Port Sunlight certainly lived up to its name recently when nearly 30 delegates met there on a glorious sunny day for an ERIH-UK National Meeting. Port Sunlight is an ERIH Anchor Point and a fine example of a planned, Victorian industrial community, built by Lever Brothers to accommodate workers in its soap factory. The meeting was held In The Lyceum Hall which was originally built as the school for the developing community of Port Sunlight and was also used as a place of worship until the church was built. The Lyceum is now used for community activities, events and meetings.
The morning session comprised four very informative presentations. Mark Watson from Historic Environment Scotland used examples from across the world to illustrate the challenges of balancing conservation and liveability in planned company towns and communities. This was followed by Katherine Lynch, Director of Heritage at Port Sunlight, describing the challenges presented by tourism in Port Sunlight, which, as well as being an important heritage asset is also a living community.
Michael Nevell, from University of Salford and also Chair of the Association of Industrial Archaeology, described the importance of skilling the industrial heritage sector. This included an overview of the opportunities currently available in the UK for studying industrial heritage. Michael also highlighted the importance of retaining and passing on age-old skills, for example those related to repairing and operating old steam engines and other machinery.
The final presentation was given by Julia Birch from the British Council who spoke about the EC Creative Europe Programme and the opportunities it presents for heritage-based projects in the UK. Creative Europe is currently a major funder of ERIH activities.
After lunch, the focus turned to the Future of ERIH in the UK. Following a brief description of the opportunities and challenges facing ERIH in the UK by Jonathan Lloyd, ERIH National Representative for the UK and Ireland, delegates then engaged in group work to discuss issues around raising ERIH’s profile in the UK; attracting and retaining more members; the options for coordinating ERIH activity in the UK; and the frequency and format of ERIH meetings in the UK. The discussions came up with a range of good ideas and suggestions which will now be worked up in more detail by a sub-group, who will then make recommendations to the ERIH Board.
Port Sunlight proved to be an excellent venue for the meeting. Its attractive environment and fascinating history, together with the glorious sunshine and interesting programme, ensured a very worthwhile and enjoyable day for all.
ERIH National Representative, UK & Ireland