Brompton Cemetery

Public perceptions of heritage, July 2019

Public perceptions of heritage, July 2019

This report presents the findings from a nationally representative survey of over 10,000 UK adults run between December 2017 and January 2018 to support the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with strategic planning for the 2019-2024 period.

The importance of heritage

The two most popular reasons why heritage matters to people are that it helps them to learn from the past (62%) and that it preserves important things (61%). 73% of 65 and over think that heritage matters as it helps people to learn from the past, significantly higher than 16-24 year olds (45%).

The most engaged groups

The groups that are the most engaged in heritage are older people, ABC1s, those from a White ethnic background and women. In almost all cases, these groups are the most supportive of heritage in general, the social impact it can have and the range of ideas for the types of project that could be funded. Notably, 45% of those aged 65 and over say heritage matters to a large/very large extent in comparison to just 14% of 16-24 year olds.

The most important aspects of heritage

The aspects of heritage with the highest levels of support are: ‘museums/libraries/archives’ (83%), ‘historic buildings/monuments’ (82%) and ‘land/natural heritage’ (81%). Each of these show an age graduation with older people considering each more important, however it is less pronounced for the theme of ‘cultures and memories.’

Issues for heritage to address: environmental sustainability

The top two issues for heritage to address fall under the theme of environmental sustainability with ‘preserving the natural environment’ (56%) and ‘teaching people about it’ (46%) strongly supported. Over half of all age groups say that preservation of the natural environment is a very important issue which heritage projects should play a role in addressing. Even young people, who tend to be the least engaged, tend to agree the environment is a very important issue for heritage to address.

Issues for heritage to address: economic growth

‘Reusing existing buildings for community benefit’ is a ‘very important’ issue heritage should help address, 41% feel this way and a further 50% stating that it is ‘quite important.’ The proportion feeling that it is ‘very important’ to reuse existing buildings is highest among people aged 65 and over, women, ABC1s and those limited a lot by disability.

Issues for heritage to address: community development

‘Improving education and learning’ (40%) and ‘renovating existing disused / underused buildings’ (40%) are seen as the most important issues which heritage should help address.

Issues for heritage to address: social inclusion

‘Providing homes for vulnerable / homeless people’ (43%), ‘providing the means for older people to pass on skills’ (41%) and teaching young people practical skills (39%) are rated as the most important of the social inclusion themes. Those limited a lot by disability, women, old people and those with a yearly gross national income of below £25,000, support the idea that heritage should ‘provide homes for vulnerable / homeless people.’

Actions for public involvement

Whilst all of the potential HLF public involvement actions received high levels of support, the top three are: ‘provide more information to local communities about the types of projects which can be funded’ (75%); ‘provide expertise and advice to help local groups projects going’ (74%); and ‘work with local authorities or other local organisations to help identify possible projects’ (74%).

Heritage funding

Just under half of people think that heritage funding should support homeless people. Supporting people with disabilities and older people is also a well-regarded potential aim of heritage funding.

Attitudes towards heritage

Despite the majority of people in all regions believing that their area is rich in local heritage, there is a feeling that more should be done to improve the heritage of their local area. There is widespread agreement that heritage buildings, landscapes and places should be well looked after.

Breadth and size of funding

People tend to prefer a balance of local and national projects, small and large grants.

HLF strategic objectives

The large majority of people agree with all six of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s strategic objectives. The objective which gathered the most support (89%) is that “heritage should be enjoyed by as wide a range of people as possible”.

Vision research findings

The Vision research  identified 5 key themes which in general, are validated by the quantitative survey.

  • Theme 1: Breadth/size of funding. The highest degree of support was for a balanced approach regarding funding for local vs. national projects and also the size/number of grants
  • Theme 2: Heritage alleviating social issues. Findings strongly support the view that it is considered important heritage should help address all four of the areas identified in the Vision research 2 , with particular emphasis on certain aspects of environmental sustainability and social inclusion
  • Theme 3: HLF being pro-active. This is widely supported, especially in the areas of providing more information about the types of projects which can be funded, providing expertise and advice and helping to identify possible projects
  • Theme 4: Involving the public in decisions. While support is not as strong as for other Vision themes, there is a degree of affinity as to how the public might be involved more, most notably for reading about local heritage projects as well as voting to choose which local projects are awarded funding
  • Theme 5: Raising awareness. It is confirmed that a relatively low percentage would have some idea of who to approach for heritage funding – only 3 % say they definitely know who to approach while a further 14% said they might know. However, out of those who do, HLF is named third as an organisation that could be approached for this purpose. The top two organisations were councils/local authorities and unnamed organisations involved in lottery funding/heritage lottery
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