Line of people with their backs to camera whose t-shirt backs read Spirit 2012

Come Aboard

It has been tremendously exciting to be at the helm as Spirit of 2012 was created and endowed by the Big Lottery Fund, and to work with Peter Ainsworth and his team to bring the new trust into being and to shape our purpose and ethos.

There were originally five ‘first directors’ of Spirit, subsequently joined by four others, and I have been proud to lead such a talented and authoritative team.  It included cultural leader, Sir Nicholas Kenyon of the Barbican, Paralympic legend and increasingly influential Lords campaigner, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Sir Harry Burns, until recently Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, and internationally respected for his work on public health and Baroness Sue Campbell, whose tireless 20-year campaign for youth sport, and leadership of the UK Sport high performance programme in the run up to and during the London Games, inspired unprecedented success both in terms of Olympic and Paralympic medals and public appreciation of the contribution of physical education to young people’s physical and social personal development. Tanni and Sue recently stepped down from the Board, although both continue to support us as ‘Spirit Champions’.


As Chair of the Board I have three priorities for Spirit of 2012.  Firstly, I want to chair a team of knowledgeable, authoritative and passionate individuals who come from and know different parts of the country, are balanced in terms of age and gender and who are leaders in their fields.  We have recently refreshed and rejuvenated the Board by recruiting three new members; Efa Gruffud Jones, Chief Executive of the Urrd Gobaith Cymru, Paralympian swimmer Susie Rodgers and former British Youth Council leader and Commonwealth Secretariat Sport Directorate intern, Carl Konadu.  I am keen both to strengthen the cultural expertise on the Board and to increase the gender balance in filling the remaining place around the table.

Secondly, we have been entrusted with £47m of National Lottery money and the grants my Board makes must be sound, critically scrutinised, and provide value for money.  I also want Spirit’s work to make its mark – and to make a difference - so our funding decisions should be bold and creative, sometimes experimental, reaching all parts of the UK and fulfilling all aspects of the broad remit set out in our Trust Deed.

Finally, and most importantly, Spirit of 2012 must deliver on the Big Lottery Fund’s expectations of and trust in us.  That means investing to help organisations, using events as a catalyst to demonstrate that culture, arts and sport can bring communities together and enhance wellbeing.  The Big Lottery Fund charged us with creating a ‘bank’ of knowledge about how events can trigger these impacts and help to transform perceptions of disabled people and people with impairments.  This aspect of our mission is fundamental to what we were created to do and all our grantees are expected to commit to helping us to demonstrate the outcomes set out in our Theory of Change.  There is intense interest in and competition for Spirit funding and the Board needs to be able to make some tough calls in the interest of maintaining focus on our main goals.

Action for happiness

Our strapline is ‘investing in happiness’ – we had quite a debate around the Board table when that was suggested, with some fears that we might appear glib or lacking in serious intent.  At the same time we were aware of a new and increasingly pervasive current of thinking which focuses on the value of happiness to any healthy and functioning society.  Sir Harry is particularly passionate on this point, as is another public health leader, Lord Layard, whose book, entitled Happiness, has had significant influence on policymakers. I felt our decision to go with ‘investing in happiness’ was fully vindicated when the report of The Commission on Health and Well Being, chaired by former Civil Service Chief Lord O’Donnell, was published last spring.

If anyone reading this has extensive and senior experience in a field relevant to Spirit and is motivated to increase the store of public happiness and contribute to public understanding of how events can achieve this, please download the application pack I greatly look forward to welcoming a new Board Member in the spring.