Power to the people: community-led preservation

Sam Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust. Over the next few months he will be following the politics of preserving our heritage. Check out last week’s post here.

This month graffiti artist Bansky visited my small Gloucestershire town of Cheltenham. Its effect on the local community was refreshing to say the least. Shortly after it was painted, it had been defaced with paint by some unknown culprit. Instantly, locals set about removing the offending paint and restored the ‘art’ to its former glory.

Locals protecting the damaged Bansky

Locals protecting the damaged Bansky/ BBC

What was remarkable, was the community-led action to protect what they felt was important. It begs to question, can this same local action be used to protect and maintain our nation’s heritage, landscape and treasured sites that are at risk?

Recently we have seen some wonderful community-led action to protect our important places.

Hertfordshire constabulary have set up ‘Heritage Watch’ with the support of English Heritage and Hertfordshire County Council. This scheme is not a new police strategy to protect heritage sites, but a move to facilitate better communication within the community so that Heritage crime can be prevented by the people who use and enjoy these sites.

It puts the responsibility of these treasured sites in the hands of community that utilise and love them. More information here.

Bronze Age Uffington White Horse

Bronze Age Uffington White Horse

The National Trust has also proved that facilitation of community-led preservation and conservation can be a huge success.

Recently, over 400 hundred volunteers gathered to maintain the Uffington White Horse. Situated on Oxfordshire’s tallest hill, the chalk cutting requires 3000 hours of work each year to keep it in an excellent condition.

The National Trust also mobilises thousands volunteers to maintain the many listed buildings, gardens and countryside that it owns.

It is obvious that spontaneous acts from the community like the Banksy in Cheltenham aren’t going to happen everywhere. However, it is encouraging to see such initiatives like Heritage Watch and the Uffington White Horse that facilitate community action.

How can you help?

You can get involved in the many National Trust volunteering opportunities here.


Samuel Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust.

He is a recent History graduate from the University of the West of England. When not selling sausages in a deli, he usually occupies himself by researching and blogging on our nation’s more overlooked heritage. Follow him on twitter @weaversamuel2




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