Blog: Fighting Fit in the Future

Policy Blog - Heritage Debate 2022

Blog from Aisling Parrish, Historic Environment Forum Manager, on the future of heritage.

Shared in the lead-up to The Heritage Alliance’s Heritage Debate 2022: Heritage in 20 years.

Heritage in 20 Years: what will matter most?

Fighting Fit in the Future – A Resilient Heritage Sector

The Heritage sector has had to respond to a series of complex challenges in recent years: not just the impact of the pandemic, but also the growing risks presented by climate change and the turbulent economic and political landscape. Despite these trials, the sector continues to show its value to people and communities in how it contributes to wellbeing, tourism, culture, and the economy. One wish for the future is that this continues to be the case.

Whilst we can’t know for certain what awaits us in the future, we can at least think meaningfully about that we’d like to see there and take tangible steps toward seeing these ideals realised. A key focus area for the Historic Environment Forum is improving the resilience of the sector in the long term, so that no matter what challenges face us in the future, we’ll be better prepared to withstand them. So, in an ideal scenario, what would a resilient heritage sector look like?

The Heritage Sector Resilience Plan, produced by the Historic Environment Forum with support from Historic England, is designed to provide a clear roadmap towards a stronger sector, and it sets out a working definition of a resilient Heritage sector as having the following attributes:

  • Has the right knowledge & expertise
  • Is appreciated and appropriately-resourced
  • Actively serves its community
  • Is well connected and collaborative

The Plan groups a series of priority actions into five core themes which, if taken together, should strengthen the sectors’ ability to bounce back during challenging times. In the long term, these actions should help us reach a position where the above attributes read like a fitting description of the sector.

The Heritage Sector Resilience Plan provides an opportunity for members of the Historic Environment Forum and the wider sector to work together to address some of the fundamental risks to our sector’s resilience. That’s not to say that if we achieve all these things that there will be no further work left to do. New themes and issues will emerge, and these five broader themes will arguably continue to be important issues for the sector for years to come: the essential task of becoming more environmentally sustainable will certainly remain an important priority for all industries. But if we follow the actions of the Plan, perhaps we can aspire that by the time we reach 2042, the Heritage sector will be not just be ‘getting by’ but will have been ‘fighting fit’ for many, many years?

What’s clear though is that the Plan will remain just that – aspirational – unless the whole of the sector plays a part in its delivery. The Historic Environment Forum team is working with Forum members and the wider Heritage community to agree the delivery of these actions in a collaborative way, tackling the most urgent steps first, but we all need to chip in to reach our resilience goals for the future.  

– Aisling Parrish, Historic Environment Forum (HEF) Manager

All images in this article are from the Historic Environment Forum.

Explore other perspectives on ‘Heritage in 20 Years: what will matter most’ over on our event page for Heritage Debate 2022.