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CALL FOR GREATER PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT IN HERITAGE DECISION-MAKING

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Tessa Jowell Challenges Heritage Sector to Take Radical New Approach...
Tessa Jowell Challenges Heritage Sector to Take Radical New Approach

Experts, policy-makers and members of the public came together for the first time to debate the value of heritage at a major summit last week (25th and 26th January). Keynote speaker, Tessa Jowell MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, challenged the heritage sector to take a radical new approach to their work, calling for much greater public involvement in heritage decision-making through a public value approach.

Tessa Jowell said: 'Adopting the public value approach would be a radically different way of doing things.It means taking a genuine interest in what our citizens think, and not just consulting in a ritualistic and formulaic way because we have to. It means engaging a much wider swathe of society, particularly people who are socially excluded and people from ethnic minority communities, and not just talking to the usual suspects. And it means adopting an approach where we don't just care that something is delivered; we also care about its quality, and how it was delivered.'

The two day 'Capturing the value of heritage' event was particularly topical, coming during the Government's consultation on the future share of Lottery funding for heritage, and the lead up to the Comprehensive Spending Review which will determine government investment levels.

'Articulating the value of heritage is vital in demonstrating its contribution to society and the quality of life - and this conference provided an important opportunity to explore new ways of doing that effectively',commented Robert Hewison of Demos, who provided an opening paper on 'Public Value as a framework for analysing the value of heritage' as part of the proceedings.*

The event formed part of the heritage community's response to Tessa Jowell's 2004 pamphlet 'Better Places to Live' which challenged heritage organisations to examine how best to capture and present evidence for value. The event was sponsored by DCMS, the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and the National Trust. A full report documenting presentations, discussions and conclusions will be published later this spring.

Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: 'This is a critical time for heritage and public value is an issue which is hugely important for us. We know the heritage is a huge asset to the UK's economy, environment and national identity, but we need to get better at demonstrating the whole range of less tangible benefits from heritage funding. Only then can we expect to build the crucial partnership between Government, the Lottery and the private sector which will guarantee our heritage the vibrant future it deserves.'

A number of high-profile speakers addressed the summit, including Baroness AndrewsOBE, Sustainable Development Minister; David Lammy MP, Minister for Culture; Professor David Throsby, a world expert on cultural economics; and Randall Mason from the University of Pennsylvania. Further presentations were made by Dr Christina Cameron, Canada Research Chair in Built Heritage, University of Montreal; Sir Neil Cossans, Chairman of English Heritage; Sue Wilkinson, Director of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council; Councillor Heather Garnett; and Greg Wilkinson of Accenture.

In a speech entitled 'Why do Places Matter', Edward Impey, Director of Research and Standards of English Heritage, said, 'Historic places do not have just one immutable value, but many overlapping values that reflect differing viewpointsIdentifying and classifying these types of valueswill enable a much clearer understanding of what matters to people aboutthe places around them. This in turn will lead to better decisions about how changes to the historic environment are managed.'

The 400-plus delegates who attended the event also heard from members of the public who had taken part in a series of 'Citizens' Juries' reviewing heritage projects for the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as being treated to a short programme by a children's choir from Castleford as a celebration of their town's heritage.

As well as feeding into DCMS planning, the summit discussions will inform the Heritage Lottery Fund's own priorities for funding post-2008, when increased competition for funds is anticipated.

Notes

*Robert Hewison and John Holden (of Demos) were responsible for 'Challenge and Change' - a report for the Heritage Lottery fund which set the agenda for heritage and public value.

Delegates had the opportunity to hear a children's choir from Castleford celebrate their local area, and watch Urban Roots, a young London hip-hop group perform work based on their own cultural heritage.

Consultation

Both DCMS' and the Heritage Lottery Fund's (HLF) consultations run until 28th February 2006. For the DCMS consultation, visit www.culture.gov.uk

To have your say on the future of funding for heritage, please visit the HLF website at http:/www.hlf.org.uk/future

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