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Heritage touches all our lives but all too often it gets pigeon-holed as a part of tourism, an aspect of culture or an add-on for education. We can end up with a narrow view that fails to appreciate the true value of what we have.
This was the theme of an major report published by the RCA called "Networked Hertige" ” (https://medium.com/networked-heritage). It proposed five principles which are about using heritage in a broad range of ways to benefit the community. For me it serves as a good template for what we need to do in Guildford.
The report says we need to recognise the extent to which heritage benefits all our lives. In a town like Guildford, the historic character attracts people who want to live here and in their wake come businesses and shops. Planning issues and debates about the green belt are defined in terms of preserving our beautiful town. Tourism is an important part of our economy and our shops would not be the successes they were if we did not have such a beautiful High Street to attract people.
The “Networked Heritage” report argues that towns need to debate the importance of their heritage and properly understand it. It proposes five principles which can be summarised as follows. Conversations need to take place across the community to develop ideas about how heritage can benefit a town. Crucially it says we need to be open to all ideas. As Christmas at the Castle showed, heritage does not always have to involved learning about the past. It can be about enjoying the past in a modern context. The RCA report also stresses the need to put aside past differences and build relations with local authorities, businesses and community groups. People need to work together to raise the profile of local heritage for benefit of all.
All obvious stuff but it was interesting to see it discussed in a long report with lots of examples of what is happening around the country. It even stressed the importance of Heritage Forums and used the Bristol Heritage Forum as an exampled. Clearly we are not alone.
As we come to the end of one year and look forward to the next I have high hopes for the annual Heritage Open Days event next September. This will be a main focus for me and it is a great example of doing what the RCA proposes. I hope people will come forward with ideas about how we can celebrate and enjoy our heritage and use it to promote the town and enhance the life of the people who come here. For more information visit the Heritage Open Days page on this site