Catherine Gillies, Curator at Dunollie House in Oban and Chair of Argyll and Bute Museums and Heritage Forum, has issued the followong challenge to all candidates standing in the local authority elections on 3rd May 2012 – and to the electorate.
The call is to put cultural issues solidly on the agenda for this election. Argyll and Bute Council’s activity in this area is one of the weakest in Scotland.
Writing on behalf of the Forum, Catherine Gillies says:
‘The Argyll and Bute Museums and Heritage Forum poses a challenge to nominees and the electorate to place our culture firmly on the agenda of this ballot.
‘Argyll has some of the most outstanding built and artefact heritage in Scotland. It is a powerhouse of national history and traditional life, but it is fragile and cannot be taken for granted.
‘Heritage is not a luxury. It is DNA, safeguarding and rooting the soul of communities, particularly during vulnerable times of recession. A building, song , photograph, stone axe or butter churn reminds people of who they are and where they have come from, and helps new arrivals to understand the communities they have come to.
‘It builds pride and confidence, and creates jobs and income through cultural tourism. It brings people together and improves the quality of life. Heritage and culture are recognised tools of regeneration in communities – look at Glasgow and Dundee; look at the Highlands and Islands.
‘There is much work to do to bring Argyll level with other parts of Scotland: it is a risky strategy to leave the care of built heritage and artefacts principally in hands of willing volunteers, and alarming that there is so little strategic leadership. Nowhere else affords heritage the low status it has in Argyll, and conversely few other places can match the quality of what we have.
‘The baseline work is about recognising its importance and creating an atmosphere in which it can thrive. This costs nothing. There are mechanisms for development but only if the foundations are laid, the ethos is right and the commitment is genuine.
‘The Argyll and Bute Museums and Heritage Forum challenges prospective councillors to commit to our heritage, past and future, by:
- creating an atmosphere of support and encouragement for communities to celebrate and further cultural heritage in their own communities
- recognising and promoting heritage and arts as intertwined activities in Argyll
- recognising and fostering cultural tourism as a key economic driver
- building partnerships and leadership
‘Let’s ask the questions on the doorstep, and vote accordingly. And note that if promises are made, we will hold you to them.’