occasion and to what I intended to say today
For this is my third opening of a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund this week.
On Monday I was at a major arts centre, built on a site heavily bombed during the war - London’s Southbank Centre - for the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room.
Yesterday I was in Belfast for the opening of the Tropical Ravine – a unique and wonderful Victorian Glasshouse.
Today, the International Bomber Command Centre is a fitting climax, particularly because of where it is.
For Lincoln is a city where the Heritage Lottery Fund has made other significant investments.
In Lincoln Castle, where Magna Carta proclaims our freedom, and in the majestic Lincoln Cathedral, a soaring statement of faith.
All these projects are clear reminders of what was at stake in the Second World War.
Freedom in all its manifestations – including freedom of artistic expression, of scientific inquiry, and of faith.
This place is about those who fought so bravely for that freedom, three hundred of whom are with us today.
Without you and your many colleagues our national heritage would have been overwhelmed by a foreign, menacing heritage of shame and despair.
Heritage has many faces.
Sometimes heritage is a cause for celebration, sometimes for somber reflection.
But heritage always involves compelling stories of people, of communities, of places and of nation.
There can be no project the HLF has funded of which that is more true than this.
Every name recorded here has its story, and these stories must be remembered because, paradoxically, heritage is about the future, not the past.
Yes, we look back - to be informed, inspired, cautioned, saddened or exhilarated.
But as we do, we understand how things came to be as they are now - and our decisions about the future are better shaped.
That’s why it matters so much that this Centre reaches out to young people.
It is crucial they understand the heritage of conflict.
That’s why it matters that the Centre is truly international in outlook, for the story of Bomber Command is the story of people from sixty-two countries.
Many of them risked their lives twice; first to escape the Nazis and again to join the fight against the tyranny from which they had fled.
This is why it matters so much that the Centre is genuinely inclusive in approach and interpretation. Why it covers not just the profoundly courageous air crews but also the ground crews and civilians on both sides of this devastating conflict.
To tell these stories is not easy. There is a difficult balance to be struck. There are challenging tensions to resolve.
That’s why it matters that this place is not only about extraordinary bravery, amazing skill and unprecedented dedication, but also – and crucially - about reconciliation.
Our gratitude goes, then, to Nicky Barr, the Chief Executive: a force of nature without whom none of this would have been possible.
Thanks also go to Heather Hughes, to Dan Eilin and to all the University team, who I met here on site many months ago.
Also to the many volunteers who have worked so hard to make this remarkable place what it is.
Perhaps though, and as will be said many times, the profoundest thanks are posthumous.
Tony Worth, the Trust’s chair, was the project’s inspiration.
Ultimately, it is thanks to him that the IBCC is this impressive hub for recognition, remembrance and reconciliation.
THE RAF CENTENARY
In the month of the centenary of the Royal Air Force, we in the HLF are proud of the role we have played in the development of the overall development of the heritage of the RAF in Lincolnshire.
That includes our support for Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire, and its current First World War exhibition at RAF Scampton, “County Bastion in the air”.
I’m told I should encourage you all to visit.
We are also really pleased to have been able to do so much to help the RAF celebrate its anniversary nationally, including funding a major redevelopment of the RAF Museum at Hendon and the acquisition and restoration of the last surviving intact First World War airfield at Stow Maries in Essex.
None of this would have been possible without the players of the National Lottery. I hope that includes every UK passport holder here today.
To them goes my deepest gratitude, for they make possible all the grants we give.
They should be proud of what their three million pounds of support has helped to achieve here on this hilltop overlooking Lincoln.
This fine memorial to the tragic price of freedom, to the courage with which that price was paid, and to the overwhelming imperative of reconciliation.