Mon | Nov 19, 2018

British Council Programme seeks to strengthen heritage sector

Published:Sunday | October 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A tourist taking a tour of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park on a mountain bicycle. The park is globally known for its biodiversity and was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2015.
Katharine Pugh
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The British Council facilitated a series of meetings and pre-capacity building training and fact-finding visits to heritage sites recently to assess and map the needs of the local heritage sector.

Katharine Pugh, UK's Chairman of the Advisory Group for the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and British Council's PS30m Cultural Protection Fund, is the UK expert leading the fact-finding mission in Jamaica for the "Heritage NOW Strengthening & Celebrating Caribbean Cultural Heritage" programme.

This programme is a multi-country British Council initiative being delivered in Cuba Colombia, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. It is aimed at strengthening the heritage sector through knowledge sharing and capacity building.

There are high expectations for such activities with the designation of The Blue & John Crow Mountains as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Kingston as a Creative City of Music.

Heritage NOW will provide funding and training where necessary in an attempt to strengthen these prospects, bridge gaps, and build capacity - where applicable - based on feedback gained from engaging local practitioners and stakeholders.

Some of the major needs emerging from the sector so far include data collection and management, engagement of the youth, and encouraging a greater level of appreciation for our historical resources within the general populace.

Speaking on her findings in Jamaica, Pugh shared: "By heritage, I mean buildings, monuments, collections, gardens, railways. These are the more tangible things, but it also includes what we inherit, traditional ways of doing things - music, food, and skills, passing on knowledge. These are the things that help a country maintain and sustain its identity. Cultural heritage is what makes it even more unique in what is becoming a more globalised world."

There is, of course, the task of streamlining the information gleaned to conceptualise the actionable, sustainable plans that form the programme will also follow suit in the next few weeks. This will inform a series of capacity-building workshops for the sector hosted by the British Council and led by Pugh in quarter one of next year.

Speaking on the importance of capacity building in the cultural heritage sector, British Council Country Director Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick said: "Heritage is an important cultural product that contributes substantially to socio-cultural and economic development. In the UK, heritage-led tours alone generate PS24.6 billion a year.

"Jamaica already has an extensive and rich heritage portfolio, and the Heritage NOW programme creates the opportunity for Jamaica and the UK to work together to make a lasting and impactful difference in this very important sector."