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Common Heritage

Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 27 Nov 09 - 06:59 PM
Rowan 27 Nov 09 - 10:37 PM
Jack Campin 28 Nov 09 - 06:29 PM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 09 - 03:28 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 29 Nov 09 - 04:32 AM
Mavis Enderby 29 Nov 09 - 05:24 AM
VirginiaTam 29 Nov 09 - 05:49 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Nov 09 - 08:07 AM
John MacKenzie 29 Nov 09 - 08:51 AM
Marje 29 Nov 09 - 09:22 AM
GUEST,Jim Knowledge 29 Nov 09 - 10:06 AM
Jack Campin 29 Nov 09 - 06:55 PM
Herga Kitty 30 Nov 09 - 02:47 AM
Ruth Archer 30 Nov 09 - 04:20 AM
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Subject: Common Heritage
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 27 Nov 09 - 06:59 PM

I was spurred to create this thread while musing on another down below.
I posted the comment here, and was rebuffed by another poster (not perhaps unfairly) for the sentiment expressed:

"Heritage only ever becomes something 'worthy', once safely isolated from the direct interests of grubby little ordinary people and the local community!"

I wonder how much of our 'common heritage' is deemed worthy of formal recognition, preservation, honouring and so-on, whilst still partaken of, by 'common' folk?

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Rowan
Date: 27 Nov 09 - 10:37 PM

Most of the World Heritage Areas around where I've lived and worked (mostly Oz) are regarded as 'common heritage'; such regard is one of the necessary criteria for such areas to qualify for World Heritage status. And their recognition, preservation, honouring etc has been more or less continuous by 'common' folk, of whom I'm one.

Or have I misunderstood your question?

Cheers, Rowan

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Nov 09 - 06:29 PM

Think about children's street games. Now available in books, postcards and DVDs in every Past Times shoppe in Britain. Stamped out for good in every working class community in the country since there's a death sentence for kids doing them - and stamped out long before any working class people could own cars themselves.

Even now, the commonest kind of fatal "accident" on the roads is a working class child getting killed by a middle-class driver. And the official response is always to impose even more controls to prevent children using the streets of their neighbourhoods for what THEY want.

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 03:28 AM

I wonder where 'worthy' enters into the equasion; surely this is a value judgement whereas 'common heritage' is a definition of something in which we have no choice. Wonder if you would mind explaining, and maybe giving us some examples.
Jim Carroll

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 04:32 AM

Jim, firstly my comment was initially intended as a somewhat flippant or tongue in cheek response to this thread: Obit: Leicester's Heritage

To put my provocative comment in better perspective. Specifically I was responding to the point Acorn4 makes about Bow Bridge in Leciester which is being demolished to make way for a new complex (cut & paste of Acorn4's pertinent comments):

"This week Leicester City Council began demolishing the historic "Bowstring Bridge" in the West End of Leicester, and closed down a successful thriving pub, the "Pump and Tap", which has hosted live music for many years. This is because of a dodgy deal with De Montfort University who want to build a sports centre and turn Leicester into a flat-pack city for students ignoring the wishes of local residents.".."In any other place, it would probably have gone unchallenged, it's just that Leicester has so little of historic interest left. The bridge was part of a footpath the "Great Central Way" which led out into the country and the "Pump and Tap" a thriving local. ... Local people regarded it as the "gateway" into the West End of the city."...

(in particular I found this last comment poignant:)

"English Heritage failed to take into account the emotional attachment to pub and bridge of the people in the West End -this is all a part of "heritage" surely!"

A second example of a similar situation JackC actually flagged up on Mudcat some time ago (I searched but can't find the thread).

Paddy's Market in Glasgow had been there for 200 years, supporting local peoples needs to both buy and sell. But was shut down to make way for a shiny new tourist attraction. One wonders what 'nostalgic memorabilia' will be sold in the new arty arcade and how much the ousted local working classes will benefit from it?

I'm not exactly 'making a case' in support of my comment (which as I say, was initially somewhat tongue in cheek), just offering these examples as context for provoking broader discussion.

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 05:24 AM

How about allotments? Many sites were in a state of decline and under threat from development until a resurgence of interest in recent years. They provide a valuable service and are still used by "grubby little ordinary people" - I know - I'm one of them!


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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 05:49 AM

Funny this thread should pop up on the heels of a conversation I had at Essex Record Office. It bordered on something similar, in that many record offices around the UK, put on a higher proportion of discover your heritage type courses and events (wills, parish registers, paleography, genaeology, house history, etc.). But in Essex (which has the highest number of archivists per capita) there is some reluctance to deliver courses.   

There is also an attitude of we don't want no customers around here in the Search Room by both archivists and the Public Service Team, maybe rubbed off from the archivists. No one (and I am serious about this) is permitted to say "it is quiet" in the Search Room. They look at it like mentioning the Scottish Play in a theatre, and fear it will unluckily unleash coach loads of searchers on to the site. This is especially odd because if it were not for the Search Room the Public Service Team wouldn't exist. I should think that more customers equals job security at least, if not increased hours and more staff.

Sadly, in Essex at least, I think there is a bit of snobbery about who should have access to what, when it comes to historical documents and information.

Even though the central government is pushing history and heritage for the masses, archivists tend to be interested only in collecting, cataloging, preserving and researching historical documents. It is after all what they were trained for. There is a massive nationwide push to digitise everything which if accomplished will reduce the need for access to actual documents, and may reduce need for search rooms and public service. So goes the system of automation. Problem with that is that Jack or Jenny off the street, may not know how to interpret what they find for themselves. Or they find the wrong information.

I know that none of the above deals with the issue of who defines what cultural heritage is and what is "worthy." But it gives an idea of another level of cultural snobbery.

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 08:07 AM

Gotcha - sorry for interfering.
Got the same problem a few miles from here in Ennistymon where a local councillor (may he suffer with permanent boils on his bum) wants to knock down an old toll-gate to widen a bridge
Jim Carroll

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 08:51 AM

Is it better they should be run down by a bus, driven by a union member Jack?

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Marje
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 09:22 AM

I'm not at all convinced by Jack's allegations about the class system and children. Kids' games are still played in school playgrounds, at least in some areas. And maybe things are different here in England, but it seems to me that children from poorer areas are allowed to "play out" in parks, gardens, cul-de-sacs etc than the children from better-off families, who are often denied any freedom to play independently and away from adult supervision, except with siblings or a friend invited home for tea. Many council and ex-council estates still have generous amounts of open space that are available for children to play ball games etc, so even in poorer communities there may be opportunities for children to play safely away from traffic. (The perceived danger is not traffic but abduction by strangers, but let's not start on that now.)

I think, Crow Sister, I'd twist the quote you offered us and suggest that what happens is this: when some aspect of our "heritage" is under threat, the formal action and support needed to preserve it will most likely come from "worthy" (i.e. educated, articulate, rich or influential)people or organisations. This doesn't imply that these people want to deny others access to this "heritage", it's just that they are the ones who are in a position to do something positive about it.

The trouble is that the threatened thing then comes to be seen as a middle-class or posh activity (e.g real ale, breast-feeding,folk music and song, ceilidhs) and the "worthies" find they are left as the only ones still interested, while the lower orders turn their attention to the more commercially promoted equivalents (lager, bottle-feeding, pop music and karaoke, discos)which are just as affordable and accessible, but just don't appeal to them any more.

That's a bit of a generalisation, but that's how it often seems to work out.


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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: GUEST,Jim Knowledge
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 10:06 AM

I `ad that M.P. in my cab the other day, that one that looks like `itler going to a fancy dress party in mufti. `e `ad this dirty great pile of papers under `is arm.
`e said, "Morgen, Jim. `ouses of Parliament as quick as you like. I`ve got to introduce this private members bill on `eritage".
I said, "What, you getting involved with all this knocking down bridges and pubs and whatnot?"
`e said, "My bill will knock all that into touch. I`m proposing the law that all buildings and art shall self-destruct after 35 years!!".

Whaddam I Like??

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Nov 09 - 06:55 PM

Look at the streets around where I live on Google Earth or Google Maps: EH22 4PU.

We're in the middle of a 120-year-old mining village. The mine closed in 1982. There is a a main street (called Main Street) and a number of side streets and lanes (romantically named First to Tenth Street). When the mine was still open, the streets were a mess, there were virtually no cars, and kids could play anywhere off Main Street. Now the road surfaces are immaculate and you hardly ever see a child in the street. There aren't that many cars on the side streets either, but the ones that are there drive as fast as if they were on a deserted motorway. There is a small play area in the park (on the edge of this older part of the village), halved in size by the council when they took its land to expand the school, but it's unsupervised, and since the park is used as one giant bar by underage drinkers as soon as school finishes, it's off limits to younger children except in the middle of the day. And there's a grassy area (The Square) which would be ideal but it's dominated by violent early-teen gangs.

Public space for children has simply vanished in the last generation, entirely eaten away by the effects of alcohol and private motor vehicles.

A different angle on CS's topic: Billy Bragg's documentary on music hall (Radio 3 at 10pm this evening) was worht a listen. It should be on "Listen Again".

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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 02:47 AM

Here's a link to Billy Bragg's programme - available until next Sunday.


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Subject: RE: Common Heritage
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 30 Nov 09 - 04:20 AM

It's my experience driving round estates (yes, even working-class ones) that there are now so many traffic calming measures that it's impossible to drive at more than about 10 miles per hour, at least if you don't want to lose your exhaust. I'd be interested to see the statistics that say that "working class" children are mostly the victims of "middle class" drivers. How is this being quantified? Are the victims and the drivers subjected to statistical analysis, such as Mosaic or Acorn? Intriguing if they are...

Marje pointed out, quite rightly, that if anything it's the posh kids whose playtime is absolutely regulated and regimented these days. And yes, the biggest bogeyman is the abducting paedophile, never mind that most paedophilia occurs within the home by perpitrators well known to their victims, and probably family members. If you're not seeing kids on the street, it's probably because they are inside watching telly or playing on their XBox. I believe that the games console is a great class leveller these days.

I do think that heritage is a moveable feast, and though there is much institutionalised heritage, there is also lots that's totally democratised through its very nature. I am as interested in intangible heritage and culture as I am in buildings and bridges. I do not think that creating a "heritage" ringfence around something in order to preserve it necessarily denotes that it has been taken out of the hands of the people - in my old village, the parish council got the red telephone box on the green listed so that it couldn't be removed. You could still go in and make calls from it. We also did a village history for the millennium, compliled by the residents, and yours for a fiver. I did the oral histories chapter - something else that's a totally democratised aspect of heritage. Ironically, in the same village one of the most historically important houses had a chimney fire and, being thatched, it burnt to the ground. Everyone in the village was rather nonplussed by the lady who visited from the listings office to examine the remains, and told the owners that they had to re-build the cottage EXACTLY as it had been. The listings people apparently acknowledged that it would no longer be the old cottage, but this was their ruling. When does institutionalised heritage become a parody of itself?

There's heritage all around us. I can go to my friend's farm house and have a cuppa while sitting under beams that were carved 600 yeard ago. I can have a natter with her husband, a sheep farmer, who is descended from the Bassanos, court musicians to Henry VIII who were eventually immortalised in The Merchant of Venice. You can go to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and Devon, and even though it's a designated World Heritage Site you can still paddle in the sea. Even in America, with its comparitively short history, I can go to the Sea Islands of South Carolina and stay in a Gullah community and hear people speak a language that is directly decended from West African slavery, I can listen to their songs and eat their food; or I could go to the Albert Hall in Waretown, New Jersey and listen to people playing old time Piney music.

Some heritage gets isolated; some doesn't. Some stays in the hands of its community; some doesn't. But I would dispute that heritage only takes on that title and is given cultural currency when it is taken out of the hands of the people. I would also say that, just because people kick up a fuss and say that something oughtn't to be removed because it is part of their heritage, means they automatically should have the right to that determination. As I said in the original thread, places, especially cities, change. inevitably, someone's history and someone's heritage is lost. As long as change is effected sensitively the compromises can make people's day-to-day lives better. Replacing the bridge in Leicester with a sports centre and swimming baths, so long as they are open to the public, may well turn out to be an example of this, and be of benefit to more people than the bridge ever could. And then, in 60 or 70 years' time, the great-grandkids of the current protesters can protest about the city wanting to tear down the old DMU baths that they remember swimming in when they were kids. :)

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