Context 156 - September 2018

C O N T E X T 1 5 6 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 15 I H B C A N N U A L S C H O O L 2 0 1 8 Sharing Belfast and beyond Belfast was an ideal place in which to explore the critical theme of ‘Our Shared Heritage’ during the IHBC Annual School 2018, under the umbrella of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. The city, particu- larly the centre and former industrial lands hugging the River Lagan, is rapidly transforming. This presents both challenges and opportunities for historic environment professionals to sensitively incorporate the vestiges of a sometimes contested past into the reinvigorating city. The manifestations of recent conflict and a history of communal divisions are clearly apparent in the urban environment, while complex questions concerning heritage, identity and belonging feature prominently in political discourse, policymaking agendas and the everyday lives of many local people. Indeed, these concerns overlay the ‘normal’ issues that conservation practitioners typically face elsewhere, such as how to evaluate tall building proposals within historic settings or encourage more inclusive regeneration strategies in a prolonged austere public funding environment. Exchanging knowledge and best practices in communicating, negotiating and transforming places through sharing heritage and its social values was central to the annual school programme of talks and site visits. Critically, the shared heritage theme was deliberately interpreted in a people-centred and pluralistic sense, with speakers given licence to approach the subject creatively through the prism of their own personal and organisational experiences. This included a range of digital and artistic practices, and methodologies successfully applied locally and internationally. The annual school involved leading local, national and international speakers, and included visits to all corners of the city and special places elsewhere within Northern Ireland. We hope that it was, both as a whole, and in its parts, a demonstrable example of shared heritage in action. AndrewMcClelland, chair, IHBC Northern Ireland branch Delegates sharing the walk home from the former Harland and Wolff offices with artist Ross Wilson’s dockyard workers: (from left to right) Zinnie Denby-Mann, Rodolpho Rodriguez, Ross McCleary, David Bevan and Francis Swanston