National Trust memberships have increased by 8% in the past year. Exterior of Antony, Cornwall, National Trust Properties. Credit: Andrew Butler

Heritage participation gap narrows between rich and poor areas

Laura Rutkowski, 07.12.2016
Engagement also increasing among Bame groups, report finds
Heritage participation is increasing the most among adults from lower socio-economic groups and black and minority ethnic groups, causing the class “participation gap” to drop, according to a report published by the heritage agency Historic England.

The difference in heritage participation between people living in the least and most deprived areas has gone from a gap of 44 percentage points in 2009-10 to a gap of 24 percentage points in 2015-16.

Historic England said it does not know why this trend is occurring, but is researching the potential reasons further with different data sets.

Compared to 83% of wealthy visitors, 59% of less well off visitors viewed at least one heritage site last year. In 2010, 40% of those living in deprived areas were visiting heritage sites.

John Sell, the chair of the Historic Environment Forum, said: "It is wonderful that more and more people from a variety of backgrounds are enjoying and caring for heritage and that more places are recognising the value of heritage as part of what makes them unique.”

In 2015, 40 million over 16s - 73% of the UK’s population - visited heritage sites such as stately homes, castles, and archaeological ruins. Historic buildings received 61 million visitors last year, an increase of 39% since 1989.

There has also been a rise in memberships of heritage bodies, with levels increasing by 8% in the past year at the National Trust, 10% at English Heritage, and 11% at the Historic Houses Association.

“Our heritage is a key national asset, underpinning Britain’s image and brand throughout the world. As we move towards leaving the EU, its economic dynamism will only become more important,” said Laurie Magnus, the chairman of Historic England. “It provides people with a physical link to the past, permanence, stability and a sense of belonging.”

The annual audit of England’s heritage, Heritage Counts, is produced by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum, which oversees England’s major heritage organisations.


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