Film making and music are a small, but important part of community heritage storytelling and Mike Benson has worked with the communities in East Cleveland and Ryedale to produce over a dozen films, a film we made about whaling included a folk opera. .
The Pitmen Painters were formed in 1934 and in the same year Cleveland ironstone miners performed Tippett’s first opera Robin Hood. North East coal miners have used the Pitmen Painters to tell the world their story, why were East Cleveland ironstone miners and their descendants, denied the same?
Mike and I have attended many meetings over the last six years with people who are trying to make heritage decision making more democratic, I often use Heartbreak Hill as an example. The volunteer group Iron Awe had hundreds of people, including several schools, funding officers and the BBC supporting our attempt to produce the film Heartbreak Hill and the opera Robin Hood, yet a small group of unaccountably people given the money and power to define our heritage, including one who broke the rules, stopped people in East Cleveland from putting their heritage on the world stage. This example is from my home region, but I tell similar stories from other parts of the country.
Do you want to be involved with making decisions about your heritage, or are you content handing over money and power to a few unaccountable people and let them decide which part of your heritage is saved and which part is lost? The unaccountable few will not give up their power easily; we will only get control of our heritage when we demand it, or as I said at a meeting in York a few months ago "is it time to start a revolution?"