I’ve just come back from a World Heritage UK meeting in Blaenavon World Heritage Site (WHS). The meeting was aimed at learning and engagement colleagues working in World Heritage Sites and it was great to see people representing sites as diverse as Fountain’s Abbey, Derwent Valley Mills, Kew, Saltaire, Frontiers of the Roman Empire and more! We also welcomed some of the UK’s tentative and aspiring World Heritage Sites from Shetland, North Wales, the Wirral and the Flow Country in Scotland.
It was really inspiring to be in the same room as colleagues who are all passionate about sharing what’s so special about their World Heritage Sites with the wider community.
We heard about the increasing role of person-centred engagement and using heritage to meet the individual needs of some really challenging and difficult to reach groups. We also thought about formal and informal learning in a more abstract way with Jamie Davies who has just completed his PhD Thesis with the Ironbridge Institute on World Heritage Learning which will be published shortly.
- Derwent Valley Mills are using the inspiration of the entrepreneurial spirit of the inventors of factories to help young people to learn practical business skills.
- Blaenavon Town Council and National Museum Wales are programming successful intergenerational activities working in partnerships in their Dementia Friendly town.
- Torfaen Borough Council and the Blaenavon WHS team have been leading for some time on their Youth Ambassadors Scheme, which thanks to an injection of National Lottery Heritage Funding is set to expand to more World Heritage Sites across the UK.
- Cadw through their Unloved Heritage project are meeting the needs of hard to reach young people often resulting in unexpected outcomes.
All of these projects have people at the centre and heritage is one tool in the practitioners toolkit but the impact on the individuals is meaningful and lasting.
All of this took place in the former Bath House of The Big Pit in Blaenavon. One of the joys of taking part in the World Heritage UK meetings is the opportunity to visit World Heritage Sites around the UK. Although not my first visit to Blaenavon it was my first (and it won’t be my last!) visit to The Big Pit, part of the National Museum Wales group. The trip underground was fascinating and brought to life by the ex-miners who are able to give first hand accounts of what life was like underground.
There are 27 mainland UK World Heritage Sites – these are sites on a par with Taj Mahal, the Pyramids at Giza and the Great Wall of China. Why not explore your own world class heritage sites this year?