How can we make heritage inclusive for everyone?

When I think back on the Inclusive Heritage Conference we hosted on 30 October, one of the things that really struck me, hearing from and talking to people who attended, was the idea that if we remove barriers, things are better for everyone. Whoever we think we're benefiting, many, many more people will actually benefit; whatever we do will have more impact than we expect.

The idea for the conference first came about from a workshop we ran 18 months ago when we invited some people to talk to us about what more we could do: they really challenged us to be more ambitious, more assertive and to make sure that everything we did supported an inclusive engagement with heritage.

So when we were organising the latest event we were clear that it needed to encourage ambition, and bravery, and to talk about big projects. We have funded many, many projects at the smaller level, small interventions, but now we really want to support projects on a bigger scale.

We also wanted the day to be about action. And so, picking up on points talked about during the panels and workshops, and challenges presented to us, I made these pledges on behalf of HLF:

  • We will challenge those coming to us with big projects to be clear that they know where there are changing places and will either build them into their own projects or to be able to direct the people who need them to those places which are nearby.
  • We will talk to the architecture profession formally about how we can incentivise students to have the best possible ideas about accessible design, whether that's through an award or something that's HLF-sponsored.
  • When we work with young people we will always make sure that disabled young people are represented in those groups.
  • We will make it clearer that people can apply for funding to pay interns. Internships are wonderful, but they should not be seen as unpaid labour. If they’re not paid, then only certain sorts of people can take up those opportunities, and that's not inclusive.
  • We will celebrate success and challenge complacency.
  • And we will continue to lead and network and share.

It's those last two points that I'd like to focus on here – please use this space to share examples of both the large and the small changes you have introduced, or have seen elsewhere, that have made a real difference. And continue to challenge us on ways we can better support inclusive engagement with heritage.

Finally, I would urge you to have the confidence to say, if necessary: I don't know all the answers, I don't know what it's like to be you, please tell me and let me see what I can do to make sure I'm not putting up barriers to your engagement.