Recently, a report from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) has highlighted that the UK fails to make the most from our heritage. It begs the question of how beneficial is heritage and how should we utilise these assets?
Whilst we consider our historical sites to be culturally important to us, sadly heritage is usually the first sector to be battered by financial cuts.
Last year, the government announced further cuts to its investment into the heritage sector. These cuts were not the first. When the Coalition government came to power in 2010, heritage took an initial battering of cuts from the Comprehensive Spending Review.
When times are hard, governments deem it more important to spend money on more ‘essential’ services like hospitals and infrastructure.
Although, it is wrong to think that heritage sucks up money thus depriving community development. In a previous NTPlaces blog post we have seen that heritage can bring economic benefits to a community. This is evident in three ways:
- Indirect economic benefits to the community: Heritage betters local surrounding and therefore increases nearby property prices, invites tourism etc
- Businesses connected with heritage or older business thrive
- Provides employment and encourages traditional skills
But let’s disregard the economics behind heritage for just one minute and see what the social benefits heritage has on our community.
In fact, many see that heritage can enhance a community’s quality of life. The US National Trust recognised by showing that older buildings/heritage can revitalise a community. See the full post here.
Also, heritage rallies communities together in ways nothing else can. The National Trust alone boasts an army of volunteers to maintain and protect its historical properties.
Recently, over 400 hundred volunteers gathered to maintain the Uffington White Horse (see below). This is no small task, as it requires 3000 hours of work each year to keep it in an excellent condition.
Preservation in the name of bettering our community is no new idea. This idea was after all a fundamental founding principle of the National Trust.
This is why recently on 14 and 15 July, the Heritage Lottery Fund hosted a conference calling for heritage to engage with social need (see full article here).
Today heritage may not be utilised to its full potential as the RSA claim, but if we could achieve its potential, this would be a great force for social advancement.