The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available and Norwich is ranked as number 3 as a centre for heritage in England (up from number 9 in 2016). The city’s particular strengths are in Historic Built Environment (3rd up from 4th), Museums, Archives and Artefacts (7th up from 12th), and Culture and Memories (2nd down from 1st). There has also been a marked improvement for Parks and Open Space (28th up from 40th).
Norfolk as a county featured prominently. North Norfolk came 25th (up from 36 in 2016). Its main strengths included Historic Built Environment (33rd up from 71st), Landscape and Natural Heritage (22nd up from 27th), and Culture and Memories (75th up from 86th). There were also improvements in Museums, Archives and Artefacts (135th up from 141st) and Parks and Open Spaces (131st up from 137th).
Great Yarmouth did particularly well moving from 64th in 2016 to 38th. Its particular strengths were Industrial Heritage (22nd up from 40th), Parks and Open Spaces (56th up from 115th), and Historic Built Environment (85th up from 159th).
Kings Lynn and West Norfolk was ranked 54th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 39th), Breckland at 150th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 41st, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 117th), Broadland at 190th (with a strength in Landscape and Natural Heritage, 123rd), and South Norfolk at 219th (with a strength in Historic Built Environment, 63rd).
Across the region, Cambridge also featured in the top 10 at number 9 (up from 12th). Maldon moved from 40th to 37th (with moves in Historic Built Environment, 48th, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 125th), while Colchester remained unchanged at 140th (though with a move to 80th for Historic Built Environment). Ipswich fell from 70th in 2016 to 87th. East Suffolk was placed at 98th, and West Suffolk at 122nd.
In tackling my backlog of grey literature reading, a report re-emerged in my files on an EU-funded project which ran as part of the 2007-2013 North Sea Region Programme. The project, entitled “Making Places Profitable – Public and Private Open Spaces”, shortened to MP4 focused on exploration of approaches for planning and designing, maintaining and using public places in the long-term. It set out to demonstrate how open space improvements offer positive socio-economic benefits, and how the benefits offered to key communities can be maintained in the long run. It also illustrated support for greater interaction between all those involved in the open space management process. The original project website is no longer active (and I’d advise anyone not to click the link in the project report as the project domain has been re-used for something else entirely!) – but it can be found archived here. Broader research and case studies were also published in an academic text. (I also hadn’t realised that a Heriot-Watt colleague was involved in the study, and I will now track him down for a conversation!).
The key phrase used within the project which has stuck in my mind over the past few days, is ‘place-keeping’, mainly because I haven’t consciously heard it being used in the historic environment milieu which I am embedded in (rather than the open space management context where it originated). That we haven’t picked up on the term ‘place-keeping’ surprises me therefore – as the ethos of balancing preservation and managing change which is at the heart of heritage management seems to be neatly captured in it, particularly where community and stakeholder engagement is at the fore, and especially where it is trying to encourage greater sense of ‘ownership’. Place-keeping, however perhaps better captures aspects of our discussions in heritage management which which have co-opted ‘place-making’ as a term to use somewhat uncomfortably at times, where heritage has been hard-wired to regeneration and as an instrumental tool for development. Place-keeping also has an implicit sense of history within the term, whilst place-making just doesn’t – to me it suggests a constant act of development. Perhaps I have missed it entirely, but I think I shall now be slipping place-keeping into meetings and discussions and see where it finds new traction – or gets challenged forcing me to consider this all a little more.