Context 146 - September 2016

22 C O N T E X T 1 4 6 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6 Second, they discussed the proposed redevelopment of the Royal High School on Calton Hill, again for a hotel. Rather than dwell on tourism, they moved on to focus on the objections to the planning application (the greatest outcry from the public in Edinburgh in recent times). Here the concept of the ‘elites’, much mentioned during the day, was put under close scrutiny, as a high proportion of those objecting were titled (professors, doctors, lords and ladies), and the alternative rescue proposal for a music school is being bankrolled by a multi-millionaire philanthropist. Simpson in particular was adamant that there was still a role for experts, and for philanthropists, in standing up for our historic build- ings against the profit principle of developers. Finally, Simpson and Leitch turned to a recent exhibition of photography by the artist Robb Macrae, which depicted the homes of ordinary residents of Edinburgh, many of whom lived beyond the world heritage site boundaries in fairly ordinary suburban homes. This led to a discussion on the relationship between heritage and social politics: in Leitch’s words, ‘what we value reflects who we value’. While some initiatives were trying to present alternative views, such as world heritage site walk- ing tours given by homeless people, both Simpson and Leitch were concerned at the short-termism of politicians undermining high-level support for the historic environment. The lively question-and-answer session was espe- cially intimate in the smaller room this year’s confer- ence was held in. Questioners continued Simpson’s frank and at times combative style by returning to the issues of elitism, the value of the charrette system for engaging the public, and the value of expertise. It was an engaging and memorable session, introducing a format that I hope will become a regular fixture of the annual school in years to come. Tom Hunter Graveyard humour and social media Speaker: Sarah Hayes, Coffin Works, Birmingham Sarah Hayes ably demonstrated how to liven up a his- toric building. She is collections and exhibitions man- ager at the Coffin Works, Newman Brothers’ former manufactory of coffin furniture in Birmingham. Her presentation illustrated the point literally and figura- tively, using images from social media postings to show how engaging pictures of people can be. Birmingham Conservation Trust’s volunteers love to enthuse about the product with a macabre sense of infectious fun. Pictures and clips of people enjoying themselves can not fail to interest an audience, but they take time to create and to publish across the variety of main platforms. So, not only is the content a good way of 1,000 likes: a suitably celebratory image from one of the CoffinWorks’ regular social media posts (Photo: CoffinWorks, Birmingham) Sarah Hayes: spontaneity and irreverence attract.

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