Event Explores Role And Impact Of Heritage In The North


More than 50 heritage practitioners and academics gathered at an event in Durham last week to discuss how the North’s strong cultural heritage can drive economic growth and social impact and how local communities can play an important role in this.

The event was the first in a series of four themed workshops taking place as part of the ‘New thinking from the North’ project, which aims to identify ways in which academics and practitioners in the arts and humanities can collaborate to stimulate economic growth, contribute to public policy and the development of communities across the North

The series also aims to identify a range of new research needs and challenges, developed by both practioners and academicsDelegates at the event discussed the opportunities for heritage institutions and organisations to collaborate with academics to learn from each other and explore new research topics. The day also included a visit to the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition currently taking place at Durham Cathedral and a discussion about the implications of the exhibition for the region’s economy and identity.

Among those attending the event was Jane Whittaker, Head of Collections at Bowes Museum, County Durham, who commented:

“The Bowes Museum is actively looking to develop a project with the Teesdale community; we are also keen to strengthen our links with universities so the event was really useful for us to make new contacts, and to hear what other collaborations are taking place and where there are new opportunities.

“I think this project will help increase the understanding of the range and diversity of what constitutes ‘heritage’ today and will highlight how different practitioners, including those within the community, can continue to shape our region through heritage.”

Professor Simon James from Durham University’s Department of English Studies said:

“It was very encouraging to see such a strong turnout not only from heritage researchers, but also from the practitioners who are making heritage accessible to the public.

“I learnt a lot about the importance of the overall visitor experience – and also about how heritage is intertwined with how a community thinks of itself. The day showed that there is demand on both sides for partnership opportunities.”

The ‘New thinking from the North’ study will build on the N8’s existing partnerships with local authorities and local enterprise partnerships. In addition to identifying new areas for research, it will also investigate opportunities forsocial impact and economic growth, for example by supporting economic development at a community level and through start-up businesses.

The other events taking place as part of the project are:

  • Digital North – looking at how digital is being used to create and sustain culture, identity and community in the North (Sheffield, 19 September).
  • Sustainable North – looking at how the economic, social and environmental development of the North are connected and how they can be made sustainable and resilient (Manchester, 30 October).
  • Imaginative North – looking at how the imagination is being used to influence social and cultural development in the North (Lancaster, 21 November).

The outcomes of the research will be presented as a policy report for local authorities, and is expected to be published in 2014.

Click here for more information about the Impact of Arts and Humanities research project.