When heritage becomes a dirty word
Alan Bennett’s new play voices a forceful objection to the habit of reducing historic buildings to objects of spectacle
The heroine of the new Alan Bennett play, People, is a down-on-her luck aristocrat faced with the mounting financial burden of maintaining her stately pile. Eventually, she allows the house to be used as the set of a porn film.
This solution may not be the answer to every heritage fundraising challenge but as is suggested by our investigation into the much depleted state of conservation funding, the owners of listed buildings are having to be increasingly imaginative in their efforts to secure their property’s survival.
Valuable precedents are being established. The Landmark Trust’s recent transformation of Astley Castle into a consolidated ruin with a rentable property at its core represents one low-cost model that deserves wider application.
Meanwhile, councils and developers are proving increasingly open to the idea of selling listed properties to third sector organisations at loss in order to free themselves of liabilities.
In People, Bennett voices particularly forceful objection to the National Trust’s habit of reducing historic buildings to objects of spectacle. He may yet find that the current climate gives rise to some more creative means of maintaining historic buildings’ survival.