Alan Higgs was a Coventry businessman who died in 1979 at the age of 66. He had made his own way in the world and left instructions on his death that a charitable foundation should administer his considerable fortune to benefit the people of Coventry and the surrounding area.
Having experienced deprivation in his own childhood he was particularly concerned to support and encourage underprivileged young people. His son and daughter had been given a happy family background and a good education and understood his belief that a good start in life through access to opportunities is of more value than inherited wealth.
The Charity’s funds were increased by the generous gift of £1million by its then Chairman, the late Sir Derek Higgs, son of the founder. However, perhaps his biggest contribution was the work that he put in over 20 years to grow the original capital. This is what allows the Trustees to make the number and range of grants in its current programme. Without his vision and this major contribution, the Trustees’ capacity for grant making would have been restricted.
The Trustees’ grant making policy has four areas. They support:
- One off grants to meet the ad hoc needs of groups or organisations.
- Projects or activities in particular geographical or thematic areas in order to concentrate the effect of grants.
- Strategic initiatives that have an effect on large numbers of people over time.
- Through their experience and local knowledge and in liaison with other grant makers, the Trustees have identified geographical areas of multiple deprivation or areas of great need within sectors of the community. They have made particular grants to organisations working in North Warwickshire, parts of Coventry and charities working with particularly deprived families.
The Trustees make around 100 grants a year for a wide range of activities which include refurbishment and re-equipping; some start up salary costs and some core costs. The Trustees have been keen to match the fundraising efforts of local groups and have avoided allowing any group or organisation to come to depend on their grants. The Trustees make no grants to individuals but make grants to charities that have specialist concerns and expertise.
Step change actions
Under the leadership of the late Chairman Sir Derek Higgs, the Charity carried out the construction of the Alan Higgs Centre, which at a cost of £10 million, created a sports and leisure centre for the south of Coventry, which also became the home of Coventry City Football Club’s Youth Development Academy. The Charity also stepped in to ensure that the Arena project was realised, to create employment and regeneration in the northwest of Coventry by developing a landmark building with events and activities 365 days a year.
In memory of the late Sir Derek Higgs, the Charity assisted the Derek Higgs Start a Heart Appeal to place 50 automatic external defibrillators across Coventry.
Whilst Marilyn Knatchbull-Hugessen, the founder’s daughter, was Chair the Charity formed a partnership with the Coventry City Council, the University of Warwick and Coventry University to organise and promote The Coventry Mysteries to bring together people across different cultures and generations. The festival explored moral issues common to all faiths through drama, dance, and other performing arts to promote cultural cohesion.
The Trustees engaged with Coventry University in a project (Music Coventry) to restore the Drapers’ Hall in the City Centre as a place for children and young people from all parts of the City to engage in music through practice, learning, and performance. The Charity enabled this project to go forward by gifting to the Historic Coventry Trust survey and detailed design work costing nearly £500,000. They have continued their support by gifting the long lease of Drapers Bar to the Historic Coventry Trust to complete the Drapers’ Hall and Bayley Lane development. This development will re-energise this part of the City Centre, providing great facilities for the local community and also enhancing Coventry’s status as a major visitor destination. This is a now a significant element in the legacy of UK City of Culture 2021/22.
The Trustees are grateful to the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust for its help in developing this website.