Members of the Scottish Refugee Council’s ‘Lest We Forget’ project share their impressions of BEFS’ Heritage & Diversity event on 9 March in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Refugee Council’s ‘Lest We Forget Project’ hugely enjoyed the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) Conference on 9 March. Our heritage researchers found the conference an interesting forum for ideas which we look forward to incorporating in our own project, researching the Belgian refugees in Scotland 100 years ago and drawing parallels with today. Below are the testimonies from some of our members, explaining what they enjoyed about the conference.

‘I loved visiting the beautiful building where the conference was held, and being at such an amazing heritage site. The conference was successful for me because I discussed with academics ideas about my life and theirs, as well as about heritage. It’s important to me to communicate with people who are local to Scotland to share my knowledge with them, and to learn from their knowledge. I was surprised when I met some people in Edinburgh who’d never met a refugee before and who didn’t have a deep understanding of the lives of refugees in the UK and Scotland. I hope to meet these people again and again and to participate in a conference like this again!’

Mourad from Syria.

‘Out trip to Edinburgh to attend BEFS heritage conference was indeed a great chance to firstly visit the incredible city of Edinburgh and secondly to learn about the very many different projects in the heritage sector. It also gave us a chance to introduce our project to a wide variety of people and to give them a chance to get to know us individually and hear our stories! The main theme of the conference I thought was about the lack of diversity in the sector and the obstacles that were to be overcome, there representatives of the different projects after introducing themselves and their work, each tried to tackle those questions that the speakers had put forward. Engaging different sects of the society and funding education were a few suggestions that came out of the discussions.

On our part we told them how we are tackling these problems in the Scottish refugee council and indeed what we are doing through the “Lest we forget” project to help and keep the community involved. Overall the conference, in my opinion, had a very positive outcome, the people there showed interest in what we do and might want to come and see our exhibition alongside the documentary we are making.’

Khosrow from Iran.

‘I think it’s fairly safe to say that we all enjoyed the BEFS event on Heritage and Diversity in Edinburgh.  The speakers all gave very interesting and engaging presentations, each with a different slant, yet unified by a commitment to helping to shape the heritage sector in Scotland.  Although presenting the LWF project and answering questions about it was quite intimidating at times, on reflection I think the whole group felt that the event was a success and that we managed to hold our own.  In addition, it was an excellent way to raise interest in our project, to network in general, and a great excuse to visit the capital.’

Anna from Scotland.

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Tom Heron and Kenny Davis, from Knightsridge Adventure Project, tell us the story of how young people built The Vennie Skatepark.

In 2013 outside the Knightsridge Adventure Project (The Vennie) a group of young skateboarders aged around 13-14 years old, were using the disabled ramp that led into the youth club, as a platform to perform tricks on their boards. This went on every day after school, relentlessly. One day the skaters decided to speak with the Centre Coordinator, Tom Heron, to ask if there was a possibility that one day they could have a Skate park built at the Vennie. At that time there was a large investment in new equipment at the Adventure Park and also drainage work completed on the football pitches, so the likelihood of finding further investment funding seemed somewhat remote.

The main philosophy and ethos about the Vennie is very much to get the local community involved and on board with our work. We hold community BBQs 2-3 times per year and this allows the community to come to the youth club and meet staff and see the work of their young people. It is also attended at times by local and national politicians. It was during one of these BBQs that Tom introduces the young skaters to one of the Councillors from the multi member ward and that’s where the conversation took place about the possibility of creating a Skate-park.

The Councillor took the idea forward to a Council funding panel and was able to put forward the Skaters idea. There happened to be an underspend in a particular area of funding and it was also coming to the end of the financial year and he was able to secure the funding to build a skate-park for these young people. Was this a stroke of luck or fate?

The Skaters took it upon themselves to do a sponsored skate which raised £113. Thinking this would add weight and strength to their proposal and contribute financially to their project.

Council officers then contacted the Vennie to come and meet the young people with a touch of apprehension and uncertainty. Knightsridge measured highly on the SIMD and had a fairly bad reputation for troublesome young people, territorialism, underage drinking, gang fights etc. So a somewhat different environment as to what the officers were used to.

After the initial meeting some of the Council officers got back to me to comment on the articulacy and politeness of the young people they had met and how pleasantly surprised they were, as they were expecting something very different. They then arranged for the young people to meet with the architects and contractors. The young people designed the Skate-park the way they wanted it to be so that it ‘flowed’. They took work home with them to speed up the process, and submitted their new drawings to architects. Eventually everything was agreed and the contractors were on site. The young people used to come round every day after school to inspect the construction work (almost like the old clerk of works) just to ‘keep an eye on things’.

The day came that the Skate-park was opened. Skaters came from all around to skate this new park.

Over a year later we were approached by Historic Scotland to see if we would be interested in taking part in a new initiative called Scotland’s Urban Past (S.U.P.).  After consultations with young people they decided to make a film about the process and outcomes on how they got their Skate-park. This was a magnificent piece of work with stories being told by young people and real footage of them actually performing on the ‘Skatey’ itself.

Working with SUP and creating the film has allowed us to tell the story of the Skate-park to a wider audience, because of their professionalism, expertise, knowledge and connections in the field. We would not have been able to do this on our own.

A short period of time passed when we were approached by BEFS to ask if we would like to take part in the Heritage and Diversity conference/workshop, held at the Hub in Edinburgh. We gratefully agreed but not fully knowing what we had agreed to be involved in. We also welcomed the invitation, as it was another platform to tell our story about the Vennie Youth Club and some of the valuable work it produces.

A young person from the film, Kenny Davis and Coordinator Tom Heron went along to represent the Vennie at the event. It was a bit strange to begin with and mildly intimidating, especially when we heard some of the voices which were in a slightly more upper class tone than we were accustomed.  It got us thinking (and worrying) if we were slightly out of our depth and what could we possibly offer to this environment and audience of people?  Would any one want to hear our story? We must be on the periphery…surely.

However, our minds were put more at ease as we spoke to some staff from BEFS and we got more of a picture as to how things would pan put for the day. We were particularly impressed and indeed inspired by the speakers which added to our understanding of the ‘Built Environment’.  As the workshops began and we were able to tell our story about the Skate-park people were very receptive, responsive and inquisitive about the processes involved in the project.

As the day moved on we became more confident and were able to facilitate better to suit our audience. We were also able to physically show our film during break times so that people could understand more about the piece of work we had spoken about. We received some really positive feedback both from the table discussions and the shown film.

When we started our journey developing ideas and creating a Skate-park, we would not be thinking of the built environment or our culture or history. We were just a group of young people who wanted to do something for ourselves, but also be creative and build something that we were passionate about and would have a lasting legacy. The park is as good today as it was when it was built. Young people guard and watch over it in a manner that tells you that this belongs to us, this is our contribution to our culture, and this is our built environment.

Our impressions of the conference were magnificent, one of the best conferences/workshops that we have had the pleasure to attend. From having the feelings of what can we offer this environment to learning by the end of the conference that we are very much smack bang in the heart of it.

Tom Heron and Kenny Davis, from Knightsridge Adventure Project, The Vennie Skatepark.

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Adebimpe Ademosu, Trainee at Next Step Initiative and the Inclusive Museum Heritage Project, reflects on BEFS’ Heritage & Diversity event and overcoming barriers.

What a great event! I found the format of the conference very interesting and unique. The set-up was arranged in such a way that all participants could engage, learn and share their thoughts about different ongoing projects. What a brilliant way to learn and share ideas!  Travelling back from Edinburg to Glasgow I couldn’t stop reflecting on some of the key topics that were discussed during the conference, especially some of Dr Rebecca Madgin’s talk, one point of which was, “what we value and who we value”. I personally agree with this phrase and it will live with me forever. Also, I have come to the conclusion that no one should be denied opportunities to keep or preserve his/her cultural heritage or historical values, regardless of his/her social class, ethnicity, race, or religion.

Heritage projects should protect everyone. People in power or the policy maker should be very sensitive when using the word tangible and intangible when describing people’s heritage, because all heritages have significant meaning, carries values, and also brings back the memory of the past to those that own them. Therefore, heritage policy should preserve, protect and recognise everyone irrespective of their social status or ethnicity.

Diversity on the other hand is about accepting the fact that we are different in a variety of ways which can also streamline to “what we value and who we value”. However, it is very important for all policy makers to put in place laws that recognise, respect and value these differences with no influence from any social stratification. I think policy should not be made to exclude people who don’t have a voice or have no expertise on how to preserve their heritage but policy should be able to guide them and help them to preserve that which they cherish with no form of intimidation.

One other question I asked myself during and after the conference was: why do people preserve their heritage? And for me, I think it highlights the uniqueness in every individual or group, it also evokes memory of the past and it helps to keep memory alive.

From a personal perspective, I believe in order to overcome barriers to equality and diversity it is very crucial that we all understand that;

  • Heritage is about everybody
  • What people value differs
  • Our historical values made us who we are
  • Heritage should protect everyone
  • Heritage and diversity can only be successful if policies are targeted to represent everyone regardless of their social class, race, ethnicity or religion.
  • Heritage symbolises historical significance or cultural relevance and holds many untold stories but the already unveiled stories should not be hindered by policy makers because it is also an identity of the generation to come.

Finally, let us all know that, “Heritage is much deeper than what we feel or think, for those that own it; it is inspiring, a learning process and a representation of identity that can contribute to intergenerational values”.

Adebimpe Ademosu, Trainee at Next Step Initiative and the Inclusive Museum Heritage Project.

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Dr. Rebecca Madgin, University of Glasgow, reflects on the evolving heritage sector, values and our understandig of heritage expertise.

During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the value of heritage has shifted in two main ways. Firstly, what is considered to have heritage value has changed and secondly, who can ascribe value has been extended. If we take the what and the who as markers of diversity then we can see a gradual, if complex and contested, shift within the heritage sector. Firstly, the notion of what is of value has shifted both temporally and also in the type of historic assets that are afforded official value, most notably with the protection of the Tinker’s Heart in 2015. This recognition of the quartz stones in Argyll and Bute was the latest example of a sector that, after much contestation, has diversified the kinds of things that can have heritage value. If we go further back the idea of providing legislative protection to a nineteenth-century industrial building, or as they were famously known, the ‘satanic mills’, was not really considered until the late 1960s at the earliest. The Granton gasholder, designated Category B in 1998, is one such example of this shift in thinking. The what category is thus largely accepted within the heritage profession as a necessary element for the evolution of the sector, particularly as more recent structures assume significance such as the replica Georgian building at 114-116 George Street, Edinburgh built in 1992 and listed in 1996.

As a recent edition of Context showed the who question however is much more complex and represents the greatest current challenge to the heritage sector. This is not simply a question of diversifying who can get involved with heritage but rather necessitates a desire to re-conceptualise what is of value. Take the Tinker’s Heart example again. Here an impassioned group of people fought for their heritage to be recognised. Or take the Southbank Undercroft in London. This area, self-styled as the “world’s oldest surviving skateboard spot”, is not listed despite the fact the historic value of the site became the tagline – ‘You Can’t Move History. You Can Secure the Future’ – behind the successful campaign to prevent its loss as a result of the planned expansion of the Southbank Centre. These powerful connections to the history of the site as expressed by generations of skaters were remarked upon by Historic England as they realised that “communal heritage values can emerge and become as powerful as more formal architectural or historic ones”.

These were connections that did not rest solely within the historic building but more in the relationship between the skaters and the historic space: the practice was as important as the physical structure. This is tricky for the heritage sector as this relationship could not be surveyed or unlocked through traditional desk-based research but rather was expressed through social media and unlocked through a dedicated research project. These were powerful expressions of why generations of skaters both held, and felt compelled to express their heritage values. If we are to truly understand why the historic environment is valuable then these kinds of voices have to be heard, not just in the designation of historic assets, but in understanding how the everyday routines of different groups of people are inextricably connected to the historic aspects of places within which we work, live and play.

Perhaps, in the context of diversity within the heritage sector, the question is not what is of value, nor who can ascribe value but where else is expertise located? Re-framing it in this way enables us to consider that other forms of knowledge exist both within and outwith the sector. The Tinker’s Heart and the Southbank Undercroft provided a challenge to the sector because they relied heavily on people outwith the sector and without any formal heritage training to identify and explain the heritage value of these sites. If, as the Historic Environment Strategy document suggests, “Scotland’s historic environment is the physical evidence for human activity that connects people with place, linked with the associations we can see, feel and understand” then the logical progression is to develop mechanisms that can recognise that these associations sometimes can only be identified and explained by the very people who ‘see’, ‘feel’ and ‘understand’ them. This is not to say that existing expertise within the sector should be replaced, far from it, but that it should remain an integral aspect within an evolving heritage sector. The progressive re-definition of the historic environment to focus on ‘connections’ and ‘associations’ within the Strategy and the designation of Tinker’s Heart signal a shift in both rhetoric and reality. The challenge now is to harness this energy so the sector can continue to evolve its understanding of the plurality of values that different people hold for different historic places.

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Jess Smith, author and story-teller from Perthshire’s Travelling People, set out to protect The Tinker’s Heart; little did she know that Scotland needed educating in the ways of a tiny minority of her people.

Scotland’s Travelling People have been around longer than history portrays. I am a Traveller, and although not in the sense of ‘travelling the old roads as my family did in the past’, I still feel that sense of identity, of belonging to the seeds of my ancestors.

As a child I dreamt of one day becoming a writer.  Sadly, when a child is raised within the system of keeping certain threads of the community down, it seemed destined to belong in the realm of dreams.  Yet there’s an old saying, “if you wish hard enough…dreams can come true.”

Not actually as magical as it sounds because I did not just go to bed one night and get up an author. Aged 50, still clinging to my dream, I joined a writers group, took computer lessons and dribbled my memories onto paper; gingerly whispering my little tales as a wanderer’s child, living with a large family in a bus, to the other members of our writers’ group. They enjoyed, encouraged and insisted I send my work off to another reader, or in my case, ‘listener.’  He was an ex-editor of Scot’s Magazine and he liked my work. My story was about a child’s journey, my life as a Scottish Traveller. The publisher read my passion and accepted my manuscript. My journey had begun again. Dreams do come true.

A waterfall of words, memories and a girl to woman tale allowed for three autobiographical books.

Stories hidden in the throats of old Travellers filled the next book, a collection that would live on rather than face the grave. Scotland cannot afford to lose her threads of myths and legends no matter who holds them sacred.

Wars leave women folk in desperate situations, Travellers also fought and died for their country, therefore, I needed to write for them. A novel followed on from these sentiments. I wrote book six for historical reasons, to find as much of the truth as I possibly could unearth, a factual collection to educate the prevailing ignorance about the culture.

As an author, I talk to various organizations. I met a lady at one of the talks who told me about the state of the Tinker’s Heart.

I was stunned and ashamed. Stunned by the neglect and ashamed that for years I had never visited the site; after all it was our only monument, our sacred site of white quartz stones positioned on the road, the old junction.  Traveller’s married there, parents carried newborn to be christened and brokenhearted people took their dead to be blessed.  It had survived centuries, never moving or being dislodged. This is what happens when a place remains on the landscape. We take it for granted; never miss the water until the well runs dry, so to speak.It was at one of these talks (Sandbank near Dunoon) when an elderly lady informed me that our little monument was under threat; The Tinker’s Heart of Argyll, at the old junction with Hell’s Glen and the A815 road, was covered with dung and trampled by cattle.  There’s a new road that runs alongside, sending the old junction into a field.

As I stood on the spot overlooking loch Fyne a chill wind blew through my bones. I was left with one determined thought, “we need to get this old heart beating again!” So, I enquired as to who owned the land on which the now defunct crossroads lies and contacted them. I wrote letters but received no replies. I also went to the local group Here We Are, who refused to help but did, however, erect a cage around the stones and cleaned them up.

Locals had known of the heart for generations, so I began a search for the origins of the site. I heard various stories; one was repeated – that some of the fallen from Culloden were remembered by grieving families, who put in place the white quartz stones. In the far off past, Travellers were known as Cairds; they were connected to clans so maybe this could well be the case.

I approached Historic Scotland, who refused to help, stating the stones had been moved. We had to prove this was not so. They then said, “Stones didn’t meet their criteria”. In the 1920s Lady George Campbell would not allow tar to be laid on the stones due to its sacristy.

MSP Mike Russell then came on board. Nothing was working in our favour, so we went with a Parliament Petition; over 1000 signatures and a successful meeting with the petitions committee gave a new vigor to the campaign. Historic Scotland proceeded to change their criteria regarding Travellers, and on 18th June 2015 they scheduled the Tinker’s Heart as a ‘National Monument’.

I set out to protect a sacred site; little did I realize that Scotland needed educating in the ways of a tiny minority of her people.

No matter who we are, where we come from, we all matter…we all count.

Jess Smith

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Tam McGarvey, Fundraising and Communications Lead at GalGael, tells us about the work of GaleGael and reflects on the importance of building community.

Heritage has been a vital element in GalGael’s work from the outset. Early on we recognised that many people had become disengaged from heritage- and by that I mean natural and cultural heritage, historical narrative, traditions, values, work and identity. Much of this disconnection may be down to economic and political factors, possibly for ideological reasons rather than reasons of economic necessity.

As was raised at the BEFS event, there is probably class issue and a certain amount of elitism in some areas of the heritage sector though there are plenty of examples where we can see people of different backgrounds working successfully together. I would cite GalGael as an interesting example. In our experience shared values can bring people together around a common cause they wish to support in a heritage context, maybe out of a spirit of shared intent to create something special.

On another front, while Glasgow has free access to many of its heritage attractions, many of Scotland’s historical sites cannot be accessed or enjoyed by people who are economically disadvantaged because; they don’t have the funds for admission or fares, especially if they have a family. They often don’t have a car, they are not sure what is out there and have some difficulty at first interpreting what they are looking at, maybe because it is the history of elites for instance, which may make it seem irrelevant to them. There may be a feeling that heritage is “for those other people”. However, having taken many groups to such venues there has been much improvement and our groups are often offered free access or a good concession, though less so if they go in their own time.

Galgael started out by building a traditional style of boat with hundreds of years of history behind it. Sourcing and working with the wood alone instilled a respect for the natural environment. Building the boat itself opened up swathes of fascinating history and GalGael folk from that time can still hold an informed conversation on the Statutes of Iona or the Lords of the Isles. Also, the medieval stone carvings of these boats in places like Rodel on Harris or images from the Govan Stones are frequently replicated in wood at GalGael.

I stressed at the event on a few occasions that the basic concept of our work is pretty simple (though it takes a huge effort to put it in place). As our founder Colin MacLeod put it; “We provide a venue, some tools and a bit of respect”. After that much of the healing or more therapeutic work takes place very informally through reconnecting with the work ethic, social interaction, teamwork, sharing similar experiences, advocacy and mutual support- with some training and a bit of leadership from GalGael staff and volunteers. The people who do the most powerful work are the people who attend. The staff learns from the participants and volunteers as much as the other way round.

Often we find people are becoming happier in themselves, building their confidence (we score highly on that), relationships have improved, medication often reduces and there is a decrease in negative forms of behaviour. Why? Because we have simply created and nurtured an environment for these things to take place- we have created a viable model of community. Why again? Because these are many of the basics of life that have been stripped from some sectors of society- in the name of a flawed notion of economic progress. Community is often seen as a barrier, and sometimes heritage is too, if it cannot be sufficiently commoditised and both are frequently “built over” by developers. From a community perspective much of the energy of our politicians has been weighed heavily towards favouring the private sector and communities are often sidelined in the process. These communities were traditionally “for” something, in the case of Govan it was shipbuilding and textiles, but many have lost their former prominence or identity. Perhaps heritage could be part of a strategy to regenerate communities, using the past to inform the future. Many grass roots organisations are embracing small scale local food production, small scale energy production, crafts and various other initiatives to regenerate from a grass roots level.

It has often been noted in GalGael that suppressed human instincts resurface when people engage with work, story, nature and community. We all eat together too which is vital. I would love to know how much the state has saved by these kinds of interventions by projects such as ours. In fact, intervention is the wrong word, as the community of people at our benches do the best of work themselves and heritage is very much at the heart of it.

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Paul Ralph, Access and Inclusion Director at Euan’s Guide, tells us about the powerful and empowering tool, Euan’s Guide, from a user’s perspective.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about Euan’s Guide from a user perspective. By doing this I hope it will help to unfold the link between a modern 21st century website and the history, archeology and buildings of the past.

Let’s go on a journey…

If asked I would describe Euan’s Guide as a powerful and empowering tool for many disabled people, their families and friends.

You see for me it’s simple:

For me to do what I want to do, in the way I choose to do it I rely on the support of other people. A PA facilitates and enables me on my adventures. So people are very important in my independence.

I don’t just exist in a box and so it’s important for me to be able to get out and about. To visit the places I want to go but also the places I need to go. So in my world places are very important.

Thirdly, possibilities are an important part of my life. I like to think that anything is possible. You see it’s like this – I may not actually do something but it’s a great feeling to know that I could if I wanted to. That’s what I meant by possibilities.

For me to take part in community life and to enjoy many of the things others take for granted I need people, I need to know about the places I can go, and I like to be aware of the possibilities open to me.

The obvious question is where does Euan’s Guide fit? Let me continue my journey with you.

I started using Euan’s Guide to find out about the places I wanted to, or sometimes imagined I might like to, go. It was great to be able to get more details than just a wheelchair symbol or the curious statement of “disabled facilities” or “wheelchair accessible with assistance” – not that helpful to me.

It’s not just for me, as I could find out about places that were going to be welcoming for my friends. Friends like Ian and Kev who are visually impaired or Phil who is deaf.

Often Euan’s Guide reviewers talk about the experience on a people level – what were the staff like, what happened when you rolled up. Tips on what to look out for, ways to go, what to ask for. To many people they sound like small things but for me they make the difference whether I can make and enjoy a visit.

To be able to read what another powerchair user has written about visiting the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, going on a History walk here on the Royal Mile, or staying for a break in an old croft are a very empowering experience for me.

You see these are all places I had a fear of visiting as I didn’t know what might happen; Euan calls this the “fear of the unknown”. I am happy to report that as a direct result of reading what others had written on Euan’s Guide I’ve done all of these things! and some I’ll do again; perhaps not in the cold and wet of February though!!!

So you see, Euan’s Guide; for me has opened doors. But there’s more…

The places people visit get great feedback. Often they don’t know how good the experience they offer is. The museum that had a wheelchair height display book that I loved, the old tower house that offered me a video link to browse the inaccessible rooms and the curator who brought exhibits out from beyond the barriers for my visually impaired pal to touch and explore.

For me as a disabled person it was striking to watch the progress as the website was growing from grass roots of disabled people and venues working together and felt good. It’s driven by disabled people helping disabled people.

Here was the gift of spontaneity, in that I could take out my smartphone, open Euan’s Guide and press the ‘near by me’ button. I could see where to grab a coffee, find places I wanted to visit, and decide a visit would work for me. I could visit towns I didn’t know so well, if at all! I could find new places and I could feel part of my community.

That’s what I mean by empowering. It’s a great time in that we are seeing the coming together of so many technologies in a way that is enabling people. For Euan’s Guide it’s the availability of mobile data and wifi, the ability of GPS services to pin point where I am, and of course the many places that list and share their access information. Sometimes a permanent building, often a pop up place like an event or exhibition.

At last there’s a disabled access information web site that works fantastically well with my speech controlled computer or Ian’s laptop that reads to him or Euan’s eye controlled Tobbii. There’s a companion app that goes on the road with me and works to help me find places, tell me what I need to know, and is very much a working tool.

I want to end by sharing an ambition … I want Scotland to redraw the map, to call out communities, to people and get them involved in reviewing what’s in their local area and to share the access information they find. It doesn’t have to be complicated and could be as simple as telling people their local store has an accessible loo, the bank has level access or the archeological dig has an accessible viewing platform.

I want to extend this to imagine that the rich history of Scotland’s buildings, stories and places can be shared with everyone by opening up doors to disabled people.

Can you help Euan, me and my friends achieve that?

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Dr. Peter Matthew’s, University of Stirling, provocative contribution to BEFS Heritage & Diversity event on 9 March 2016.

In the first draft of this talk I aimed to be provocative but conciliatory. However, in the end this version is just provocative; in fact I would go as far to say it is combative and it’s a good job I have to run off and catch the train to Stirling as soon as I finished otherwise I’d probably need bullet-proof armour to get out the room. What I am going to suggest is that the main trouble with heritage protection is that it is an example of middle class self-interest. People do not protect heritage for some transcendent, higher reason, but because it is in their own class interest.

In my research with Professor Hastings at the University of Glasgow we demonstrated that the because they take advantage of four different mechanisms. Firstly, they join groups that policy-makers listen to, often because they have statutory duties; the classic example being the Community Council. Secondly, they are just much more likely to engage in policy-making on an individual and group basis. What is more, when they do engage they are more likely to get what they want which is a further incentive to engage. Thirdly, they have greater access to people with the necessary expertise, and also the ability to understand complex technical language, to have influence in policy-making. Finally, policy-makers just make policy to suit the middle classes; because they vote more, but also because they know the middle classes are likely to complain if policy is not made to suit them and their demands.

You are now probably bristling and thinking “I’m not middle class!” or the more sociological question of “what does he mean by middle class?” There is a lot of evidence behind this talk that is available to access; but also the greatest revelation of this research for me is quite how middle class I am, and then using these mechanisms to get what I want.

Let’s apply this model of middle class influence to heritage. On the first mechanism, heritage groups are archetypal of this type of activity. Many started off as small groups of the great-and-the-good who used their influence to protect heritage – such as civic amenity associations – and then have gradually become a formal part of development processes and people who expect to be listened to.

We just need to look at the most controversial development decisions recently to see evidence of the second mechanism. I could reel off a list of controversial planning applications in well-to-do neighbourhoods in Edinburgh, but this would be unfair to my fellow citizens of this city. But it’s rather telling that the controversy over the proposed demolition of the Red Road flats in 2014 was largely one of the lack of taste in demolishing people’s homes during the Commonwealth Games ceremony, not uproar that we have housed people so poorly that the only sensible thing to do is to demolish their homes after 40 years.

In terms of the third mechanism – I lived in a listed building. It is listed because it is a unique collection of early nineteenth century industrial buildings, with a restrained classical façade, with dressed stone and proportional fenestration to the road elevation. Do I need to say any more? Most people don’t even know what fenestration means – it sounds more like something you’d see your doctor about rather than windows. Further, far fewer people who know someone to contact to tell them what fenestration is so they can get listed building consent and planning permission to do something about their windows. As the story of the Tinker’s Heart movingly showed, you are in a system that actively excludes people who can’t “talk heritage”.

Now the fourth mechanism. “Ah” you’re probably thinking, “look at the Royal High School! The St James Centre! Caltongate! There is no way he can say development policies are suited the interests of middle-class people!” Yes I am. Because the evidence is fairly obvious. As Dr Madgin suggested, we value places based on judgements of taste that come from a specific cultural background. When we afford an untouched neighbourhood of working class council housing the same level of protection because of its social value as we afford Edinburgh’s New Town, then I’ll accept that policy is not made in the interests of the middle classes. But it seems we struggle to even have a reasoned discussion on this. The only suggestion is that we merely continue to expand existing protection systems, slowly allowing different kinds of heritage – industrial, working class, associated with a specific minority group – because we expand the definitional envelope of what should be protected very marginally. We need a discussion about whether we have the right envelope at all.

Why is this all class interested? At its most basic, itprotects house prices which are the largest asset for most people. But all this social capital – the links to people of influence; and cultural capital – the valorisation of certain aesthetics and the language used to describe them, puts middle class people in positions of power and influence. And they, you, we, are not going to give up that lightly.

So now I’ve revealed myself as the, self-described “envy-driven author trying to pass off as an intellectual” I’ll don my flak jacket and tin helmet and beat a hasty retreat.

 

 

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Bill Pagan, Board member of BEFS and founding Board member of Cupar Development Trust, reflects on the impact of BEFS small towns review of 2014 and the formation of the Cupar Development Trust (CDT).

In 2014, a BEFS team, led by Professor Cliff Hague, then BEFS Chairman, visited six of Scotland’s Small Towns. Their populations ranged from nearly 23,000 down to 5,000. The outcome of these visits was BEFS’ “Small Towns In A Small Country” Report, which can be found at here.

Subsequently, the BEFS team visited Helensburgh to prepare a report on that town, on the day the main Report was launched there. Then in July 2014 the team visited Cupar, Fife, a town of around 10,000 people, and prepared an additional Report. This Report was well received in Cupar, both as an accurate summary of the issues facing the town and as a welcome indication of potential ways ahead.

Cupar Development Trust (CDT) has since been formed, with guidance from Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS). A Charrette for Cupar’s town centre – “CuparCould” – will happen in the middle of March 2016, funding being in place thanks to the Scottish Government’s Mainstreaming Fund, the Big Lottery Fund’s “Awards For All”, and Fife Council. The preliminary steps have already happened, and have produced enthusiastic responses from pupils of the town’s schools, among others. Cupar Could is being delivered by PAS, with Julia Frost in the lead.

The arrival on the scene of CDT complements Cupar’s CARS and THI schemes, running from April 2014 to March 2019, with funding of £1.5M. Major works under these schemes include work on the County Buildings, which occupy much of the south side of St Catherine Street, part of the main route through the town. (These buildings include the recently closed Sheriff Court, but the Court is not part of the scheme.);  re-use of the old Burgh Chambers, a prominent domed building at Cupar Cross; and renovation of some of Cupar’s historic Closes which follow the town’s medieval layout. Building work on a scheme for Affordable Housing in part of the County Buildings is already nearly complete, and will provide a measurable increase in the number of Town Centre residents; the Burgh Chambers may be used for Tourism; the renovated Closes will improve pedestrian access in the Town Centre.

Cupar has in recent years suffered from its “missing tooth”, a prominent gap site on Bonnygate, at the heart of the shopping area and on the other part of the main route through the town. The gap was caused by the demolition of a former landmark building which had become unsafe. The site is believed to be uneconomic for development on its own.

CDT have been working closely with Fife Council and the CARS scheme to identify possibilities for linking the gap site to other opportunities, in order to achieve something closer to economic viability, though it is likely that public funds will be required to make ends meet. It is common knowledge in the town that there is a proposal for developing the backlands behind the gap, which lead – through additional historic Closes not at present available for public use – to the third of Cupar’s principal streets, Crossgate. Such a proposal will require the agreement of existing proprietors, and probably contributions by some of them. As well as innovative commercial and retail provision, any development will be likely to include Affordable Housing, so CDT and Kingdom Housing Association (KHA) jointly commissioned a thorough Report by Architects, Engineers and Quantity Surveyors. The Report, which is confidential for the time being but is expected to be available on the CDT website in due course, has rightly pointed out the financial realities of proposals of this kind in an area where the value of the completed development will not be of the highest. Fife Council is fully aware of the likely request for support, and has been involved in the discussions.

The creation of CDT, its link to Cupar’s CARS and THI, and its foray into a possible partnership with KHA, Fife Council and relevant proprietors, are truly positive outcomes of the BEFS visit in July 2014. It is no breach of confidence to say that the BEFS Report, in full, is an Appendix to the Report. CDT complements and co-operates with longer established Cupar groups, which are already bringing a buzz to the town. There is continuing good press coverage, and an exhibition in the town’s Corn Exchange will take place on 2 March.

Arc prepare Cupar ‘backlands’ regeneration plan

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Karen Grant, Reforesting Scotland and the Campaigner for the Thousand Huts campaign, tells us about the launch of good practice guidance for new hut developments.

80 members of the planning, architecture and building professions gathered at the Scottish Parliament on 23rd February to celebrate the launch of good practice guidance for new hut developments. ‘New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites’ was developed by Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign to support the rolling out of Scottish Planning Policy on huts.

Welcoming the report, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“Huts and hutting are a great way for people to enjoy Scotland’s outstanding natural environment, with all the benefits to health and wellbeing this can bring. I very much welcome the publication of this guidance, which I hope will provide an important opportunity for many more people in Scotland to enjoy the recreational benefits associated with huts and hutting.”

Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign team and Planning Advisory Group spent 2 years working with planning and building professionals to produce the guide to help planners, architects and hut builders alike achieve good practice in new hut developments. This work was supported by The Planning Exchange Foundation, and has been reviewed by planning, legal and tenancy professionals in the public and private sectors and at a local and national level.

Hutting in Scotland

70 years ago Scotland had a thriving hutting culture: hundreds of small wooden huts dotted around the country. They gave an opportunity for industrial workers on low wages to get out to the fresh air and peace of the natural environment with their families. However, until recently, the lack of any formal recognition of hutting in policy or legislation has been an impediment to the building of new hu

 

A new era for huts

A new era was ushered in when revised Scottish Planning Policy 2014 included supportive policy on huts, indicating that the demand for huts for recreational use is one of the matters that should be addressed in the preparation of development plans.

Now the Scottish Government Building Standards Division is analysing consultation responses to the proposal that huts be exempt from building regulations (with some exceptions). The result of this consultation will be announced in Summer 2016.

As a result of the more favourable policy and planning framework for huts, Reforesting Scotland is beginning to see new proposals for hut developments coming forward. We recently surveyed over 800 people who would like to have access to a hut for recreational use. The demand is large, and growing.

The guidance is based on the SPP definition of a hut:ts.

A simple building used intermittently as recreational accommodation (i.e. not a principal residence); having an internal floor area of no more than 30m2; constructed from low impact materials; generally not connected to mains water, electricity or sewerage; and built in such a way that it is removable with little or no trace at the end of its life. Huts may be built singly or in groups.

The document covers a wide range of planning considerations including: What is a hut; use patterns of huts; where might huts be built; services; and provision for management of the land around huts.

To download a copy of New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites go to www.thousandhuts.org.

Karen Grant, Reforesting Scotland and the Campaigner for the Thousand Huts campaign.

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