It could be you - Lottery-backed project is looking for Corby’s ‘hidden’ heritage heroes

Suzanne Oliver is University of Northampton's Heritage Projects and Partnerships Officer and is championing Corby
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A far-reaching, collaborative heritage project between two universities is ramping up a gear with a new staff members’ search for Corby’s experts.

Suzanne Oliver is University of Northampton’s (UON) Heritage Projects and Partnerships Officer and is looking for people who know Corby like the back of their hands to stimulate interest in the unique heritage of the town as part of the Heritage Impact Accelerator project.


Suzanne Oliver in CorbySuzanne Oliver in Corby
Suzanne Oliver in Corby
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The Heritage Impact Accelerator – backed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund – will support practitioners in both towns and surrounding areas, to deliver heritage-related educational projects, covering community heritage, natural heritage, industrial heritage and heritage of both town’s architecture.

These projects can include educational talks and discussions, and this project is being directly informed by UON’s partner, University of Bedfordshire, following their successful, similar project in Luton.

The Heritage Skills Hub* will be created to bring practitioners and heritage organisations together with schools to develop their skills and sector knowledge enabling them to work with community groups, schools and the wider population in the county to pass on their knowledge to others, something Suzanne is ideally poised to lead in the county.


Suzanne has a rich pedigree in arts, culture and education and for 17 years was the Creative Director of arts and learning organisation Catalyst Theatre Arts.

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For this, she won a Northamptonshire Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2004 and a People, Planet and Profits Special Award at the regional finals.

Suzanne said: “I had a job years ago at Corby’s Community Arts based in what was Canada Square, a place with bad heating and lighting but lots of vision and energy.

"I found the town fascinating because there was a drive to do exciting things…and we did!

“There were summer camps for the children and one time we rocked up with a load of junk to make instruments – it was Corby’s version of Stomp! – and we had performance-based events for International Women’s Day and DJing in the town centre.

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“Even though Corby had a bad press (and, to some degree, still does), there was the impetus to do new and exciting things and I know that is still there.

“Heritage is a continual thing. We can look back to hundreds of years ago, but what’s important to people now, what will be Corby’s future heritage? This is what interests me and what drew me to this project.”


Bedfordshire has extended a supportive hand as their established Heritage Impact Accelerator project in Luton – which concludes in September – is directly informing what is planned for Corby.

The work in Luton has yielded exceptional results with regards to the Heritage Impact Accelerator model, including delivering 453 hours of 1-2-1 support plus a programme of activity that has led to six new CIC heritage organisations registered in Luton to date, 20 funding bids developed and £197,031 secured by participants to deliver Luton-based heritage projects.

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A further £101,971 of funding applications submitted await decision and £86,718 of funding applications are ready to be submitted. In terms of relationships, the participants have been supported to develop more than 400 new connections, including 99 new creative sector connections, 65 higher education, 34 civic, 27 heritage, 16 schools and 11 environmental conservation.

After September, the Bedfordshire team’s legacy will be to work in partnership with the University of Northampton to co-lead the heritage Skills and Learning Hub across Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, as well as deliver a new programme for Luton: Heritage Futures Elevator.

The latter looks to build the visibility of heritage practitioners and the place-based heritage of Luton to broader audiences, whether that is locally, regionally or nationally.

This work will be led by University of Bedfordshire’s Jitty Marwaha, who will work closely with Suzanne. Jitty is based within the Arts and Culture Projects team at the University of Bedfordshire and has a wealth of experience working across communities, the culture sector and with businesses to deliver high-quality events, educational programmes and capacity-building projects.


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Suzanne is also on the look-out for people who are experts but might not see themselves as such, as she explains: “Before being appointed I’d been ‘out of the Corby loop’ for several years, so I went back to look around a few old haunts of mine.

"At one neighbourhood centre, I sat down with the lady who worked in the kitchen and as soon I mentioned heritage, she said: ‘Oh it’s not me you need to talk to’ and I replied ‘Ah! But that’s why it is you! Why do you think it isn’t?’

“I want to meet with and include Corby people like her in this project, find out what they think their heritage is, explore this and break down misconceptions or stereotypes.

"You don’t need to have a degree or be an established heritage expert or practitioner, or a recognised artist or writer.

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"This will be an exciting and enlightening project and I’m looking forward to people getting in touch with me to share their thoughts on Corby’s culture and heritage."

*The Heritage Skills Hub for Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire that will bring together the heritage and education sectors for these areas, will be officially launched on Monday, July 3 from midday to 4pm at Stanwick Lakes Visitor Centre & Café.

See the Eventbrite notice for more and to reserve a space:

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