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Friday, 6 May 2011


This is a low-resolution copy of Bill Tidy's cartoon with the caption: 
"Well, lads, what are we going to do wi' rest of Arts Council grant?"
The birth of the Cloggies!

At my French class on Thursday, we read a couple of press items referring to patrimoine, which I take to be the French way of looking at what we call heritage. 

One item identified the target of populist politicians as a group which feared the loss of their material heritage of high living standards and the immaterial heritage of their way of life. Immigrants can be demonised as threats to both.

The other item reported that bullfighting in South-West France had been registered as an item of heritage.

But what really shocked me was our teacher's assertion that we in Britain don't have any items of cultural heritage because nothing has been registered with UNESCO.

So, what is heritage?


  1. According to this wed-site
    the UK has currently 28 World Heritage sites , including these

    Blaenavon Industrial Landscape
    Blenheim Palace
    Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church
    Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd
    City of Bath
    Durham Castle and Cathedral
    Heart of Neolithic Orkney
    Ironbridge Gorge
    Maritime Greenwich
    New Lanark
    Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
    Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
    Studley Royal Park including the ruins of Fountains Abbey
    The Tower of London
    Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church
    Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast
    St Kilda

    I'd be inclined to take anything else she says with a pinch of salt.

    I've just realised that I took it for granted that your teacher was a woman. I wonder why?

  2. Douglas, all of those would count as material heritage. What Maurice (male) found to be missing was anything registered as immaterial heritage.

    In theory, I suppose we could register Royal Ascot, Trooping the Colour, morris dancing (Bacup, certainly), fox-hunting (cf bullfighting) ...

  3. Would having been registered as immaterial heritage have saved fox-hunting from being legislated against?

    Whilst it might prevent positive action against an item, could it cause action against any person or organisation for failing to maintain a tradition?

    i can see the French finding it attractive. It smacks of the Academie francais.

  4. Douglas

    Would having been registered as immaterial heritage have saved fox-hunting from being legislated against?

    Perhaps that's what the people in South-West France had in mind. Their neighbours in Catalunia have moved to outlaw bullfighting. You can see how they might fear contagion.

    I'm totally with you on the Académie française. And the analogous institution in England that I have in mind is the Morris Ring.

    Morris dancing was discovered for the aesthetic-cum-academic folk movement by the collector Cecil Sharp. The dances were taken up with great enthusiasm by the social activist Mary Neal, who ran a club for impoverished and exploited young women called Espérance. The vigour of the dancing accorded with her philosophy and the displays by working-class Espérance girls in polite society were good publicity.

    Sharp cooperated at first, but then decided that the girls were changing the character of the dances. He threw his energies behind male sides following religiously the descriptions he had collected, and castigated the 'inauthentic' Espérance Morris.

    Eventually, half a dozen of these male sides combined to form the Morris Ring, which almost inevitable became dogmatic, bossy, middle class and bland. Just the sort of institution I can imagine applying for UNESCO approval.

    The irony is that Ring-style dancing was immediately recognisable as different from what went on in those Cotswold villages that maintained their local traditions. That really is an entertaining spectacle — as are the Britannia Coconut Dancers who perform near you at Bacup.

    Returning to fox-hunting. However much one may disapprove, I don't see how anyone could deny that it's a part of British heritage. UNESCO regulation may say that you can't call something heritage and still ban it — but that just sounds like rationalist French influence.

  5. Thanks, David.

    I saw them in 1954 or 1955 when we were living in Rawtenstall. They had danced all the way from Bacup and I was told they would finish in Bury.

    I see on their web-site that they now give intense coverage of Bacup instead.

    Did you see the programme about folk-dance on BBC4 a few months ago? They were include in it.

    As for fox-hunting, I'm not against it but there's a lot of humbug on both sides.

    I think a lot of the anti's are less concerned with whether it is more cruel than other forms of control than that people get pleasure from it.

    On the other side, many years ago when we were holidaying on a farm near Broadway, the people there were keeping a watchful eye on a vixen and her cubs lest anything should befall them before autumn. If pest control had been their primary aim, they could have disposed of the cubs there and then.

  6. David.
    I had posted an answer about the Coconut Dancers but I see it has disappeared so I don’t know if you had a chance to see it.
    I saw them in the mid-fifties passing through Rawtenstall on their way, as I was told, from Bacup to Bury, about 15 miles.
    A few months ago, they were featured in a BBC4 programme about folk-dance presented by Rachel and Becky Unthank. With any luck it will turn up on BBC2 sometime.
    Some of this was disappearing as I typed it so I decided to compose it elsewhere and paste it in.

  7. I saw the Unthanks' programme programme, Douglas, and thoroughly enjoyed it. A major plus was the presentation; the sisters really appreciated what the dancers were doing and knew how to talk to them. Something else I really liked was the way the editors slipped in old film sequences of the same customs. Continuity and change.

    I particularly loved the sequence showing the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance. The present-day film had the Unthank sisters and the local Asians made welcome and included in the dancing, but it seemed no less English than in the old films. I contrast this with a show put on by the English Folk Dance and Song Society in the Albert Hall where the local event was reduced to a cultural abstraction. The emphasis was on the not-terribly-interesting dance figures and steps — performed to an allegedly 'authentic' tune allegedly rediscovered in a lost collection. Good theatre, actually, but a travesty of the custom.

    The Nutters also perform in similar shows to the accompaniment of a concertina in place of the brass band. Not so bad, because men dressed like that look strange anywhere so they're exotic even in Bacup — and the dances are actually interesting in themselves. Still not a patch on seeing them in Bacup or Rawtenstall.

    When I saw them, they started in Britannia and got no further than Rawtenstall.

    This Blogger environment can be a pain. I've not had too many disasters recently, but you and Brian have been unlucky even by Blogger's dodgy standards. The central difficulty is that if you navigate away from the POST A COMMENT box screen, you can't navigate back. What you get is a new screen with an empty box. This is OK when everything is working perfectly, but disastrous if anything goes wrong with publishing etc.

  8. I'm glad you saw it. I just got it by chance as I don't always look at the BBC4 schedules.

    Is there any way I can tell if there are any new messages without scrolling down to the foot of each topic each time I visit?

  9. None that I know of. None of the blogs that I follow manage to make it possible. I'll have another look at the Blogger facilities.

  10. I had the same reaction as Douglas - though when I read his selection of World Heritage Sites I was outraged to find he's omitted Liverpool!

    But what are the items of immaterial cultural heritage that the French have had listed?

  11. Jean, it turns out that UNESCO translation is Intangible Cultural heritage. A resaonable starting point is this page.

    Look down the page to 'SOME OF THE 51 ELEMENTS INSCRIBED IN 2010' and click on '5'.

    For a fuller account go to the index box to the left and click 'Intangible Heritage Lists'. This links you to a full list, which you can filter by selecting 'France' in the box to the right.

    French bullfighting hasn't been registered yet, and may well never be. You can't select 'United Kingdom' to filter because we haven't registered anything.

    I'm all in favour of preserving arts and crafts, but it does seem grotesquely bureaucratic.

  12. OK, to save trouble, here's the list

    Processional Giants and Dragons in Belgium and France
    The scribing tradition in French timber framing
    Aubusson tapestry
    The gastronomic meal of the French
    Falconry, a living human heritage (with 9 other countries)
    The craftsmanship of Alençon needle lace-making
    Compagnonnage, network for on-the-job transmission of knowledge and identities