Inspiring Creativity

What's starred on films big and small, hosted rock concerts, inspired artists and brought communities together? Not a trick question here - but perhaps the answer isn't one you'd immediately associate with creativity - 'HERITAGE'. Well, a report launched last week is out to change that, highlighting the work of heritage sites and organisations to inspire and underpin the creative industries. Here to tell us more and showcase some of these stars is Hannah Shimko who wrote and compiled the report for our good friends, The Heritage Alliance. 

The incredible Poppies at the Tower highlighted just how powerful the partnership between heritage and creativity can be. © Historic Royal Palaces

Heritage is integral to the creative and cultural identity of our country. It tells our country’s stories and supports social cohesion, pride in place, learning and identity. Our historic buildings, landscapes, traditions, food, transport, and museums are part of our unique offer on the national and international stage and should play a central role in the promotion of the UK.

The Heritage Alliance has just published the report Inspiring Creativity – Heritage & The Creative Industries to showcase the fantastic work being done by heritage organisations in collaboration with the creative industries. It illustrates the essential role heritage places and heritage stories have in underpinning the success of the creative industries.The report highlights why heritage is essential to the success of the creative industries; why partnerships between heritage spaces and stories and creative practitioners should be supported and the impact of creative heritage projects and experiences have on communities, well-being and tourism.

Through a series of case studies from Heritage Alliance members and others, this report demonstrates the best that can emerge from effective and supported partnerships between these two sectors.

Cases of creativity

Here are just some of the inspiring case studies showcased in the report: 

Take a magical walk round town, find the places that inspired this beloved author / © Arcade Ltd/The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre

Marvellous Missenden

At the Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre, the stories of Roald Dahl were the inspiration to develop a digital version of a village trail through Greater Missenden. The Marvellous Missenden experience dramatises the inspiration that Roald Dahl took from his surroundings by magically revealing 3D content in AR space through the user’s mobile device. This is a great example of heritage stories engaging with new technology and was created by Arcade, experts in AR technology.

Detailed historical research truely lit up the night at the City of Oxford's original hospital / © Ian Wallman

Victorian Light Night

Working with the award-winning sound and light artists the Projection Studio, Professor Sally Shuttleworth and the researchers from the ERC-funded project Diseases of Modern Life team up with The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities to create a stunning light and sound projection onto the Radcliffe Humanities Building, which was, for 250 years, the original hospital for the City of Oxford. Shown as part of Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival and accompanied by a broad range of activities from games and interactive stalls for the young to short research talks for adults. A competition for school pupils was held for the best entries on Victorian Speed of Life (in written work or art), and for projections onto the building, with the three winners having their work projected onto the Radcliffe Infirmary.

Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience – The Gibside Commissions

The story of Gibside's 'Unhappy Countess' inspired Andrew Burton to create the striking Orangery Urns in the Walled Garden /© Colin Davidson

Gibside is an 18th Century parkland and for this project the artist’s brief focused on the dramatic and shocking story of the Countess of Strathmore, Mary Eleanor Bowes, the ‘Unhappy Countess’. She was highly educated and an enthusiastic plant collector, but she was tricked into an abusive marriage to Captain Andrew Stoney who went on to plunder the magnificent landscape established by her father. Developed in collaboration with the National Trust, and to link with its 2018 ‘Women and Power’ national programme, the artists’ commissions aimed to make Mary Eleanor Bowes' dramatic story more visible to Gibside visitors with two temporary outdoor installations The Orangery Urns by Andrew Burton, and Your Sweetest Empire is to Please by Fiona Curran.

Unsung Stories

Oswestry's Unsung Stories project went from ink to ash to this stunning diamond, on view now in the local museum. / © Chris Lacey

Two of Heritage Open Days own fantastic creative heritage events also feature. Gilbert & Gordon: Then all the world can see how in love we are was a public participation project inspired by an extraordinary set of love letters, that led to the creation of a special diamond ring. Regina V Turing & Murray saw the trial of Alan Turing and Arnold Murrary reinterpreted as a live theatre perfomance and Virtual Reality experience. 

Other case studies include: buildings becoming creative community spaces and workshops; country houses inspiring film, television and music festivals; creative interpretation projects utilising artists, technology, and exhibition design; maritime heritage stirring beautiful poetry; archaeology motivating children to make graffiti; historic landscapes and Bronze Age artefacts inspiring craft makers, sculptors, and fine artists; and moving historical narratives bringing together communities to create theatre, performance, music and even interactive apps.

What next?

The report concludes with a series of challenges faced by the heritage sector and creative industries, and recommendations for how these challenges can be met, as well as how government and policymakers can support these partnerships. We hope that this report is not the culmination but the beginning of this important area of work.

Find out more

About Hannah Shimko

Hannah works on a number of projects in the heritage sector and has an expertise in heritage & the creative industries. She specialises in cultural programming & events, interpretation & engagement, filming & television at heritage sites, advocacy for the sector and commercial heritage projects. She is soon to complete her PhD in Cultural Heritage at the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage at the University of Birmingham, with a focus on the English country house visitor experience in relation to film and television.

The report was written and compiled by Hannah, in collaboration with the Heritage Alliance.