UK: North Of England Civic Trust hosts ceremony for its heritage skills initiative

The success of the education, training and awareness-raising programme Heritage Skills Initiative in the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2015 was celebrated on the afternoon of 3 February 2016 at Trinity House in Newcastle upon Tyne, the UK. North of England Civic Trust’s President Lord Beith received the Award from Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović. It was a moving ceremony which brought together a varied audience including national and European representatives, schoolchildren and skills demonstrators. The event was honoured by the presence of Susan Winfield, OBE, Lord-Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear, and Graham Blythe, Head of the European Commission Office in Scotland.

Local Award Ceremony for Heritage Skills Initiative, Newcastle, UK
The Heritage Skills Initiative was launched by North of England Civic Trust in 2006. It was set up after a series of reports had drawn attention to the shortage of skilled heritage craftspeople available to maintain the region’s rich cultural and engineering heritage. Its programmes have been developed against a sound educational methodology to ensure wide participation, from schoolchildren to students and professionals. Since its creation, the Heritage Skills Initiative has provided 150,000 hours of training and involved nearly 38,000 people. Its activities include hands-on training days, masterclasses, lectures and conferences as well as a variety of tailor-made events. Some 91% of the trainees have secured employment in the heritage sector.

“The Heritage Skills Initiative is a prime example of the importance of heritage for the local community. Over the last 10 years, it has engaged tens of thousands of people and encouraged many young women and men to learn heritage skills and make them part of their lives and their future. Your work has inspired others across Europe and contributed to the establishment of la Fédération européenne des métiers du patrimoine, which provides a European platform on which you can shared your best practices and ideas,” stated Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović.

“Investing in heritage pays off. Only recently, Europa Nostra and 5 other partners – including The Heritage Alliance & Heritage Europe – have produced the European Report ‘Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe’. This Report provides convincing evidence – both quantitative and qualitative – that heritage counts not only for Europe’s economy, but also for Europe’s society, culture, identity and environment. Indeed, our heritage holds up a mirror which not only reflects the past but also indicates a road to the future,” advocated the Secretary General of Europa Nostra.

In her speech, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović highlighted the joint action taken by Europa Nostra and North of England Civic Trust to save and promote our shared heritage for over 50 years. “We are also both indebted to the pioneering champion of the Civil Society Movement in the UK and Europe, our former president Lord Duncan Sandys. Your Trust has also contributed to the creation of our country representation, Europa Nostra UK. Today, we celebrate not just an exemplary education project, but also the many years of fruitful collaboration between our organisations,” she noted.

Peter Candler, Chairman of North of England Civic Trust, and Captain Stephen Healy, Master of Trinity House, welcomed the audience. Graham Bell, Director of the Trust, who is also Council Member of Europa Nostra, and Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes at the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, spoke with great enthusiasm about the Heritage Skills Initiative’s educational and training programmes.

The presentation of the bronze trophy was followed by practical demonstrations of various traditional heritage skills, such as repairing stained glass, making traditional rugs, cleaning paper charts, putting together an engine and building an arch on a timber form. Students from Seaham School of Technology showcased their models of proposals for the conservation and re-use of a historic building.

The ceremony was attended by representatives of public and private bodies involved in the Heritage Skills Initiative as well as UK-based members of Europa Nostra.

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