(P.50) Heritage now more popular than cinema


by Maev Kennedy, Arts and Heritage Correspondent The Guardian 27 September 2000

More people visited a historic attraction last year than a cinema, according to a Mori survey of attitudes to the historic environment.

Over half the population, 51%, claimed to have visited a historic building or site in the past year, and the figure rose to 58% if museums were included, compared with 50% who said they had visited a cinema, and 17% who had been to a f

The English Heritage commissioned survey, which showed nearly universal belief in the importance of historic buildings and sites if only as an educational resource - 98% said it was important for helping children - came as a relief to the governments conservation adviser.

Sir Neil Cossons, English Heritage chairman, and his predecessor, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, have consistently argued that the government had underestimated the importance attached to the historic environment.

The survey not only supported this, but showed that a big majority was quite happy to put taxpayers' money where its mouth was: 88% believed that there should be public funding to preserve the heritage.

Sir Neil was delighted at the overwhelming support shown by the research.

However, there was also a warning note, in the first national attempt to gauge the attitude of black and Asian communities, through focus group interviews.

These showed many felt excluded from England's historic environment, or even unwelcome.

Overall, many were concerned about the cost of travelling and gaining admission to historic sites, and were often more interested in the building and streets in their own immediate surroundings.

There was strong support for one of the most controversial innovations of the last 10 years, the listing of post-war buildings which were often regarded as eyesores when built.

The survey showed 76% interest in modern architecture and support for the listings programme.

"It's very encouraging when there is such overwhelming interest in our Historic environment." Martin Cherry, English Heritage's Head of listed building said yesterday.

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Last updated 27/09/00