Comment posted on Challenge to local election candidates from Museums and Heritage Forum by Catherine Gillies
Actually Daniel I don’t entirely agree with you. The primary impact is not ‘visit’, although that is obviously an important factor.
I always liken the heritage as similar to football. If you are interested in football then it is a really big part of your life. If you aren’t, then it is difficult to understand its impact (I really don’t care about football!!). However if your heritage IS important to you – whether it because you care about a public building like the Clock Tower or because you want to trace your own ancestry, then it is a really big thing in your life. NOT having the opportunity to enjoy it impacts heavily on your happiness and wellbeing, on your commitment to where you live and work, and how you interact with other people. “This is where I am from, this is who we are” is absolutely fundamental.
You only have to look at the meltdown that came in the wake of the Cultural Revolution in China and the attempts to sweep away large chunks of heritage DNA in the USSR to understand just how important heritage is to people’s lives. I am still astounded by the risks people took, and the imprisonment they endured, to safeguard their community heritage and memory. We are obviously not in that position, but we are needing to look after our community soul better. People are distressed by its neglect – all of us who work with the many volunteers who WANT it to be better cared for, see at first hand just how much it matters.
So I agree with you wholeheartedly that the priority list should have “visit” in third place in the menu. “Live” is higher up, and includes heritage as a fundamental part of it.
“Work” also includes heritage as a fundamental part of it. You strip it away, or neglect it, and Argyll will become just like any other part of Britain, only harder to get to. If we don’t look after our amazing Victorian/Edwardian seaside townscapes, if we allow our prehistoric landscape at Kilmartin to become degraded and overgrown, if we give up on caring for the last intact township of Auchindrain, if we let our 60 medieval castles fall down and our host of early Christian sites become lost, then Argyll becomes bland and characterless; lovely scenery without stories. The tourists will lose interest, the hotels and guesthouses have to work harder for business, the shops lose out, the population will decline, it will become a less attractive place for professionals to come and work, and all the current efforts for regeneration will lose their potency.
Overstatement? No – plenty of precedent. As there also is for heritage being part of regeneration and creating a climate in which young people want to live and work. Don’t forget one of the original bullet points here – heritage and arts as linked activities. The Highlands and Islands, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland invested heavily in culture as part of their creation of thriving environments, and for some years now young people have been choosing to stay, return after studying, or move there to live and work. Culture creates excitement and a climate for creativity which pervades everything, from events, festivals and attractions down to the nitty gritty of how people develop brand and marketing materials. You can develop all the industry you like, but if you do it in a cultural vacuum it won’t bring people to live and work, any more than a place without a good leisure centre for the football and sports enthusiasts will. Especially not the young.
Work, live, visit. Do any of them without heritage AND culture and you are stuffed.
Catherine Gillies also commented
- Spot on Bob.
- Excellent! Thankyou for your robust debating! It was good to have a devils advocate in there
- Aha! Lots of extremely pertinent questions above!!
1. Heaven defend us from consultants! I agree on the tons and tons of wasted money and hours. Or rather heaven defend us from bought in consultants. Some homegrown information gathering would be useful and not have the price tag.
2. Are Argyll and Bute Council doing their job? Easy answer – no. Should they be spending more than the minimum? Well actually the minimum would be nice! . I am not sure what their spend on museums is, but I have formed the impression from various statements that the money expected to be spent on heritage is finding other homes. It isn’t ringfenced and there are a lot of demands. Without a clear structure it is hard to keep its purpose.
I know you are impatient with the idea of ‘ethos’ and ‘mission’, but such low prioritising in the end comes down to not having policy, planning and committment, so we need to crank that up. We have a super tanker here which needs to spend some time turning around, and some fine words would be a good way to start.
- Like it or not core heritage and culture policy and administration are government responsibilities, and are administered through Museums and Galleries Scotland and Creative Scotland at strategic level, and on the ground through local authorities.
Argyll and Bute receives money annually to spend on museums in Argyll. This is the system. We can policy-make until we are blue in the face, but as the strategic development dialogue takes place between MGS, CS and the local authorities, it is a pointless exercise.
What is happening here is that a perfectly workable national system for the care of our heritage suddenly hits a glass floor in Argyll and Bute, where there is no policy or working mechanism for dealing with it. Underneath it are all of us independent museums beating against the glass ceiling. I recognise your call for independent thought but hey, we have been doing that for a long time and would love to be doing it with a really important partner like the Council.
I just want to share with you the latest Government thoughts on cultural value:
“The creative industries in Scotland support over 60,000 jobs and contribute over £5 billion to the economy; the historic environment supports 60,000 jobs and contributes more than £2.3 billion; and Scotland’s museums and galleries welcome an estimated 25.3 million visitors per annum and are worth an estimated £800 million to the economy.”
We want a slice of that for Argyll please…
- I am really heartened by the way this discussion is going. It is quite clear to me that two lines are being pursued which are totally compatible but simply serve to point up the gap between where the community and the council.
Those of us who work in the sector know how far back the council is, and this challenge is to get them to at least start thinking straight. For goodness sake get some policy!
The community, who takes the importance of heritage and arts for granted, because they are SO much further ahead and see the impact of it elsewhere in Scotland and the world, are saying “forget the words, for goodness sake make some proper committments. Action on the ground please”.
Both are absolutely correct.
Recent comments by Catherine Gillies
- Time for council administration to think about where it’s going
It would not surprise me in the slightest that someone as utterly decent and hard-working as Roddy McCuish might be tempted to be able to spend more time on work as an elected member working for his ward than in political bickering.
I would be very sorry to see him go, but I rather suspect he will. I would in his shoes.
- SNP’s Coalition for Progress now has a majority – 19 councillors
Hooray for the coalition and the honest-as-the-day-is-long postie McCuish. Looking round the virtual room containing them all I see so many people I trust. I can’t remember when we last had a council ruling group I could say that about! Now I am going to burn their ears off about protecting our amazing heritage and celebrating our astounding culture. Who will they get to lead that particular charge?
- Council Elections: The count
What a nasty set of comments about Donald Melville. Whoever you are, please don’t ever stand for the council. We need positive people, not this sort of pointless sniping. Luckily Mellon will continue to do a lot for the community, and better luck next time. If he had put Duncan MacIntyre out we would have had a pretty good spread of people. Even so it is not at all bad around Oban, and I am really confident that it is going to be a better place to try and get things done in.
- Council Elections: The count
Whoop whoop for Oban South and the Isles!!
- Brooch of Lorn goes south to British Museum for Shakespeare exhibition
Yippee! It’s ours then! (Phew )
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