The Europa Nostra heritage awards were held last week in the Norwegian capital city of Oslo and we were delighted that our project for Middleport Pottery in Stoke on Trent picked up an award in the Conservation category.
Oslo was the backdrop to a gathering of some 700 delegates for the Europa Nostra conference and awards ceremony. The annual event brings together people from all over Europe: project teams, academics, students, politicians, clients, government bodies: a truly eclectic mix and people of all ages, nationalities and fashion senses!
Attendees represented the cultural diversity of the whole of Europe from Ireland to Russia, and from Sweden to Malta. And the rich mix which was re-emphasised as each project presentation was given in English language with differing international accents (a kind of Heritage-world in Eurovision!).
But amidst this inter-cultural complexity several uplifting themes shone through. Firstly, the sheer perseverance of many of the project teams who refused to give up against the odds. For example the French team which had eventually succeeded in saving and repairing a magnificent 1950s single-span Boulingrin market hall in Reims, France.
Secondly, a sense of belief in communities to get behind projects in their own neighbourhoods. This was perhaps exemplified by the Dutch team which had saved a former tram depot to create the The Halls in Amsterdam. In so doing they have created a vibrant community hub that is now a huge economic and cultural success.
And thirdly, recognising that carefully and honestly ‘mending’ a place can be as powerful as transformational change. This was the guiding principle of our own scheme approach for Middleport Pottery in Stoke on Trent for the Prince’s Regeneration Trust which has safeguarded over 50 jobs, improved conditions for all of the site’s existing workers and future visitors, and which hopefully brings a renewed sense of hope and confidence for the future. We’ve been thrilled that this understated approach has been recognised in 4 RIBA Awards this year as well as a Europa Nostra award for Cultural Heritage in Oslo.
I attended the Europa Nostra awards with a sense of trepidation and wondering whether it would be time well spent. But I found myself returning to the UK with a feeling that we share a huge amount of passion, energy and commitment in facing the issues in our European historic environment. For that I am grateful to be part of the European community and I feel inspired by what we might achieve together in future.
(Check out our own short film about mending Middleport Pottery here: https://player.vimeo.com/video/130412909?badge=0&byline=0&color=54C9F2&portrait=0&title=0)