Local to global: leaving no one behind

Liam Smyth & Alison Smedley      –      April 19, 2023

As we reveal Local to Global’s new consultant, The Audience Agency, we take a look at the first of three pillars of Local to Global: audience development, stakeholder mapping, and inclusion.

Local to Global is made possible with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players. In March 2023, the Heritage Fund announced its new 10-year strategy, which the UK National Commission supports and is aligned with. Of the updated investment principles, we’re currently paying particular attention to place-based approaches to partnerships and inclusion.

All of our sites have battled on through three turbulent years and now face the challenges of a global economic situation that has often put major pressure on reserves. Despite this, our dedicated site coordinators and partners have remained steadfast in their commitment to ensuring everybody’s right to a cultural life. There are signs that visitor numbers are improving. In March 2023, Bath World Heritage Site reported a steady recovery to pre-pandemic levels, mirroring Visit Britain’s optimistic forecasts for inbound tourism this year.

However, access to the UK’s most outstanding places remains unevenly distributed. Between a quarter to a third of the UK’s population does not engage at all with publicly funded cultural, heritage and nature sitesi. Differences in educational attainment, age, income, health and ethnicity are persistent indicators of who is most likely to visit such spaces. UNESCO has a longstanding commitment to tackling inequality. To reflect the true diversity of our nations and regions, we must eradicate barriers to the UK’s prized natural, cultural and heritage assets.

Today, a searching reappraisal is underway. The central, transformative promise of the UN’s 2030 agenda is to “leave no one behind“. Therefore, we have made audience development, stakeholder mapping and inclusion the first of three pillars of our Local to Global project. Through peer and collaborative learning, we will build a portfolio of practice by becoming more data savvy, developing people-centred processes and leveraging resources through multistakeholder platforms. In March, our project implementation manager attended partner meetings at the English Riviera Global Geopark and Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage site. Both exemplar UNESCO designated sites, these partner meetings convened diverse perspectives from the local community. In the English Riviera, there was widespread interest in engaging more young people with the site and supporting more inter- and intra-generational skills sharing through digital technology. At Hadrian’s Wall, there has been important scoping research into how the site is accessed by people using wheelchairs and their cousin site, The Antonine Wall, shared their success in working with refugee groups.

To draw out and amplify more of this great work, we have brought on board an expert in audience development, stakeholder mapping and inclusion. The Audience Agency is a mission-led charity that specialises in supporting different organisations to increase their relevance, reach and resilience. Over the next 18 months, their team will be working with pilot sites to build audience development plans as well as delivering resource packs, guides and training for the wider network and commission.

Sites across the UK UNESCO network are finding innovative solutions that we want to profile and share. We will be convening an audience development advisory group of exemplar sites to help build a body of best practice that supports a more resilient network. To express your interest in being a member of the audience development advisory group, get in touch with Liam Smyth: [email protected].

iThe most recent Taking Part survey found that visiting heritage sites was reported less often by Black respondents (41%) compared to other ethnicities (60-75%) and that 27% of the population hadn’t visited at all in the past 12 months: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/taking-part-201920-heritage/heritage-taking-part-survey-201920

The same Taking Part survey found that 24% of respondents hadn’t engaged with arts at all in the last 12 months of 2019/20 – which is similar to figures in 2018/19 and 2005/06: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/taking-part-201920-arts

The People and Nature Survey for England, led by Natural England, found that over a third (35%) of people had not visited a natural space at all. Socio-economic status, educational attainment, age, ethnicity and health were also related to access to natural spaces: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/the-people-and-nature-survey-for-england-adult-data-y1q1-april-june-2020-experimental-statistics

The Local to Global project is made possible with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players.