At the invitation of the British Council, Catherine Leonard and INTO Volunteer Julie Thompson attended the China-UK Cultural Heritage Forum in Zhouzhuang and Tongli. Catherine spoke about the approach National Trusts are taking to engage young people through family visits, schools programmes and youth training schemes. Drawing on the experience of INTO members across the globe, the seminar explored what might be considered the hallmarks of a successful youth engagement programme and how these might apply in China.
There were other UK speakers from York, Oxford and Cardiff, alongside INTO member organisations the Ruan Yisan Heritage Foundation and Union Rempart (France) as well as INTO Chairman, Simon Molesworth. The Chinese delegates were mainly local government officials and academics. It was a great opportunity to connect, to build relations and to learn about each others work – the first step in an ongoing collaboration which will include running a work camp with the help of the British Council.
The team also went to Liangcun to visit the site of the recent REMPART workcamp and to check out other working holiday locations. (Catherine’s report can be downloaded here.)
During the month of August 2012, 8 British and 8 Chinese young people came together to assist with the conservation of an old hospital site, previously a private residence, in a small water town called Tongli. Callum McCaffrey, an Apprentice Joiner from Northern Ireland was part of the team. It was a good opportunity to share practices and learn about the fascinating differences in their culture.
Initiated by the Ruan Yisan Heritage Foundation and INTO and generously sponsored by the British Council, this exchange enabled all those involved to discover the different ways conservation organisations see a historic building and thus find out more about world heritage. In particular, they tried to understand why a Chinese building looks quite new after renovation whereas that kind of restauration seems unthinkable in the UK, where the age and character of a building must be apparent. Callum thinks it might be the result of the uniform structures and similar style in China; then the Chinese are able to bring a building back to what it was like originally.
“All in all I had a great time in Tongli and learnt a huge amount not just from the project and the work, but from the people I worked with, people from all different backgrounds and from all over the world coming together to share skills and experience.” Callum McCaffrey
Read Callum’s blog here.