IHBC Yearbook 2021

16 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 2 1 CHAIR’S REVIEW CHANGE AND ADAPTATION DAVID McDONALD, IHBC CHAIR A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: It’s loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. From Endymion, by John Keats I happened to see these opening lines from Keats’s epic poem recently on Poems on the Underground in a Piccadilly line carriage. It was there to commemorate the poet on the 200th anniversary of his death in 1821, but it did strike me as being particularly apt during the pandemic. We have all been forced to re-evaluate our surroundings and consider afresh beauty in the built and natural environment. Keats was perhaps ahead of his time in connecting beauty with health and well-being. The fact that I was travelling on the London Underground at all was an unusual event. As a London resident, I would have been travelling on the tube on an almost a daily basis before the pandemic, but for the past 15 months my journeys on public transport have been minimal and for essential purposes only. As I write, final opening up of restrictions in England has been delayed by a month, but I am conscious that even when they have, work patterns will be different, with consequences not only for public transport but also for employment in town centres and how we use buildings and public spaces. In IHBC Yearbook 2020, I mentioned the immediate effects that the pandemic was having on the IHBC, and it was difficult to be anything other than rather downbeat. In retrospect I was right to be cautious, but now I have the chance to take the longer view. As our President mentioned in his Welcome to this Yearbook, the IHBC has moved rapidly to digital ways of working as exemplified by our online Annual School and also our committees and other meetings including the AGM. For me, another aspect has been the interaction with other organisations in the sector, and an appreciation of the range of individuals and groups involved and their contribution to maintaining the historic environment. As an organisation we were conscious of threats such as loss of income from subscriptions, loss of jobs advertising revenue and other issues, but we were able to make adjustments accordingly. We were also aware that there might be effects on our members’ employment in both the public and private sectors. However, for those organisations whose main business was the income generated from their buildings and grounds open to the public, the issue was much more serious. This affected organisations from the largest such as the National Trust to many small ones, both private and voluntary, whose main income is from visitors and events. For some it was a double whammy: on the one hand they were encouraged to keep open spaces available for recreation throughout lockdown, but on the other they were required to keep all income-generating facilities closed. I have been impressed with how many diverse organisations have come together to respond, and importantly to engage with government to ensure that heritage has managed to attract a reasonable share of resources to sustain recovery. Other parts of the historic environment sector affected include education and training. At our recent Annual School, a webinar was devoted to how Reading University and West Dean College of Arts and Conservation coped with the pandemic. Both organisations unsurprisingly were moving towards virtual lectures and tutorials. While these might work well for the academic content of courses, the lack of site visits remained a problem and in the case of West Dean the demonstration of practical skills was another. Parallel problems were also found at amenity societies such as the Victorian Society. A change from in-person to virtual lectures was possible, but there was a considerable loss of income in not being able offer visits to places of historic interest to its members and others. If there has been a common thread throughout the pandemic it has been that of change. It might be seen to be too obvious to include climate change in that definition, but the threat and opportunities to rise to this challenge have continued. The IHBC’s Green Panel continues its excellent work and is working with The Heritage Alliance and the Climate Heritage Network to make representations to the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November 2021. We continue to be represented in the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance. This all epitomises the new spirit of cooperation in our field. Another contributor to change in the sector over the year was the toppling of the Colston statue in