IHBC Yearbook 2021

5 FOREWORD I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute the foreword to this edition of the IHBC’s yearbook. Before I look ahead to the challenges of a pivotal year for our built heritage, I’d like to reflect on what has been quite an extraordinary year of challenge but also achievement. From my position as Chief Executive of Historic England, I am fortunate to have a view across the whole historic environment sector and into government. What I witnessed over the past 12 months was encouraging and inspiring in equal measure. The pandemic brought huge challenges to all of those who work in the historic environment: income streams dried up, workforces were depleted, research programmes were cancelled, and essential cyclical repair and maintenance work was disrupted. A collapse of the entire heritage ecosystem looked very possible until, that is, the historic environment sector did what it hitherto had not done often enough; it came together, set aside organisational self-interest and worked at incredible pace to come up with a rescue plan. The government responded with an unprecedented programme of financial support, the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), a remarkable investment of nearly £1.9 billion to protect vital heritage and cultural organisations from insolvency, saving thousands of highly skilled jobs and maintaining the condition of hundreds of nationally significant historic buildings and places. This unprecedented injection of public money is ensuring heritage can play a full part in helping the country recover from the pandemic. Much of the design and delivery of the heritage aspects of the CRF was undertaken by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and I have to take a moment here to highlight the extraordinary efforts of staff in both organisations who worked tirelessly night and day under intense pressure and often difficult circumstances to get the vital funding to where it was needed most. We all stepped up. However, it was the collaboration between Historic England and the Heritage Fund and the whole of the historic environment sector that also stands out for me. Each of us has a different part to play, reflecting our particular expertise. We have found new ways to work together, to pool resources, to share information and creative ideas, and to reach out to all parts of the sector. The IHBC played a full part in this, giving its members information about the help that was available and feeding back vital information on how its members were faring and what kind of support you required. Collaboration, indeed partnership, is the vital ingredient. We can only overcome the challenges ahead if we face them together and arrive at solutions collectively. This is particularly the case with climate change, where the commonly held perception is that historic buildings are part of the problem rather than the solution. We need to work hard to change this narrative, to get people to appreciate that recycling buildings can be one of the most impactful things we can achieve to cut carbon emissions and to reduce waste. We need to show how buildings can be sensitively adapted to make them more energy efficient and to make them more resilient to a changing climate. The desired outcome is clear but the pathway towards achieving it is complex and difficult, involving changes to policy and taxation incentives, plugging evidence gaps, vastly increasing knowledge and skills, producing authoritative and accessible guidance, and gaining public (and political) support. The challenge is huge, even greater than that posed by the pandemic. Yet, I believe we can meet it, so long as we continue to work together, are generous with our time and knowledge and are willing to consider new approaches. We all have a part to play. Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive, Historic England (Photo: Dean Atkins)