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In the 1990's, the nation witnessed the launch of a National Lottery that would channel the money raised through the sale of tickets into charitable and social projects.

To begin with, millions across the country flocked to their local newsagents to buy sheaves of tickets on the off chance that they would be the one in 14 million to walk off with the jackpot. The advert proclaiming through the medium of a giant glowing pointing finger that "It could be you" may have been replaced by the unicorn in a snowball, but the benefit of the National Lottery to the nation remains the same. Advertising the achievements of projects to have received National Lottery funding, the National Lottery Awards 2006 finalists have been announced, and have seen education projects topping the list.

Finalists

The awards scheme was established to raise awareness of the projects that receive Lottery funding, and to make the public aware that their pounds and pennies are being spent in a good cause. The National Lottery itself began in 1994, since which time a total of £18.5 billion has been generated for various different projects throughout the UK. The funding has been manifested in more than 240,000 grants being awarded across the fields of arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.

Several education projects have been nominated on the short list, that will shortly be voted upon by the public. One such project is called "Mobile Media" (which received a grant of £210,000 in Lottery funding from the Arts Council England), a uniquely designed project with young people in mind. The project takes various digital technologies to young people within the Swindon area, and gives them the opportunity to experience the manipulation of technology in producing and developing projects in film, animation, digital photography and web "“ based initiatives. The project brings professionals into the mix, trying to target young people who would not ordinarily have the option of experiencing arts and media work.

Two of the other projects highlight the importance of sport and activities in the development process of children; the West Walton Primary School's "Rebound Wall" sporting facility (which received a £10,000 Lottery grant through the auspices of Sport England), and the Seven Mill / Marion Richardson Schools developing healthy living skills (which project benefited from a £185,000 grant from Sport England through Lottery funding). The final short listed project is called "Farms for City Children" (through a grant of £350,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund), which is based in Gloucestershire and aims to open the eyes of city "“ based youth to the countryside and farming generally.

Speaking Out for the Pound?

These projects received grants that are greater than the average National Lottery funding grant "“ the average grant is placed at about £5,000. For every pound that is spent on Lottery tickets, a total of 28 pence goes to the grants that support projects. The benefits have been clearly felt through the "Mobile Media" project, who have stated that the experience gained through the project has inspired many of the young people to engage in further study in the field. Many have gone on to enter the industry professionally.

One of the project workers for "Mobile Media", Marie Spencer, said: "Mobile Media" lets young people explore their creative sides and gives them access to state of the art equipment. There is a lot of incredible talent out there and some amazing work has been produced. It's great to give these kids something to focus on and in many cases the experience gives them a real boost."

The shortlists have been finalised now, and are now competing for the public's votes. The voting closes on the 11th of August, and votes can be cast either through telephoning (at a total cost of no more than 1.5 pence) or by clicking here.

Jethro Marsh

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