The historic site of Stonehenge has been lit up by a dazzling night time illumination to celebrate some of the unsung heroes of the heritage sector.
As part of a new campaign from The National Lottery, images of eight individuals – who have been working at some of the country’s best-loved heritage sites – were beamed onto the 5,000-year-old stones in Wiltshire.
Sir Tony Robinson, 74, was meant to speak at the event but due to coronavirus restrictions a video projection of him was shown to launch the illuminations on site.
The eight heritage workers were carefully chosen due to their dedication and commitment to the sector over a number of years.
The historic site of Stonehenge has been lit up by a dazzling night time illumination to celebrate some of the unsung heroes of the heritage sector
The campaign is to celebrate the work thousands of people across the UK are doing to help their communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Stonehenge illumination not only celebrates the efforts of those involved in the heritage sector, but shines a light on the pivotal role public gardens, historic sites and green spaces have played in people’s lives during these difficult times.
New research shows that 72 per cent of people say outdoor spaces have had a positive effect on their mental wellbeing during the pandemic.
Sir Tony Robinson, 74, (centre) was meant to speak at the event but due to coronavirus restrictions a video projection of him was shown to launch the illumination on site
A further 62 per cent say this period of change has made them value places of historical and local importance more than ever.
Among those being honoured with the illuminations is Mick Byrne, who helped to plant thousands of trees at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield in Staffordshire.
He also led socially distanced tours around the memorial, which honours the contributions of members of the armed forces.
James Rodliff, operations manager at English Heritage, stands next to the 5,000-year-old stones at Stonehenge in Salisbury as his image is illuminated alongside fellow unsung heritage heroes
Speaking a the event Sir Tony said coronavirus will trigger a ‘renaissance’ in our relationship with open spaces.
The Blackadder star and TV historian said the pandemic has led to people having a greater appreciation for heritage sites and the outdoors.
He said that while the pandemic has been difficult for organisations which maintain historically significant sites and protected land, people have learnt to value the locations they are preserving.
He said: ‘I think there’s a potential for a big silver lining at the end of Covid, which is that we can start rekindling, re-loving and reimagining our historic places and open spaces and there’s enough pent-up energy out there to make that happen.
The eight heritage workers were carefully chosen due to their dedication and commitment to the sector over a number of years
‘I think there’s going to be a renaissance in how people use those open spaces and we’ll do so in ways that we can hardly imagine at the moment.’
Sir Tony said the pandemic has helped people to be more in touch with their outdoor environments.
‘I think we are all much more aware of the open spaces that surround us and the things which we can go and see, which we wouldn’t otherwise go and see, and I sense that we won’t forget that,’ he said.
The television presenter added that while this has been going on, ‘people who are the wardens of these places have had an enormously difficult time’ and have ‘lost all their funding streams’.
Of the eight who had their faces projected onto the monument were English Heritage’s James Rodliff who is Operations Manager at Stonehenge.
Without any visitors to the iconic site, and with 92 per cent of the Stonehenge team furloughed, James worked with a small team throughout lockdown to ensure the care and conservation of the 5,000 year-old monument.
Another is William Colvin, of Cushendun, Northern Ireland, who has worked tirelessly to rescue a deconsecrated church – The Cushendun Old Church – and then to keep it functioning and accessible to its members during lockdown.
Uzo Iwobi OBE, founder of Race Council Cymru Wales, led and delivered the first ever Black History Wales 365 initiative – an ambitious year-long educational, heritage, cultural and celebratory programme of events and supported grassroots ethnic minority communities during the pandemic.