CHARLES GRAHAM: Heritage is the real jackpot winner

Mesnes Park in Wigan
Mesnes Park in Wigan

The birth of the National Lottery came within days of my daughter’s so it has always been easy to remember how old it is.

But as with my elder child, it doesn’t seem like a quarter century since its arrival, although quite hard to recall its not being there either.

What a launch it was. I remember actually being suckered into the tabloid fake news that claimed presenter Anthea Turner had drawn out all six winning balls at the studio dress rehearsal.

There was massive enthusiasm for it. The cash pots and prizes were vastly larger at the outset because so many people then hadn’t worked out that you were more likely to be struck by lightning, eaten by a shark or die in a trouser-related accident than hit the jackpot.

There were tales of life-changing wins and heart-breaking what-might-have-beens (I covered one of the latter in Garswood of a couple whose usual six numbers came up but the lad had gone to the shop just moments before 7.30pm on lotto night and the machine failed to print the ticket in time. They missed out on more than £8m).

But over the years, interest has (perhaps inevitably) waned, especially when extra numbers were added into the machine to make a jackpot even more fanciful. You’ve got to be in it to win it though, and we do still have an occasional flutter.

Just as well, as the Lotto has been a powerful force for good. Billions of pounds from it have gone to help charities, boost sporting prowess and improve our heritage.

It was announced this week that Wigan has benefited to the tune of £20m in heritage lottery cash, with projects as diverse as one involving Wigan Warriors and war veterans to the rehabilitation of Mesnes Park.

I do think that a borough of our size should have probably received a lot more than that in the space of a quarter century. One hardly dares think what amounts have been given to London during that period.

But it is an important institution that is here to stay. Here’s to the next 25 years!