Heritage is “the golden thread” that links past, present and future, said Secretary of State for Culture at Heritage Day 2010
The Heritage Alliance celebrated its ninth annual Heritage Day (sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance Group) on Wednesday 8 December, in the spectacular surroundings of the Banqueting House, Whitehall. Chaired by the Heritage Alliance’s Chairman Loyd Grossman OBE FSA, delegates were treated to an appearance by King Charles I himself, followed by an address from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
At the culmination of a year where membership of the Alliance has never been higher (86 national and major regional heritage non-government bodies, representing between them over 5 million people) and advocacy has gathered momentum, Heritage Day 2010 saw the highest ever turnout in the event’s nine-year history.
Addressing over 180 delegates, Chairman Loyd Grossman said: “Partnership, responsibility, co-operation, public engagement and commitment to the common good is in the DNA of every single organisation that belongs to The Heritage Alliance…the heritage reaches into every single corner of the country, and we are more determined than ever before to give everyone the opportunity to benefit from the inspiration, education and pleasure that heritage provides.”
In particular, Loyd Grossman praised the work of the 485,000 volunteers across the country who donate 58.5 million hours each year to ensure that the public can continue to enjoy our heritage, and that the economy can continue to benefitfrom it: “We in the heritage sector have been doing the Big Society for a long time, before the Big Society was even a phrase…volunteers are the absolute lifeblood of our sector.”
In celebration of the outstanding public benefit contributed to society by heritage volunteers Loyd Grossman presented the first ever Heritage Alliance Hero Award to Mr Peter Vacher, whose 28-year battle to save and restore the only surviving operational Hawker Hurricane to see action in the Battle of Britain means children and adults alike can continue to be enthralled by this mighty aircraft at air shows across the country. Runners up the Friends of Bethesda Methodist Chapel in Stoke on Trent, and the Wey & Arun Canal Trust for Loxwood Bridge, were highly impressive examples of heritage volunteers pulling together and taking action on behalf of their local communities. 
Turning to the future, Loyd Grossman welcomed the Heritage Lottery Fund’s recent announcement of an extra £45m for new grants in the next financial year and the extension of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme beyond March 2011 (championed strongly by the heritage sector throughout this year) before paying particular tribute to the ongoing support, and value, of English Heritage: “English Heritage, in spite of drastic cuts, continues to do a significant job of supporting the voluntary sector; and we must remember that the health of English Heritage, and the work of English Heritage, is an absolutely vital part of the mixed economy that the heritage sector represents.”
However, he said, the sector cannot afford to rest on its laurels: “We must remain aware of the wider context focusing on cultural leadership, innovation, new business models and philanthropy…this has been an unsettling year for many of us, but in spite of that we are looking forward to the future with a great degree of confidence and enthusiasm. We are robust organisations, and we believe in what we do.”
Taking to the lectern the Secretary of State for Culture, Jeremy Hunt, congratulated Loyd for being “a fantastic voice for heritage” and thanked the Alliance, its members and other heritage colleagues for all their hard work: “I want to thank The Heritage Alliance, and all the amazing heritage organisations that we are blessed and privileged to have in this country, for all the work that you – individually and collectively – have done over the last year and stretching back long before that.”
Mr Hunt went on to confirm the Government’s recognition of heritage as an important catalyst for economic growth and social cohesion: “Of course we recognise its economic value; directly accounting for about £4bn of our GDP, employing hundreds of thousands of people. And of course we recognise its social value, with nearly 7 out of 10 adults visiting a historic site last year. But I want you to know that we also recognise its intrinsic value; the fact that our extraordinary history and deep-rooted heritage are essential elements of British culture, and core to our very character as a nation.”
Paying tribute to the tenacity of the sector throughout the recent public spending cuts, and in particular to English Heritage’s handling of the tough settlement it was handed following the Spending Review, Mr Hunt said: “I understand that the last few months have been incredibly challenging and uncertain, and you have been very understanding…and I also want to make it absolutely clear, and this is the right place for me to do that, that the difficult cut that they have agreed to was in no way a reflection of the extraordinary value of the work that they do.”
Local authorities were urged to remember that “heritage is your friend and your ally when it comes to regeneration projects. Heritage and a link to a community’s past can provide the x-factor that transforms a development into something that really works and has the support of the local community.” A message the Alliance will continue to promote in 2011.
Mr Hunt’s speech also confirmed that Heritage Minister John Penrose’s tourism report was expected to be published in January; highlighted the significant contribution of heritage to local identity and place-making; and referred to his new ten point plan for cultural philanthropy: “philanthropy is not about replacing state funding with private support, it’s about making sure that cultural institutions and organisations can benefit from a plurality of funding sources.”
A lively Q&A session followed, with delegates asking the Secretary of State for his opinion on a range of issues including heritage maintenance funds, the role of local authorities, Gift Aid and lifetime giving, localism and VAT.
 The Alliance is grateful for the generous support of Historic Royal Palaces, which enabled Heritage Day to take place at the Banqueting House.
 Heritage tourism contributes £20.6 billion to GDP a year, supporting a total of
466,000 jobs – HLF/VisitBritain: investing in Success, March 2010.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that: “Heritage is a key reason why people come to Britain; we should play it up, not play it down.” (Serpentine Gallery speech, 12 August 2010)
 Unattributed source