Heritage and the Levelling-Up Agenda

One of the themes for the EARC Regional Heritage Report was the Levelling-Up agenda. This builds on our earlier contribution to the Heritage Alliance discussion where we considered the situation in the Thames Estuary.

We consider health and well-being; pride in place; digital connectivity; education and skills; and sustainable development goals. Case studies include Involve Kent Programme; Quay Place, Ipswich [though see here]; Otford Place and the Archbishop’s Conservation Trust; Norfolk Record Office; Jaywick Martello Tower; and Hands on Heritage.

Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://kar.kent.ac.uk/96160/>.

Heritage Shut-Down


Heritage site across the UK are closed as part of the general shut-down due to COVID. This will, in itself, cause financial issues for those bodies that rely on income to maintain, conserve and protect sites.

The Heritage Alliance has issued some advice to heritage organisations during the present crisis.

Saxtead Green Post Mill © David Gill

Heritage Day 2019 (2020)


The postponed Heritage Day 2019, arranged by the Heritage Alliance, was held at The Tower of London in February 2020. The Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, Nigel Huddlestone MP, gave his first speech on heritage and tourism.

The heritage news hub – on editing Update @heritage_NGOs

Heritage update screenshotOver the past couple of months I have stepped in as ‘Guest Editor’ to help The Heritage Alliance produce its fortnightly email newsletter, Heritage Update. This is circulated directly to over 3,600 subscribers, and is then forwarded on or circulated to a few thousand more folk within organisations and networks within the sector and beyond – both in the UK and overseas.  Judging from sheer amount of information collated and edited from pro-active monitoring of a wide range of information and data sources, along with items submitted directly for inclusion from professionals and organisations across the sector, it is probably the single most important point of news and information for anybody wanting to keep up with what is going on. [Along with the BEFS Bulletin, for organisations north of the border in Scotland, serviced by the sister organisation, the Built Environment Forum Scotland!]

We exist in a multi-channel environment for receiving information, and it has been both fascinating, hugely enjoyable and utterly daunting at times to be at the heart of the flow of policy updates, news, consultations, job vacancies, events, debates, courses, critique, analysis, data, research projects, emails, calls, images and tweets. The sector is incredibly dynamic with so much going on. Update tries to provide a central point of curated information to particularly support the independent sector which usually doesn’t have the capacity to monitor what’s going on beyond the horizon in the way that the larger heritage organisations do.  It also tries to make sense of wider policy issues in planning and the environment, which are of relevance for the sector, and flags opportunities to engage in consultations which Government departments and other bodies conduct to feed in reaction, concerns of ideas where they might impact on the heritage sector.  The whole sector seems to find it useful and essential reading.

What is abundantly clear is that whilst Update contains a lot of information every fortnight (frequently running to over 20 pages if you happen to press print!), it is only able to cover the essentials: much more could be included, and the information feeds and platforms expand week by week (new projects, websites, RSS feeds, tweets, LinkedIn groups and discussions, publications).  There is a combination of information overload, connection deficit, a curatorial requirement, and a challenge in making sense of the heritage sector’s activities – which all washes up into the production of Update: as I swap back from the editor’s hat to my management academic hat I am starting to scribble ideas on how this can be conceptualised and signposted in terms of a knowledge management case study.

To sign up for Update – follow the link here: http://email.premmdesign.co.uk/h/r/31BE9009F8B5DF9B

“How do we value cultural heritage?”

Loyd Grossman at Culture Matters
© David Gill

Loyd Grossman, chair of The Heritage Alliance, gave the keynote address today at “Culture Matters: The International Cultural Heritage Conference”. This was a passionate and articulate plea to value heritage in our society. 

He initially posed the question, “Why is it hard to value culture?” This raised the concern that there are some in our society (or societies) who do not value culture and cultural heritage. The talk ranged from “flagship assets” (like the Tower of London and Stonehenge) to “the less aesthetic” such as bunkers from the Cold War. Interestingly “aesthetic response” was a theme that emerged from the “Not praising, burying” seminar at the McDonald Institute seminar in Cambridge last week.

Heritage has played its part in urban regeneration, but Grossman posed another question, “Why do we measure cultural value?” He suggested that we live in “an audit society” where heritage competes alongside health, education (and defence). 

His strongest section was the reminder that heritage policy making is not hampered by a lack of information. He cited the examples of Gateshead and the formation of creative industries, or of Liverpool as capital of culture. Indeed tourism is the fifth largest industry in the UK. What was important was that heritage drives tourism: tourists come to see the castles and the stately homes (and more!). Grossman urged the conference to articulate the link between heritage and tourism. He wondered if the ever increasing demand for more data and information was intended to ensure that the heritage sector was “kept busy” and not raising more difficult questions. 

Grossman made it clear that there was a hunger for authenticity and tradition, and this is why heritage in the UK was so important. He felt that the heritage sector “had lost its voice” and had rather taken comfort in the arms of statisticians. His main concern was that the cuts to the heritage sector, and English Heritage in particular, could be very damaging.

Grossman also reminded us that heritage adds to our quality of life, a quality that cannot always be measured.

This was a strong case for why Culture Matters to the people of the United Kingdom (and beyond).


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