Wednesday 23rd March, saw Yorkshire’s first Heritage Summit take place in Pontefract and showcase the Town Hall.

The event, which included stalls, presentations, an opportunity to network and a tour of the historic town itself generated a lot of positive feedback and calls for it to be an annual event.

Phil Bell, Chief Executive of the organisers The Yorkshire Society explained “We see one of the key roles of the Society as being to bring the people of Yorkshire together, and this was a fitting example of that in action. Having created the Yorkshire Heritage Guardians – a loose association of voluntary and charitable bodies looking after various aspects of Yorkshire’s heritage – we felt it was important to get them together, with other organisations to find areas of common interest, share ideas and show the strength of their combined power.”

The Summit was co-hosted by Pontefract Civic Society, themselves a Yorkshire Heritage Guardian, who were able to showcase the wonderful Town Hall venue and the historic town with a series of guided walks to close the day’s event.

Paul Cartwright, Chair of Pontefract Civic Trust commented “it was an honour for Pontefract to host this prestigious event and for the Civic Society to have the privilege of showing the many heritage organisations attending our historic town.”

Featured at the event were presentations by author and environmental campaigner Colin Speakman on Yorkshire’s unique identity, Tim Barber from Real Yorkshire Tours about helping heritage organisations to identify ways of partnering with the tourism sector and the importance of the visitor experience, and the inspirational Rachel Bice, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust talk who talked about wildlife being an integral part of cultural heritage.

The event was also attended by a number of Yorkshire’s Civic Societies and other notable organisations with a personal stake in Yorkshire heritage including The Yorkshire Regiment, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Yorkshire Philosophical Society, Yorkshire Dialect Society, North Yorkshire Moors Association, Pennine Heritage and PLACE Yorkshire, to name but a few.

It was clear from the panel discussion that followed the presentations just how important heritage is, not only to the psychology of Yorkshire but to its economy too, and just how much it depends on the volunteers, not-for-profit organisations and charities who do most of the work to promote and protect it. Funding, recruitment, training and leadership of the sector were the key issues raised. These shared concerns and common cause highlighted the opportunity and benefit of such organisations collaborating where possible.

Overall, the first Yorkshire Heritage Summit was a remarkable success and clearly long overdue. The Yorkshire Society is looking into making this an annual event and has called on all heritage organisations in Yorkshire to work together more closely. Any interested should contact heritage@theyorkshiresociety.org for further information.

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Specific thanks go to Society members and volunteers Colin Speakman and Paul Cartright for their work in organising this event.

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