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Leo Hollis, Historian and author; Maria Adebowale, Founding director, Living Space Project; Gareth Maeer, Head of research, Heritage Lottery Fund; Anastasia Knox, Associate director, BritainThinks; Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, RSA

Is it time to reimagine heritage? 

To speak of heritage is to invoke images of grand monuments and ticketed museums; the physical preserves of a static, nostalgic past. But whilst our material history holds great economic and cultural value, have we found an effective way to quantify and utilise intangible heritage in our daily lives?

When UNESCO declared its 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, it recognised that the distinctive customs and traditions of local communities help give meaning and identity to people’s daily lives. Such traditions connect the past with the present, and form a rich ‘living’ heritage that encompasses people and activities, rather than just physical assets.

The RSA and the Heritage Lottery Fund have released a UK-wide Heritage Index that brings together over 100 indicators into a single score of heritage vitality. With devolution of political power to cities and counties gathering pace, the need for a richer understanding of place-based identity and local distinctiveness is more essential than ever. How can communities best draw on their distinctive local heritage and identity to achieve better social and environmental outcomes? 

Join a panel of experts and commentators, featuring Leo Hollis, historian, urbanist and author of Cities Are Good For You: The Genius of the Metropolis; Gareth Maeer, Head of Research at the Heritage Lottery Fund; Maria Adebowale, founding director of Living Space Project, specialist in community-led placeshaping; Anastasia Knox, associate director at research and insight agency BritainThinks


In November the RSA and HLF will run a series of Heritage Question Time events around the country, in DundeeOldham and Bristol.

Join us in your area to debate the big questions with local experts, research leads, Fellows and the wider public.


The Heritage Index has been compiled by the RSA, as part of the Heritage, Identity and Place project, in collaboration with the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The Heritage Index is designed to be a resource which helps to forge a stronger link between local heritage and the identity of residents in a place. This can help a place achieve its aspirations to grow and prosper, socially and economically.

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