Thursday, 7 May 2015

Iron Awe

Iron Awe has never disbanded, but we have become disillusioned with the way decisions about our heritage are being made.

I started working at a volunteer run, storytelling museum at the start of this millennium. The museum wasn’t attracting many local people, so I joined some of the other volunteers in taking stories out into the community, unfortunately the few people responsible for making the important decisions at the museum didn’t support our work, we formed Iron Awe and four months later we left the museum.

Some of the Iron Awe team have worked at several museums outside the district of East Cleveland and found undemocratic heritage decision making is a national problem.

My definition of heritage is anything that was built, made or happened yesterday and heritage belongs to us all. If you can accept that, why should a few unelected, unaccountable people be making decisions about what heritage is saved and what part of our heritage is lost?
About eight years ago groups of people started looking at ways of getting communities involved with their heritage, particularly with museums and because we had spent several years at museums working with communities, some of the Iron Awe team were asked to get involved. “Whose cake is it anyway?” and “How should decisions about heritage be made?”

Although these worthwhile projects will make some difference, I believe major changes will only happen when communities in this country treat heritage the same way as they treat education, health and crime prevention and demand politicians look at how public money can be better spent on saving our heritage, by involving the public in heritage decision making.