The British Council facilitated a series of meetings and pre-capacity building training recce visits to heritage sites recently, to assess and map the needs of the local heritage sector. Katharine Pugh, UK’s Chairman of the Advisory Group for the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and the British Council’s £30m Cultural Protection Fund, is the UK expert leading the fact-finding mission in Jamaica for the “Heritage NOW - Strengthening & Celebrating Caribbean Cultural Heritage” programme, a multi-country British Council initiative being delivered in Cuba Colombia, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, aimed at strengthening the heritage sector through knowledge sharing and capacity building.
Expectations are high and the climate is already well-primed for such activities with the designation of The Blue & John Crow Mountains as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Kingston as a Creative City of Music. Opportunities to leverage Jamaica’s rich heritage, both tangible and intangible, abound. Heritage NOW will provide funding and training where necessary in an attempt to strengthen these prospects, bridge gaps and build capacity where applicable, based on feedback gained from engaging local practitioners and stakeholders.
Some of the major needs emerging from the sector so far include data collection and management, engagement of the youth and encouraging a greater level of appreciation for our historical resources within the general populace. Speaking on her findings in Jamaica, Pugh shared, “By heritage, I mean buildings, monuments, collections, gardens, railways, these the more tangible things, but it also includes what we inherit, traditional ways of doing things - music, food, and skills, passing on knowledge. These are the things that help a country maintain and sustain its identity. Cultural heritage is what makes it even more unique in what is becoming a more globalised world.”
There is, of course, the task of streamlining the information gleaned to conceptualise the actionable, sustainable plans that form the programme will also follow suit in the next few weeks. This will inform a series of capacity-building workshops for the sector hosted by the British Council and lead by Pugh in quarter one of next year.
Speaking on the importance of capacity-building in the cultural heritage sector, British Council Country Director Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick explained that “Heritage is an important cultural product that contributes substantially to socio-cultural and economic development. In the UK, heritage-led tours alone generate £24.6 billion a year. Jamaica already has an extensive and rich heritage portfolio and the Heritage NOW programme creates the opportunity for Jamaica and the UK to work together to make a lasting and impactful difference in this very important sector.