It seems with increasing frequency, you turn on the radio and hear Mark Murphy or his ilk telling you that today – what was otherwise a normal day, get up, breakfast, children to school, work, lunch, work, children back from school, tea, bath time, children in bed, bottle of beer, supper, bed – that day, so normal and usual, is in fact a special day. It seems to be food is one of the main causes. 24th October was World Tripe Day, whereas 29th May will be National Biscuit Day. The last Thursday in August (why!?) is National Halal Burger Day. Who knew?
But there are others as well. Some are serious, and do make a difference. This month is Raynaud’s Awareness Month. It is likely that you do not know what Raynaud’s is – and because I saw that it is this month, I can now tell you – and learn for myself. (Raynaud’s is a common condition that mean that your extremities are especially sensitive to changes in temperature, causing pain, discomfort and in extreme circumstances, disability.) But my Lord there are some stupid commemorations out there. 15th February was Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D. apparently) – see what they are doing there? And if you remember, 4th May is Star Wars Day. It is the secular equivalent of the crowd of minor saints who were commemorated for centuries, some of them of dubious history or even existence; nonetheless, I would prefer for St Florian to be remembered on 4th May (for it is his saint’s day) than Hans Solo, even though I love Star Wars.
That was a very long way of explaining that this week is National Lottery in Parliament Week. This may seem even more abstruse than World Tripe Day but it in fact serves a purpose, one that I shall explain now.
The fact is that the National Lottery is a wonderful thing, perhaps the greatest single achievement of the last years of the last Conservative government. That might seem a mild claim but it is actually a very bold one, for the lottery has seen buildings of great magnificence and of more modesty but greater use built around the country, community groups by the hundreds of thousand – supporting tens of millions of people – funded securely, tens of thousands of old buildings restored, arts resplendent across the country, parks re-greened and green spaces liberated, sportsmen and women supported and ultimately the Olympic triumphs we saw in London and in Rio. In short, the National Lottery has done more to enrich the cultural life of this nation than any other single act by a government, ever. And that is something.
It is worth reflecting on what it has meant for Ipswich alone. The list of projects is now too long to fit into word limit we have here but from the restoration of Christchurch and Holywells Parks to the support for our core funded arts institutions in the town, the Lottery has made its benign impact felt in almost every part of Ipswich. Just recently, the Heritage Lottery Fund, one of the twelve distributors that hand out lottery cash, has paid in large part for the restoration and re-opening of St Mary at the Quay, now Quay Place, right in the middle of the Star Lane Gyratory – returning a special church to glory after fifty years of neglect. Over Stoke Bridge, the HLF has paid for the Avenue Theatre and restoration of Gippeswyk Hall, again putting a favourite landmark in Ipswich back into marvellous community use.
These are not just buildings: they house organizations (Suffolk Mind and the Red Rose Chain respectively) that enrich our community, providing solace and support to those who would otherwise be left out and behind. This is amazing work and Ipswich, and Britain, is the better for what the National Lottery has done. That is certainly worth a week of awareness, not just in parliament but about the nation.