When we invest in heritage we are protecting and celebrating the character of our region and its people. This is essential to a peaceful, prosperous and progressive future.
Understanding, protecting, celebrating and re-using the buildings and places that make us who we are builds confidence, improves our quality of life and encourages economic growth.
Globalisation tends to make everything seem the same. Places that accentuate what makes them distinctive are in the best position to stand out, attract people, and prosper. This is cultural capital – a kind of branding or what students of international relations might call ‘soft power’. Nurturing this kind of capital is tricky for government. Unlike a new bridge, education initiative or nature reserve, it cannot be created by decree. It is a sense of style and belonging created by people in everyday interactions over many years.
The Walled City, Derry~Londonderry
Merchants from the City of London built Derry’s walls between 1613 and 1619. They went on to withstand two sieges in the 17th century. While the suburbs have long since spilt out across the countryside, the walls remain the city’s most distinctive feature. In the mid-1990s, the city decided to capitalise on this unique asset. They invested in repairing the walls and other historic sites, tourism training and conservation management. The revitalisation has doubled tourist numbers and helped the city to win the UK City of Culture in 2013.
Older buildings provide the character of a town or city by embodying the will and aspirations of the people who live there. The old bank buildings of our principal towns, the atmospheric pubs of the inner city and country crossroads, the terraced houses and lime kilns of our coastal villages, the church walls draped in ivy – all are reminders of what it means to come from here.
Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
Ballycastle, in Co. Antrim, has worked hard to maintain its character. Its town core received Conservation Area status in 1990. This stimulated government support for repair work and increased local pride. Planning controls and peer pressure have ensured that these gains are retained. Today it is a vibrant town with a rising population, prospering retailers, and a thriving tourism industry