Record number of North Easterners visiting heritage sites

Survey shows therapy and economic value of region's historic attractions to our future success

The Lindisfarne Gospels at Durham
The Lindisfarne Gospels at Durham

The value of the North East’s heritage assets to the region and its people is underlined in a new report.

A record 79% of people in the North East have visited a heritage site in the past year, the Heritage Counts 2014 shows.

And the North East is also the only place to have seen a significant increase in heritage participation, according to the report from English Heritage on behalf of leading heritage organisations, represented by the Historic Environment Forum.

The report says that the region’s heritage has a positive impact on health and wellbeing and also supports an estimated 7,345 jobs in the North East.

One of the biggest heritage draws for the region in recent years was the display of the Lindisfarne Gospels at Durham’s Palace Green.

The story of the Lindisfarne gospels and their journey is strongly interwoven with the landscape, history and people of the North East, and last year saw the Lindisfarne gospels on display for three months, on loan from the British library, which attracted 100,000 people from 58 different countries of origin.

Press Association The Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition at Durham University
The Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition at Durham University
 

Together with a region-wide festival, the exhibition helped to generate an economic impact estimated at £8.3m.

The event has also helped to raise the profile of Durham and the North East through media coverage seen by millions of people.

The Heritage Counts report also said that heritage-led regeneration plays a key role in economic development, creating special places in which to live, work and visit.

The historic environment was shown as a key factor in decisions on business location – ranked alongside road access in levels of importance.

Also, 91% of people surveyed consider the historic environment important or very important in decisions on where to visit.

And in Northern areas there is a six per cent favourable difference in the market value of house prices in conservation areas compared with similar properties elsewhere.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has also surveyed the impact of volunteering in its funded projects, with volunteers reporting levels of mental health and wellbeing far higher than the general population.

WallQuest is a three-year community archaeology project managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & museums (TWAM) and supported by a range of funders, including the HLF.

It aims to help local people learn more about the easternmost sections of Hadrian’s Wall where the remains of the Wall are often below ground but still play an important role in supporting local pride and identity.

Easter Edwardians at Play at Beamish, Co Durham
Easter Edwardians at Play at Beamish, Co Durham
 

The project provides opportunities for local people to be involved in research and excavation with support from archaeologists. To date, 300 volunteers have taken part.

A project at Beamish Museum in County Durham focuses on supporting people with dementia, their families and carers.

Beamish’s period environment appeals to all of the senses and museum staff have been working with local care providers in using Beamish’s collections to provide positive activities for those living with dementia.

Michelle Kindleysides, the museum’s active ageing officer, said: “We try not to make the sessions just reminiscence focused. It’s not a memory test. We never ask ‘do you remember this?’ but instead people are encouraged to share their memories through the activities we do.”

Phase one of TWAM’s Culture Track project targeted unemployed people, providing work placements across a range of cultural venues in the area.

Two thirds of its 69 participants went on to further training, education or paid employment. Phase two is now focusing on people aged 18-25, who were not in education, employment or training thanks to funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Bill Griffiths, TWAM head of programmes and chairman of the North East Historic Environment Forum said: “Culture Track demonstrates how heritage has the power to engage, inspire and improve quality of life.”

Since 1994, the HlF and the Big lottery Fund have jointly also invested £60m in more than 50 parks across the region.

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