Chair of the Group, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP launches report advocating the value of UK Industrial Heritage Sector

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Industrial Heritage (APPG), chaired by Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, is launching its report on the future of the UK’s industrial heritage this coming Tuesday, 1 May.  The report’s key findings are that industrial heritage was vital in the formation of local and national identities, and is highly valuable in the UK’s contemporary society as a source of economic potential.

By providing an examination of the value of industrial heritage to the United Kingdom and the major social, economic and cultural issues impacting this sector, the APPG has compiled a series of conclusions and recommendations on how to face the challenges of the future.

The report draws on expertise that spans the industrial heritage sector right across the United Kingdom, from the highly successful Titanic Foundation in Northern Ireland, to Big Pit National Coal Museum in Wales, to Ironbridge Gorge Museum in England and the Bowling Harbour Swing Bridge in Scotland.  The APPG held oral evidence sessions in Parliament on 11 and 12 October 2017 and accepted written submissions.  These contributions were drawn from right across the sector: academics, as well professional and amateur experts from local and national organisations.

Whilst the report identified fiscal challenges – the industrial heritage sector is no different from many others in the UK – the report found examples of innovative ways to raise capital and generate revenue, including community ownership, and designing projects with commercial income opportunities.

The public sector is obviously of central importance and the UK Government should, in response to this report, commission its own “Industrial Heritage Strategy” to draw the sector together, providing the leadership required to make the most of its great potential.  This strategy must then be subjected to regular reviews and updates from the Government showing its determination to drive change through and keep industrial heritage central to its future growth strategy.

A forum and national plan for conserving and promoting our industrial heritage would bring great benefits.  Key players such as the Arts Council England, Historic England and Heritage Lottery Fund can be at the heart of working together across the sector.  One simple change that could enhance our industrial heritage sites would be to ensure that any campaigns promoting the UK in the tourist sector should always include at least one industrial heritage site amongst key attractions: a collaborative approach that could yield results very quickly by increasing visitor numbers.

Working with schools and archaeology departments at universities to emphasises the importance of industrial heritage in our future is also crucial.  The Industrial Revolution is central to our history, and its legacy can provide the basis of innovation in the future. The report found examples of quality apprenticeships and the acquisition of transferable skills that can only add to the dynamism and innovation in our economy.

To secure a long-term future, industrial heritage must always be inclusive to all.  Whilst heavy industrial work was male-dominated in the past, a key to accessibility in the present is to ensure that the role and contribution of women and BAME groups are always displayed at each industrial heritage site.  Improved accessibility, and schemes to reduce fees for local people are also important to encourage engagement with community identity and local heritage.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on 28 March 2018, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP raised the forthcoming publication of the report with Theresa May who replied that the report “would potentially fit into the modern industrial strategy that the Government have already launched.”[i]

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Chair of the APPG, stated:

“We have some beautiful stately homes in the country, but, equally, our heritage is about the history of working people.  This report is a timely reminder of the extraordinary value of our industrial heritage sector, its importance in shaping our modern society, its crucial role in our economy, and its great potential to contribute to the jobs of the future.  The report calls on the UK Government to lead in this area, but also seeks to share best practice across the sector, and to make reasonable, practical suggestions that can be implemented with minimal cost implications in order to make the sector even more accessible and more widely known.  As the first industrialised nation, our country is uniquely placed to make a difference.”

Among the experts who contributed to the report is one of the UK’s leading authorities on industrial heritage, the vastly experienced Sir Neil Cossons OBE, former Chair of English Heritage[ii] who said:

“This report identifies the challenges and opportunities presented by Britain’s great historic industrial places, their meaning for communities and wider importance to the nation, and the need to establish a strategy to secure their future. The report’s recommendations set out what needs to be done; they are to the point, realistic, achievable and require the most serious consideration.”

 

You can read the APPG’s report here: APPG on Industrial Heritage Report (Digital)

 

[i] https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-03-28/debates/0CC1ED1A-90AA-4066-97BE-7BED0A1AD745/Engagements#contribution-375B52AC-86E3-4E41-A1D4-605C692D43BE

[ii] Sir Neil Cossons OBE is the current Heritage Lottery Fund Trustee and Committee Member for the North West: https://www.hlf.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/sir-neil-cossons-obe

Recent Posts