'You Can't Move History. You Can Secure the Future': Engaging Youth in Cultural Heritage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Media, Film and Music

Abstract

'You Can't Move History. You Can Secure the Future' is a tag line used by the Long Live South Bank (LLSB) campaign to encapsulate a distinctive heritage claim aimed at retaining the informal skate spot in the Undercroft on London's South Bank. The campaign will provide the basis for a critical investigation of young people's involvement in heritage issues with the aim of learning how we can promote a positive approach to a more plural conceptualisation of heritage. Until now, the involvement of youth in heritage debates has typically been as part of a rhetorical strategy that serves to speak for them as future stakeholders; as in 'we are preserving the heritage for future generations'. The ongoing LLSB campaign, however, demonstrates youth as highly engaged political subjects capable of defining their own heritages as part of their own claims to urban space.

In response to the AHRC's Care for the Future theme, this project explores the changing means by which particular forms and uses of the built environment become seen as so valuable that they deserve protection for the benefit of future generations, with the LLSB campaign viewed as a pathfinder in this regard. Efforts to conserve the historic environment in the UK are faced by a shift away from traditional sources of legitimacy based on consensual and universal definitions of what counts as heritage towards more recognition of the diverse ways in which different communities may engage with and value their local environment. This pluralisation of heritage presents opportunities for the formal recognition of previously marginalised heritages. Research is therefore needed if we are to understand the inter-relationships between (sub) cultural groups and their local environment. Furthermore, we need to build on existing literature on how conservation communicates values and practices across generations to ask whether traditional conservation approaches and tools continue to be appropriate for the new forms of cultural heritage they may be applied to.

Employing expertise across the fields of History, Town Planning, Media Studies and Sociology, this project will analyse the long-running and ongoing political, economic and cultural struggles over the use and significance of the Southbank site. We will work with the youth filmmaking collective Brazen Bunch to record walking interviews and oral histories with LLSB, Coin Street Community Builders and the Twentieth Century Society, all of whom have indicated their willingness to participate in the project. We will take the same approach to engaging with a range of other stakeholders including BMX bikers, photographers and graffiti artists. This material will be analysed alongside LLSB campaign documents and films; official and alternative plans and planning documents; and print media and film archives, resulting in two journal articles to be published in key media/cultural studies and heritage journals utilising this case study to challenge dominant assumptions about youth's engagement with heritage issues in the past and present, and making recommendations on how youth might be engaged in caring for their future. The footage will also be edited, with the Brazen Bunch filmmakers, into a short film that will be used to engage key heritage and planning organisations in a workshop discussion about the ways in which young people relate to heritage. We will work with the Heritage Lottery Fund to place the findings of the Southbank Undercroft into the context of their innovative 'Young Roots' programme by drawing out key themes and debating them at the workshop. This will then form the basis of a report in which the key findings of the Undercroft and Young Roots will be considered alongside existing academic and policy literatures to suggest ways in which young people's involvement in heritage could be further incorporated in the formal heritage system.

Planned Impact

This project bid has developed in conjunction with our non-HEI collaborators Brazen Bunch (a film company) and our project partners, the Heritage Lottery Fund and will involve research with the members of the Long Live South Bank campaign. It seeks engagement with four distinct communities of interest; young people, community film makers, heritage organisations and wider local communities. These groups will benefit from this research in a number of interconnected ways.

Firstly, the Southbank Undercroft project is designed to uncover young people's attachments to historic spaces by making connections between their experience of space and the value attributed by heritage organisations to their spatial experiences. It will examine the insider/outsider dynamics constructed through the bottom up/top down discourses produced by Long Live South Bank campaigners and heritage organisations concerned with preserving sites of architectural/historic value. In doing so it will explore the politics of recognition in such a way as to contribute to the understandings of the social actors implicated in this particular conflict and also to youth campaigner more widely.

Secondly, this project will impact upon the creative industries, particularly those that aim to celebrate a diversity of cultural heritages. It will enable community film makers to explore the meanings and attachments young people - past and present - have ascribed to the Undercroft site through their use of subcultural discourses, and therefore contribute to shifting understandings of heritage and youth engagement. The film and the online exhibition produced by researchers and collaborators will benefit individuals and institution involved in debates about the future of the Undercroft as well as other grass roots campaigners and more traditional heritage organisations

Thirdly, this project is constructed in such a way as to contribute to presently under articulated aspects of heritage policy making; namely the participation of young people and the relationship between tangible and intangible heritage. The film will establish a starting point for discussion of these issues which will then be consolidated in a report designed to capture the debate between all the relevant stakeholders, including English Heritage, the Royal Town Planning Institute, Twentieth Century Society, Institute for Building Conservation, Royal Institute for British Architects and the Architectural Foundation. This report will seek to engage with the emerging priorities outlined in the heritage and urban planning sectors as demonstrated by the new National Heritage Protection Plan (consultations 2014) and National Planning Policy Framework (2012) and are detailed in the case for support and pathways to impact.

Finally, this project will engage with local community organisations such as Coin Street Community Builder through the workshop, and the wider general public through the online exhibition. The attendance of community groups and the wider interested public at the workshop in which the film is presented will help us to examine young people's attachment to historic spaces and the relationship between tangible and intangible heritage within a socio-cultural context. It will break up a debate that could become polarised into an us/them binary and ensure that unexpected discourses can also be heard.
Each of these communities of interest is directly involved and impacted by the research project either through conducting the research or through the final event workshop and report. Taken together they will develop a better understanding of youth engagement in heritage debates and establish a more inclusive understanding of the ways in which cultural and political citizenship is articulated.

Publications

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David Webb (2016) Giving Weight to Lived Heritage in Town and Country Planning

 
Title You Can't Move History; Film 
Description We collaborated critically and creatively with our project partners BrazenBunch and the LLSB skaters and campaigners to produce the short film 'You Can't Move History'. The film sought to understand, communicate and critically engage with young people's individual and collective attachments to the Undercroft, and the strategies LLSB used to translate and communicate these heritage claims. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The film was employed and received in the following ways: • It was screened for heritage institutions and planning organisations during the workshop, and for the wider local community in the evening. The feedback on the film was extremely positive with the relevant representatives of key cultural and heritage institutions including Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, Southbank Centre and British Film Institute reporting in their feedback that the film had changed both the way they thought about, and how they would approach the relationship between young people and cultural heritage in the future. The film also received extremely positive feedback at the public screening. • The film has also been circulated online via the project website, the Publics Culture Hub, the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research, the Long Live Southbank website, and through the platforms Vimeo and Youtube. Since November 2015, the film has been viewed over 4,000 times on Vimeo and over 2,000 times on Youtube. • The film has also been circulated through the skate community via Transworld (America's leading skateboarding magazine), Sidewalk (UK's leading skateboarding magazine), Grey Skate Magazine, Crossfire, Slam City Skates, Kingpin Magazine and By The Level. • Following our workshop screening, BFI Future Film has asked to screen the film as part of its European youth engagement festival circuit which is aimed at empowering young people through film. BFI Future Film has also fostered a new collaboration with the youth filmmakers from LLSB as educators and mentors as part of its remit to educate and empower British youth through filmmaking. • We have been approached by radical film festivals who want to screen the film as an innovative exemplar of creative-critical filmmaking. • It may also be archived by the Museum of London and BFI (negotiations underway). 
URL https://vimeo.com/146671695
 
Title You Can't Move History; Virtual Exibition 
Description We also we collaborated critically and creatively with our project partners Brazenbunch and the LLSB skaters and campaigners to produce a virtual exhibition which documented our findings. The virtual exhibition sought to create a permanent record of the ways in which the project has understood, communicated and critically engaged with young people's individual attachments to the Undercroft, and the strategies LLSB used to translate and communicate these heritage claims. The exhibition includes extended interviews with project participants, an interactive timeline and an archive of text and images about the undercroft. It will also include information about the workshops as well as copies of the reports produced in collaboration with HLF 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The work shop was employed and received in the following ways. • It was distributed amongst institutions and planning organisations during the workshop, and for the wider local community in the evening. • It was distributed amongst the academic community via the email lists of the academic team • It was distributed amongst the skate community via the LLSB website 
URL http://www.youthandheritage.com/about-the-project.html
 
Description We have developed a better understanding of the questions surrounding the role of space and place in heritage activism. In particular we have arrived at a better understanding of how young people engaged with urban decision makers, primarily through the use of social media and film.
Exploitation Route Our findings underpinned the film and the website that we produced in collaboration with the Brazenbunch about the way in which young people engage with urban decision makers. Our findings from the workshop are forming the basis of a report examining the role of space and place in heritage activism which is being written in conjunction with the HLF. Our findings will also be summarized in second, more specific report which will be sent directly to the Soutbank Centre.

The film, the virtual exhibition and the reports will continue to take our findings forward.
• The film is likely to be shown by the BFI, at various radical film festivals and may be archived by the Museum of London.
• The virtual exhibition will offer the wider public a more in depth understanding of the issues addressed by the project.
• The reports will feed back to urban policy makers in general and to the Soutbank Centre in particular.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.youthandheritage.com/about-the-project.html
 
Description The findings from our research have impacted upon decisions made by Long Live Southbank, the Southbank Centre and Heritage Lottery Fund. Long Live Southbank and the Southbank Centre are collaborating together to preserve sub-cultural heritage by extending the skateable space in the Undercroft. Heritage Lottery Fund are experimenting with more participatory forms of youth engagement through their Kick The Dust projects.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Feedback from Heritage Lottery Fund
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Karen Brookfield, Deputy Director of Strategy and Business Development, has fed back that the experience of collaborating on this project has changed the way in which HLF a/approaches young people, for example it is not giving them more autonomy such as allowing them to name themselves b/ the way in which it communicates with young people, for example rather than getting them to film in a form it might ask them to produce a film c/the organization of its funding streams
 
Description Feedback from Southbank Centre
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact In interview the Director of Development and Policy (MC) said that the workshop enabled 1) Different groups speaking different language to come together 2) The lessons and key meaning of Heritage to come thorugh 3) HLF/Historic England to learn about intangible heritage live case study 4) The bringing together of people who hadn't hitherto (skaters/ LLS/ HLF/ SB enabled building of a dialogue). A key moment was Louis Woodhead presentation which enabled MC to see why the space was so important to them He said that the project has promoted the following changes in professional practice 5) Experience has changed SB urban strategy (cited two new undertaking (space for emerging artists and urban space) South bank "don't wish to be seen as only reactive ie reacting to skaters. 6) MC said "How valuable and impactful the report is (because so accessible) it will be of use to many" 7) MC said that the film 'You can't move this history' means that he would do things very differently now as a result of this experience
 
Description Reports written with/for heritage institutions
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Firstly, HLF intends to circulate the first report which will inform future funding priorities. Secondly, the SBC will use the second report (which was commissioned by the Director of Development and Policy) to better engage with the ongoing development of the undercroft
 
Description feedback from LLSB
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Members of LLSB have feedback that the workshop made the realize that they needed to translate their attachments to place into a langauge which policy makers could understand.
 
Description RIFA awards
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2016 
 
Description You Can Make History: Extending and developing youth engagement in cultural heritage.
Amount £100,109 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/R004544/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 01/2019
 
Title Interview Transcripts 
Description In collaboration with the Brazenbunch we have produced a data set of transcribed interviews about the LLSB campaign to save the undercroft. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This data set informed the intellectual parameters underpinning the production of the film, the content of the virtual exhibition and the structure of the workshop. It will also impact upon the papers and articles that the academic team will produce. 
 
Title Newspaper Archive 
Description In collaboration with the Brazenbunch we have collected and curated a data set of news (mainstream and alternative) articles on the LLSB campaign to save the undercroft. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This data set informed the intellectual parameters underpinning the production of the film, the content of the virtual exhibition and the structure of the workshop. it will also impact upon the papers and articles that the academic team will produce. 
 
Description Public screenings of You Can Make History 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The film has been screened by our collaborators at a number of events. For example at a skate event in Barcelona, during a discussion at the Museum of London, at grassroots community events and by Youth Engagement officers at HLF
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public screenings of the film x 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Grassroots activists and campaigners saw the film during two separate workshops. The screening sparked questions and debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description You Can't Move History screening 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact About 75 people attended an evening screening of the film which was introduced by one of the academic team and then followed by a Question and Answer session with a member of LLSB
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description You Can't Move History screening and workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The workshop was organised in collaboration with the Brazen Bunch and the Heritage Lottery Fund and took place at House of Vans, Waterloo. Attendees included LLSB, Southbank Centre, BFI, Historic England, SAVE Britain's Heritage, Mayor's Office, HLF, Arts Council, 20th Century Society, Museum of London, Arts Council, Pan Cultural Arts, Emergency Exit Arts, Uprise, Partnership for Young London, Fight For Peace. A core part of the workshop was a film screening and introduction of the youthandheritage.com website. The workshop led to a further, extended interview with a representative of the South Bank Centre and this led to the production of a report which will interpret our findings further for the needs of the centre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015