Celebrate the value of local heritage and green spaces
We have 20 exciting and innovative projects across the country
Budget reductions and increased pressure on housing means that local historic buildings and green spaces are more at risk than ever. These are the everyday spaces that provide our most frequent connection with nature and heritage – our municipal parks, the countryside on our doorsteps, the historic character of our market towns and villages, the urban and industrial fragments of our more recent past. Their value to quality of place, to community cohesion, to physical and mental health, and to ecology and biodiversity is often unrealised and untold.
We want to play our part in strengthening and empowering the wider heritage sector to cope with and even thrive with reduced funding. Working alongside key partners, our ambition is to identify solutions for the safeguarding and conservation of everyday heritage and green spaces.
We have 20 exciting and innovative projects across the country, designed to test different ways to support and influence the historic and natural environment in our towns and cities. For example, in a joint venture with the Canal & River Trust we have acquired a lease for The Roundhouse in Birmingham. This Grade II* horseshoe-shaped Victorian municipal building beside a canal in the city centre will be used as a base for walking, cycling and canoeing tours of the area as well as for telling the story of the place.
As part of another project, our experts are advising community action groups and local heritage organisations on options for the sustainable future of many threatened and often derelict buildings of significant interest. These include the Moseley Road Grade II* listed Edwardian baths in Birmingham. The baths are still open for public swimming but are due to close in 2017. The building’s importance stems from the social history reflected in the ‘slipper baths’ and its segregation between class and gender.
While our support for this and other places is driven by a threat, the opportunity to benefit a broader and more diverse range of people than currently visit our properties is of equal importance.
We are also playing our part in protecting outdoor places at a time when local authority budgets for their care are falling. During 2016 we worked with Newcastle City Council to develop a proposal for a new model for the funding and management of the city’s parks and green spaces – a parks charitable trust. We will help them through in-kind support and advice as they look to establish the charitable trust which will be funded by endowment and enterprise.
We will share what is learnt from this project with other local authorities and aim to build a national coalition to co-create a framework to enable local authorities to explore different options for the care of their parks.
In July 2016, we partnered with Croydon Council to deliver ‘Edge City’. This project explored the town’s recent history, celebrating why Croydon matters and encouraging people to look after its past, present and future. The project aimed to challenge public perceptions of the National Trust by embracing a broad definition of what constitutes national heritage, which extends well beyond country houses and includes post-war architecture.
Our support for the hugely popular Heritage Open Days is another way we are reaching beyond our boundaries to engage people with heritage through properties we do not own. Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,500 organisations and more than 40,000 volunteers across the country to celebrate England’s rich and diverse heritage. Every year on four days in September, places of every age, style and function, welcome visitors in free of charge. In 2016, around 3 million visitors from across Great Britain took advantage of the festival’s estimated 5,000 events. This programme is hugely successful in engaging people with their local heritage with 80% of the visitors in 2016 saying their experience had inspired them to visit more heritage and/or cultural sites in future and 30% wanting to become involved with a heritage organisation/place.