Context 143 - March 2016

C O N T E X T 1 4 3 : M A R C H 2 0 1 6 41 DANIEL LONGMAN Breaking into heritage A townscape heritage initiative and an internship with a local authority have given one student on an IHBC-approved course the chance to begin a career in conservation. At the start of 2015 things were not going well. I was licking my wounds after falling short of the mark in some legal exams, stuck in a dead-end phone job dealing with pensions. To top it all off, at the age of 26 I was back at home living with the parents. It really was as dull as it sounds. Ever since I can remember I have had a strong interest in heritage but I never really considered it could ever offer a career. I had completed an English degree, dabbled in local history and a bit of genealogy, and I even set up a small tour-guide company. But it was not until I became acquainted with a friend in the planning world that I realised that far more opportunities and career paths are available in heritage and conservation than I had thought. I decided I had to retrain if I was going to get anywhere. I researched postgraduate courses at universities up and down the country but I could not afford the fees, and any scholarships were few and far between. My dreams of working in heritage seemed set to remain just that. Things all changed when my friend in planning forwarded me an email he had received about a possible opportunity with Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council. They were running a townscape heritage initiative (THI) aiming to repair, restore and re-use historic buildings in the north-west town of Prescot, once a world-renowned centre of watchmaking, that had fallen on hard times and was at serious risk of further decline. Townscape heritage initiatives are funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). They aim to regener- ate towns and cities by improving their built historic environments, bringing neglecting buildings back to life through appropriate conservation and restoration.The schemes also aim to reconnect local people to their own heritage and give residents the chance to learn new skills and gain experience. In 2012 the council successfully bid for £1.85 million from the HLF, match funded from a number of sources including Knowsley HousingTrust and an empty homes grant.The five-year programme allowed the consecutive appointment of four eager interns, all keen to learn the skills and attributes needed to be forge a career in heritage and conservation. Townscape heritage initiatives are not only transforming buildings, they are also transforming lives. When I applied, the team was looking to appoint a new member to follow in the footsteps of the previous intern who was coming to the end of his post and leaving to begin a career as a building surveyor. The year-long role came with not only a salary, but also a fully funded place at the University of Central Lancashire to study an IHBC-recognisedMSc in Building Conservation and Adaptation. This was definitely the opportunity I had been searching for. My application was successful and I have been working alongsideTHI officer Owen Barton and skills coordinator Lyndsey-Jane Kevan since August 2015. Barton, a IHBC member, has a strong background in this area, having been a conservation officer for several local authorities. Kevan, who has great experience in working with young people, specialises in organising heritage events and educational workshops throughout the borough.Together we are helping to facilitate the restoration and promotion of 30 properties in Prescot that have been targeted for repairs, and carrying out three public realm projects. The first building to be saved was a small Georgian corner property operating as a dry cleaners.The building had suffered from the ravages of time. The repairs Townscape heritage officer Owen Barton and Daniel Longman are helping to restore properties in Prescot town centre.