We are a nation with a healthy appetite for heritage. Last year 71 million people visited museums in the UK, and 95% of adults in the UK agree that it is important to look after our heritage. UK citizens have the 4th highest participation rate for visiting cultural heritage, 25% higher than the European average. And visits to historic properties (58.6m) outnumber visits to all premier and league football matches by some 15 million.
Perhaps this is unsurprising given that England is renowned the world over for its museums and heritage sites, from Gothic cathedrals to historic ships, and Regency mansions to Norman castles. These iconic locations are not only symbols of our national and identity, but continue to make the UK an appealing destination for tourists from around the world.
Not just economically important, they also provide a valuable resource for learning about the past and understanding our present environment.
These benefits of our heritage and museums are well known, but last night at The Arts Club we learnt of some of the more unusual upsides that our heritage can provide:
It has long been thought that visiting heritage sites is linked to wellbeing, but it was only last year that an official study was conducted by Heritage Counts. Their research concluded that the estimated monetary value of three visits per year, is worth some £1646 per person, well in excess of similar participation in sport.
Similar evidence comes from the success of projects such as ‘Touching Heritage: Objects to Healthcare’, a project that took museum objects to patients otherwise unable to participate in cultural activities.
2. Creative Industries
The UK’s creative industries are a global leader, and worth £76.9 billion per year to the UK economy. Already many have found office spaces in heritage buildings, particularly former industrial sites such as warehouses and factories. Examples of this can already be seen in place in Kings Cross (Granary Square) and soon at Battersea Power Station.
‘Reviving Places By Reusing Industrial Heritage’ is a conference taking place next month, hosted by The Prince's Regeneration Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England to further encourage creative businesses to utilise industrial heritage buildings, thus uniting two of the UK’s strongest assets.
So more than tourism and education, we can look to heritage for increased wellbeing and growing our creative industries, all outcomes that make it well worth preserving and persevering for.