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Our recent heritage - does it matter?

Press release issued: 20 November 2004

The University of Bristol has collaborated with English Heritage on 'Change and Creation', a programme of debate, consultation and public engagement that attempts to better understand the nature and value of the later 20th century landscape.

Cars and motorways, airports and tower blocks, council estates and shopping malls. Nuclear weapons, power stations, wind farms and the moon landing. The smell of fast food, music festivals, TV and the web, easy travel and shrinking distances.

All these defined the later 20th century.  Like it or not, they have shaped who we are and are already ‘heritage’.  Yet for many people, the physical structures erected during the last 50 years are unwelcome, representing the destruction of an older and idyllic landscape.

Change and Creation, a programme of debate, consultation and public engagement, designed and led by English Heritage in collaboration with the University of Bristol, University College London and Atkins Heritage, is the first attempt to better understand the nature and value of the later 20th century landscape, how people perceive it, and what should be done to manage change in the future.

Dr Dan Hicks of the University of Bristol said: "The remains of the very recent past are all around us, and public appreciation of heritage often includes such material.  This programme raises questions about how we define and characterise heritage.  Such questions are very welcome, especially as part of the importance of the remains of the 1950s or 1980s lies in personal memories and community identities, for better or worse. By encouraging dialogue, and a diversity of contributions - about football stadiums, festival sites or industrial landscapes, for example - Change and Creation promises to make a highly significant and open-minded contribution to our understanding of the historic environment".

John Schofield of English Heritage, said: “The diverse, powerful and often contested nature of the recent and contemporary past is the starting point of this programme.  Our decisions about what to lose or what to replace it with must be guided and informed by careful understanding. “

As the programme develops, it will engage a wide segment of society – from academics, archaeologists and professionals to government organisations, heritage managers and culture critics - in a debate on its scope and direction.  It will seek to forge partnerships across organisations with widely differing views and approaches, provide a framework under which individual projects can be carried out, and pioneer trans-disciplinary study methods for understanding the later 20th century landscape.  It will identify and characterise distinctive and influential late 20th century landscape types in broad terms, focussing strongly on landscape character, not the study of individual buildings.

The general public can now participate in the debate by sending their thoughts to  The following questions may be considered:

  • What do you remember most clearly about the 20th century?  How are these events and activities still represented in the landscape?
  • What do you appreciate, dislike or miss about the later 20th century landscape?
  • What should go and what should replace it?  Would you prefer our landscape to be more like it was in the early 20th century?
  • Do you have ideas for engaging your community, school or local society with aspects of the 20th century landscape?

More details about the programme’s background, aims and possibilities can be found on the programme's website and in the programme booklet, Change and Creation: historic landscape character 1950 – 2000

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