Just over a year ago, as the Heritage Trust Network Youth Forum was formed, we discussed our goals. This meant asking ourselves: what does heritage mean to you? Here were our thoughts and how our work over the past 12 months has grown from these ideas…
Heritage is a fluid term, generally considered in part to refer to the history, traditions, and practices of a particular place or people. It’s unsurprising then that the most frequent response to our question was that heritage means history as well as culture and society. The very essence of the Network is to provide peer-to-peer support, knowledge sharing and skills development to help members (be they large organisations or grassroot community groups) to preserve, protect and rejuvenate the historic built environment around them.
It is often local heritage that roots a community to its past. Our heritage assets become the backdrops of our lives and finding ways to restore them to life again means that they can continue to be vital places within our communities. This involves connecting with young people. At last year’s Heritage Trust Network conference, members of the Youth Forum hosted a careers panel posing questions to panellists – Ben Collyns (Master Thatcher), Graham Tait (Assistant Director, Historic Coventry Trust), Joanne O’Hara (Programme Manager, Heritage at Risk) and Patrizia Pierazzo (Built Heritage Project Manager) – to give different perspectives on the heritage sector to young people. We hope to see you again at our conference in Newcastle this year as we continue to campaign to engage young people with the heritage around them.
Of course in many ways, the preservation of history means protecting the buildings and cultures of communities. As a Youth Forum, we’ve been helping to preserve heritage by encouraging the next generation of heritage workers. In November 2022, we held a speed mentoring session for over 20 young people with mentors from across the heritage industry. One mentee commented:
“This initiative is awesome. I never thought I’d have such easy access to people who work in big heritage organisations and to be able to pitch my ideas, ask for advice and to have the opportunity to develop the conversation further.”
We’re hoping to host similar events in the future to continue to encourage young people to find their first or next role within the sector. In the meantime our new podcast, BRICK BY BRICK: Understanding Heritage Projects, also helps to demystify the industry by welcoming industry professionals to chat about the work that they do and answer questions about the heritage sector.
Lastly, heritage means learning. To help young people to do this, we created our Advice Library last year. It includes a list of resources and links such as advice from heritage professionals, tips on how to get involved in the sector, resources on where to find jobs, volunteering opportunities, network groups, and training.
So, as we continue to engage young people with heritage, we must ask a new question: what does heritage mean to us?
This blog post was written by Holly K. Smith, a member of the Heritage Trust Network Youth Forum. There are regular blog posts written by different members of the Youth Forum each month.
Top image: a screenshot of a word cloud created by the Youth Forum with ideas about what heritage means to them.
The Youth Forum is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thank you to players of the National Lottery.