Ahead of Cllr Karen Rowland’s #inconversation with Civic Voice, our Director, Ian Harvey, shares some perspectives on why the civic movement needs to champion, Heritage Champions!
Highlights from this blog:
- Civic Voice’s Heritage Champion database – published 10th June 2020: http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/resources/heritage-champions-spreadsheet/
- If you want to know why a New Yorker is so enthusiastic about Reading’s heritage, you might want to listen to: The Reading Heritage Podcast
- Learn more about Heritage Champions via: Heritage Champion handbook:
What does it mean to be a Heritage Champion?
‘We encourage all local authorities to appoint a Heritage Champion’
Historic England, 2016
The network of Heritage Champions was set up in 2004 by the then, English Heritage, to champion the interests of the historic environment within Local Authorities.
Heritage Champions are local councillors who have been nominated by their authority to carry out the role. The Champion focuses on persuading colleagues in the local authority and the wider community that the historic environment matters. Historic England provide advice which includes a publication, setting out what Heritage Champions can do in their role, how they can do it, and outlines contacts and sources of information.
The Champion should be ensuring that the historic environment plays a key role in the activities of the local authority in terms of policy development.
- Salford has two:Councillor Antrobus and Councillor Humphreys;
- Leicester City Council’s Heritage Champion has been in post since 2013.
- Stoke appointed a Heritage Champion to lead a bid for a Heritage Action Zone.
- Liverpool City Council’s Mayoral Lead for Heritage, recruited young people from schools and youth groups. https://www.cultureliverpool.co.uk/news/history-in-the-making/
- Other examples are available on the Historic England website here.
How many councils have a Heritage Champion?
The network of Heritage Champions was set up in 2004 and the numbers steadily increased in the first few years.
- In 2005/6 the figure was 54 percent
- and this rose to 74 percent in 2013/2014
We have not been able to ascertain completely up-to-date figure current figures, but, we do know that Historic England tries to keep a central list of Champions to communicate with.
What have we done?
In September 2019, the Civic Voice Regional Forum requested that Civic Voice ask individual civic societies to share experiences about Heritage Champions.
During October 2019, we asked 100 Civic Societies if they could name their Champion, 22 societies responded with a ‘yes’, and the rest either said ‘no’, or they didn’t know if they had a Heritage Champion.
Our original plan was to undertake research during November/December, but the General Election arrived. As such, we decided in January to start an FOI on local councils to seek to find out if they had a Champion, or any interest in appointing one!
Example responses to the FOI include:
- Coventry Council: https://www.coventry.gov.uk/downloads/file/31561/req06474
- Hastings Borough Council: https://www.hastings.gov.uk/my-council/freedom-of-information/date/?id=FOIR-168214989
- Thurrock Council: https://www.thurrock.gov.uk/foi-responses/heritage-champions
We are publishing those results today:
- The FOI took place between January and February 2020
- We had 224 responses in the timeframe allowed
- 86 authorities did not respond in the timeframe
- 69 said ‘yes’ they do have a Heritage Champion
- 153 said ‘no’ they do not have a heritage champion.
- Of those 153 – 20 said the the idea of introducing a Heritage Champion is something that they are considering
The plan had been to publish a bigger piece of research, but with Covid-19, local councils have had other priorities, so we want people to help us fill in the database. It is not complete. It is a start.
See the spreadsheet of responses here: http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/resources/heritage-champions-spreadsheet/
We want to publish this spreadsheet so that we can make heritage champions, more transparent. It makes us wonder, if the local civic society doesn’t know if they have a heritage champion, who else would?
Transparency is clearly an issue. Hopefully creating this spreadsheet will be a start.
We want civic societies championing heritage champions
Since 2006, we have witnessed funding cuts of 37% to local conservation officers. This is unlikely to change anytime soon. We have to unlock other ways to champion and make the case for the historic environment. We believe that a well-known and well supported Heritage Champions network can help mitigate funding cuts. If Champions are positively supported by the local community, it can help us to collaboratively make the case for local heritage.
We want the civic movement to help support local champions and work with them with shared values, shared activities and coordination. It will be important that long-term we have independent ambassadors and champions that can continue to make the case for the historic and built environment.
Help us to champion heritage champions by sharing with us information about your local authority. Send any information you have to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will update the database and continue to publish it for people to access.
Want to know more?
Local contacts for the Heritage Champions in Historic England are as follows
- North West – Kate Kendall, Team Leader – Partnerships, Email
- North East and Yorkshire – John D Walker, Stakeholder Engagement Adviser, Email
- Midlands – Louisa Moore, Team Leader – Partnerships, Email
- East of England – Hetty Thornton, Stakeholder Engagement Adviser, Email
- South West – Rosie Byford, Stakeholder Engagement Adviser, Email
- London and the South East – Rachael McMillan, Stakeholder Engagement Adviser, Email