A special conference focusing on how heritage can be implemented to transform local communities, took place in the Guildhall last week.
The two-day event featured a series of talks and workshops by leading experts in the fields of architecture, tourism, social enterprise and regeneration who came together to explore ways of maximising opportunities for areas of historic interest.
Derry City and Strabane District Council, the Department for Communities, the Inner City Buildings Preservation Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund, along with a number of other sponsors, were delighted to support this year’s annual Heritage Trust Network conference.
The event was chaired by Liz Bates, the National Chair of the Heritage Trust Network, with a range of national and international speakers. Speakers included Patrice Frey from Main Street America, who talked about heritage based regeneration, Maeve Monaghan from the NOW Group who focused on re-purposing heritage buildings for social enterprise, and Ed McMahon from the Urban Land Institute who looked at how heritage can transform neighbourhoods with a focus on better quality of life and sense of place.
A delegation from the city had attended the Main Street America conference in Seattle earlier this year where they met Patrice Frey and Ed McMahon which then started the conversation about speaking at the Heritage Trust Network conference.
Workshops offered information and advice on funding, community led approaches to regeneration, tourism impact and sustainability and future-proofing historic town centres.
Speaking at the event Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said the conference generated conversations about the importance of conservation and making the most of our heritage assets.
“I was delighted that Derry was chosen as the location for this important conference. In terms of our own considerable history and heritage it was particularly appropriate that it was hosted in our beautiful Walled City.
“In the past we have underestimated the importance and the value of our heritage and the unique appeal it has for visitors keen to learn more about life in one of Ireland’s most historic settlements. The conference offered the opportunity to find out more about the learnings of other historic locations and how they have successfully enhanced their own areas through conservation and regeneration.”
Liz Bates, National Chair said: “The Heritage Trust Network were delighted to have the opportunity to hold our annual conference in Derry-Londonderry this year. The hospitality we received from all local partners was so generous and welcoming, it was a pleasure to bring our members and supporters from across the UK to this historic city. We hope that all attendees went away feeling supported and enabled to revive their heritage in collaboration with their community and local businesses.”
Director of Environment and Regeneration with Council, Karen Phillips, said it had been an informative and inspirational event. “It was really interesting to hear from some of the leading experts in their field on the development of heritage, and how conservation and regeneration projects can impact on the local economy. We are currently exploring new ways of revitalising our urban and rural centres and using our particular heritage with a view to bringing more visitors to learn the unique story of the North West.
“We have considerable assets which if properly utilised could really build on our current and developing business and community growth. The concept of community led tourism, engaging and involving local communities is also one which we are exploring. This has been a great opportunity for learning and exchanging ideas with other organisations tasked with preserving local heritage.”
Helen Quigley, Chief Executive Officer with the Inner City Buildings Preservation Trust, and Vice Chair of the Heritage Trust Network NI Committee said it had been a great opportunity for delegates to hear from a range of experts about how heritage can help revive our city centres. “We wanted to use this conference as an opportunity to build on the excellent work we delivered as part of our 2018 conference, Unlocking Prosperity through Heritage led Regeneration. The Heritage Trust Network conference has encouraged wider, strategic discussion around the shift from out of town retail back to the high street, built around businesses and the wider community working together. It helped to highlight the significant work currently underway in the Walled City by ICBPT and its partners to instil pride in our historic environment, grow our tourism offer and importantly create employment.”