My week began with our World Heritage Day event in Cambridge which saw INTO Chairman Fiona Reynolds warning that apathy towards our world heritage poses a greater risk to it than climate change, war and conflict or natural disasters.
With the help of our colleagues at the National Trust for Scotland, we surveyed the INTO membership before the Cambridge Conference to get a sense of what they thought were their greatest challenges and opportunities, which we then followed up early this year with World Heritage Day in mind.
It was surprising that the majority concern was about lack of engagement and support by governments and, to some extent, people.
She gave the example of Merdeka Stadium, the place where independence was pronounced in 1957 and which is etched on the hearts of all Malaysians but which was slated for demolition in the 1990s before being saved by a coalition of public private partners, including the Malaysian Heritage Trust (Badan Warisan Malaysia).
And of Martindale Hall in South Australia which was entrusted to public hands by a generous bequest in 1950 but which the State government has now advocated selling off for private development. The National Trust of South Australia is about to launch its own proposal for the future management of the site, inspired by their attendance at the Cambridge ICNT and working with INTO member organisations.
The invited audience saw images of members of Din l’Art Helwa, the National Trust of Malta, urging politicians to ‘protect our environment’ in a protest last year and of the National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s campaign against government’s plans to unpick England’s planning legislation.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom however and Fiona highlighted some good news stories from across the INTO network. FAI, the Italian National Trust’s successful Spring Days programme which opens 900 special places normally closed to the general public in 380 towns across Italy; over 93% of all Irish schools participating part in An Taisce the National Trust for Ireland’s Green School programme; and the heart-warming story from the National Trust for Jersey which is returning 11 acres of blighted headland to nature after a long campaign.
Wonderful heritage education programmes in Japan, Zimbabwe, Uganda and India; and innovative ways of funding and managing heritage in Canada and the UK all show how National Trust like organisations can really make a difference. Huge thanks to our policy officer, Jorge Vicente Diaz, for putting together the State of Global Heritage Report and wonderful posters.
It was wonderful to be a part of the day and at our quarterly teleconference later in the week, the EC/Board agreed to continue focussing INTO’s advocacy work on the five threats identified in Fiona’s speech: Planning and development; War and conflict; Funding; Natural disasters and Apathy.
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of an extended meeting with Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Chairman of the BPPI (Indonesian Heritage Trust) to discuss developing plans for the 2017 ICNT in Bali. It is beginning to sound very exciting and on Thursday Catrini Kubontubuh persuaded (not that hard!) my children that they would also like to come. (We’ll have to work on that!) Catrini and Geoffrey Read came down to visit me at my Hampshire home for further discussions and to participate in our EC/Board call. Lovely to be able to show them ‘my place’. Before she left, Catrini shared the picture below – our first ever meeting which took place in the old NT offices at 36 Queen Anne’s Gate around 15 years ago (with Oliver too!). Plus ça change ….
On Thursday evening, we celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday with a drinks party and beacon lighting at the Grange (my local English Heritage property). Fabulous.