FPL recently attended the RSA Heritage Question Time event at The Sharp Project in Manchester, which resides within the parish council of All Saints Newton Heath, one of our churches we are currently restoring, with the current phase replacing the roof (https://finlasonpartnership.co.uk/all-saints-church-newton-heath-urgent-roof-repairs/). We had the privilege of attending this event with the vicar Rev Andrew Wickens of All Saints with the issues directly affecting the future of this project and parish. The theme of the event was meaningful ways of connecting people to local heritage, and the role of heritage in building distinct and sustainable futures for Greater Manchester and at a more local scale across boroughs such as Oldham.
The event was chaired by Matthew Taylor (CEO of the RSA), and the panel consisted of Sir Richard Leese (Leader of Manchester City Council), Sally McDonald (Director at MOSI), Claire Turner (CEO Manchester Histories), Bill Lovat (Director at Regenda Group) and Sara Hilton (Head of HLF North West).
Questions were asked by the audience with the panel providing a balance of opinions in their answers. Focus was given over the debate about the dichotomy between local identity and a large Greater Manchester identity, and how there is a need for the two have to succeed in parallel. There was agreement across the wealth of knowledge possessed in the panel, that heritage has to start with local people and what they are interested in, whether that be a tree, a road, a church or a mill. People are passionate about what is in their locality and lives, and if this forms the foundation of a project then it will not only have the support of those people, but they will indeed take an active role in its deliverance and success.
Emphasis was placed on getting younger people to engage with their heritage, with Sara Hilton (HLF) explaining a new focus they at HLF are moving towards with funding now available for projects involving young people who are actively leading projects. It is important that as a member of the audience phrased heritage in the industrial northern cities is not associated with ‘white gloves and stately homes’ but with the everyday working class population. Claire Turner expressed the need for the digitalisation of heritage and interpretation to make history more engaging and inspiring for young people, with Sally McDonald concurring that the young people of Manchester need to be inspired by the great achievements of both Manchester and Mancunion’s.
Sir Richard Leese and Bill Lovat expanded on the relationship between cities being living organisms and not just a museum, and the implications this then has on how development and heritage should work in harmony. Richard Leese stated that new developments should employ ‘good design teams that will invest time into research and heritage’, resulting in the built environment ‘having a thread that connects what they are doing today with their history’.
The dialogue confirmed many of our beliefs and practices at Finlason Partnership Limited, and we look forward to the future where both the local boroughs and the collective Greater Manchester take a greater pride, involvement and emphasis on our rich heritage, using this as a foundation for improving the lives of local people.