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Loyd Grossman hails heritage as the antidote to the ‘placelessness’ of globalisation

Charleston Director and Chief Executive Nathaniel Hepburn, Dr Wendy Hitchmough of the University of Sussex and Master of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars Dr Loyd Grossman

Loyd Grossman has hailed heritage as the antidote to the ‘placelessness’ of globalisation and about where we are, who we are and what we can be.

Set against several challenges facing the nation’s heritage. Loyd Grossman gave a message of great hope to students, staff and visitors at a keynote address at the University of Sussex last week. 

He said: “Globalisation has a huge effect on heritage. Wherever you go in the world, cities are beginning to look the same. Yet one of the things heritage gives us is the antidote to the ‘placelessness’ of globalisation of our towns and cities. Everywhere we look we see traces of homogenisation and chaining. Heritage gives us a way out of this - because heritage is about where we are, who we are and what we can be.”

Dr Grossman, a distinguished art historian and former TV presenter, was speaking as Master of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars, which sponsors postgraduate students of art history at the University.

Amongst many leadership positions he has held in the heritage sector, he is currently Chairman of the Royal Parks and has also since 2009 been Chairman of the Heritage Alliance, representing over 100 non-governmental and voluntary organisations working in the heritage sector. 

The event also celebrated university plans to launch a new Master’s degree in World Heritage in 2019. T
he new MA will combine heritage theory, critical analysis and research with professional training to equip students for a career in cultural heritage anywhere in the world. The new course will be distinctive within an increasingly competitive market, drawing on the unique qualities of studying at Sussex.

It is one of three new MAs being launched by the University's School of History, Art History and Philosophy alongside a new MA in Critical American Studies, which will also have its first intake in September 2019, while a new MA titled Photography: History, Theory, Practice will launch this autumn.

Describing the current challenges, Dr Grossman told the audience that public-sector funding for heritage projects could no longer be relied upon.

He said: “Wherever you look, state intervention in the arts and culture is declining. We’ve seen a ‘Golden Age’ as it were of state intervention and that is over and is not coming back. It has very little to do with austerity and much to do with the huge demands of the NHS, social welfare budgets and so on.

"So what we have to get used to is less reliance on state funding. That means we have to rely more on philanthropy, we have to rely more on individual giving, we have to rely more on income generation.” 

Amongst the challenges he also highlighted was the changing role of heritage experts. He cited the campaign to save Preston bus station against local authority plans to demolish it as one of many examples. Popular demand had since forced English Heritage to list the bus station and in a recent survey it had been voted the most loved building in Preston.  

Dr Grossman said: “What this means is that the whole task of defining heritage is being taken out of the hands of the architectural historians and the experts and it is being given into the hands of the public - which is a great thing, but it imposes great responsibility on us because, if the public is going to decide what heritage is and what we need to value, then we need to make sure they’re an educated public.” 

He was joined at the event by Charleston Director and Chief Executive Nathaniel Hepburn, who spoke about the importance of connecting to contemporary issues during his time at both the Sussex home of the Bloomsbury Group and in his previous role as Director of Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft. Mr Hepburn also spoke of the difficult balancing process of increasing audiences while still ensuring that the fabric of the building and its invaluable contents remained intact.

Chairing the event was Dr Wendy Hitchmough, who recently joined the University from Historic Royal Palaces, where she was Head of Historic Buildings & Research. She said: “It was fantastic to hear both Loyd and Nathaniel talking about how heritage engages with the contemporary world and contemporary audiences. It was also refreshing to hear the positivity about which they spoke about the future of heritage despite the numerous challenges from the shrinking of the state, the challenging of the status of experts and the impact of globalisation.”

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2018