When we invest in heritage we boost education, health, employment and wellbeing. Integrating heritage into policy-making will improve people’s lives.
It has obvious benefits for those who engage in it, but those benefits also spread to the broader community who stand to gain from the historic environment that surrounds their community.
Investment in heritage regenerates neglected areas, creates local jobs, and promotes a sense of community. It offers educational and volunteering opportunities and promotes dialogue between different cultures and generations. Understanding our heritage helps us to understand each other. There is evidence to suggest that heritage can promote an understanding of the past that is not only better, but shared.
Revitalise our Heritage,
Sandy Row suffered during the Troubles as one of the most deprived areas in Belfast. Economic renewal passed it by. The Sandy Row Community Forum developed a plan to work with long-term unemployed loyalist bandsmen. They research local history and work as tour guides. Significant benefits have flowed from the project to the wider community and a new appreciation for Sandy Row’s role in Belfast’s development has built local confidence and pride.
Battles, Bricks & Bridges, Co. Fermanagh
Battles, Bricks and Bridges in rural Fermanagh was a community project that drew on local support from across the community. Together, local people located the site of an early modern battle, excavated the remains of a non-denominational National School, and revived a long-extinct brick-making industry. The result was a network of closer relationships between the people of the district.
Heritage benefits our health and enhances our wellbeing. Researchers at the London School of Economics found the wellbeing value of visiting heritage sites is equivalent to £1,646 per person per year. Another study, on behalf of the Heritage Lottery Fund, discovered that volunteers in the heritage sector had higher levels of life satisfaction than did the general population, or other volunteers.
The Mall, Armagh
The Mall has been central to life in Armagh for over 200 years, surrounded as it is by important municipal buildings and grand houses. But by the turn of this century, the shine had come off. Concerned local people won support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to give it a facelift, including better disabled access, ground drainage, park furniture and a new surface for the promenade. The Mall now attracts early morning joggers, office workers on their lunch breaks, and families in the evenings. In 2005, the Mall won both the Civic Trust Award and the Irish Architecture Award.
Northern Ireland is suffering a housing shortage. By partnering with local lenders and community development organisations, we can ensure the continued use and rehabilitation of historic buildings while encouraging economic growth.
Joy, Hamilton & McMaster Streets, Belfast
Belfast’s Joy, Hamilton and McMaster Streets are good examples of successful urban regeneration. These Georgian and Victorian-era terraces are valued for their historic character, weathered brickwork and proximity to the city centre. Hearth, a building preservation trust with a social mission, brought these terraces back into use by drawing on funds for social housing, helping local people to retain ownership in their area and its heritage.
Mourne Homesteads Scheme, Co. Down
The Mourne Homesteads Scheme, in County Down, has brought derelict farmhouses back into use through sensitive adaptation. The scheme creates modern homes while preserving the folk memory bound up in their walls. The scheme received a diploma from Europa Nostra, the EU’s cultural heritage award.