Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Welcome to Durham

A return to blogging* with a return to Durham.

Despite my love of medieval Gothic architecture (aaaaaand how I feel about Norman/Gothic transitional architecture, hint: it's very positive), I have only visited Durham once before this week. My cousin Helen got married here last summer and we attended the reception in the Castle. It's not often you get to dance to Bruno Mars with a bunch of Scousers and American-Chinese visitors in a World Heritage Site now, is it?

*seriously how does anyone have time to do this more than twice a year!?

For proof of my attendance, here's some photographs of the reception.


Due to the general frantic-ness of weddings (& of my family, let's be honest) I didn't have a whole lot of time to explore Durham. I was over the moon, then, to have the opportunity to attend the Historic England HELM day-course on World Heritage Management. What better excuse to visit a historic city than to add to my heritage-armoury.

The first thing that struck me was the view over the river. This completely passed me by last time and I am furious about it, because look!

Being the kind of person I am, I was upset to find that you can't take photographs inside the Cathedral at the risk of being hushed by a volunteer. Apparently you can take snaps if the time is appropriate, but during my brief visit last time I got told off for basically owning a camera, so I think they're missing a trick there...

This long-deceased Cathedral Architect gets his own view across the World Heritage Site. I wonder if this is still a thing that happens.

The event itself was super informative and I met so many knowledgeable people from variety of backgrounds: from students to members of World Heritage Committees.

I can't say that I'm entirely convinced by World Heritage inscription, to be honest, although I do applaud its lofty and admirable goals. 

As far as I can tell, its benefits vary greatly for each individual site, and where it might be seen as a badge of honour in some places, in others it can be seen as a real barrier towards socio-economic regeneration. It's also a complex system, where the title and organisation holds prestige, but wields no statutory power over the assets or the organisations managing them.

Ideally, I would like to see it get to a point where it embraces change in reality (rather than just the words in the Budapest Declaration). I would like to see it become a more transparent process, with defined responsibilities, and cohesive and consistent responses from managing organisations.

But, in international bureaucracy, we can only dream...

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