Heritage is not confined to looking backwards in time but is an essential part of the present we live in and the future we build. It is the extraordinary range of landscape, monuments, experiences and stories that characterise Jersey, and it also encompasses our contemporary interactions with this inheritance and the meanings we ascribe to it. Heritage gives the Island its distinctive look and feel, attracts tourists, and can inspire both intercultural dialogue and a shared sense of place and belonging.
Jersey is unusually rich in tangible heritage assets, some of which (such as the prehistoric site at La Cotte and Le Câtillon Bronze Age hoard) are of international significance. Fourteen thousand Islanders – one seventh of the population – are members of Jersey Heritage. However, the sector has suffered from chronic underfunding, a lack of dedicated Ministerial input, and the lack of a coherent Heritage Strategy for the Island, all of which the Board suggest be rectified as soon as possible. More should also be done to protect Jersey’s historic built environment (see section below).
Culture and the Arts
Jersey has a rich tradition of artistic endeavour, and an enviable intangible cultural heritage. This is not just historical; contemporary Islanders are producing high-quality work often inspired by the character of the distinctive place in which they live. From music to filmmaking, from painting to poetry, scores of Jersey citizens are now making careers and reputations at international level. The Board celebrated the fact that creative people and entrepreneurs clearly feel a sense of attachment and pride in the Island, and noted that some excellent organisations (such as ArtHouse Jersey) and events (such as the Festival of Words and the ‘Weekender’) are helping to put the Island on the global cultural map. However, given the extraordinary potential of art and culture to achieve almost all of the objectives associated with Identity – domestic and international – it felt that even more could be done in this sphere.
Part of this involves funding. The Board welcomed the plan agreed by the States to dedicate 1% of the Government’s budget to arts, heritage and culture, but the hugely significant programme of investment and support which this represents is now under threat. The strongest individual spending recommendation is the establishment of a National Gallery, which can simultaneously celebrate our individual artists and collective identity, acting also as a cultural hub and an attraction for visitors. Another important innovation would be the establishment of a Cultural Festival, possibly coinciding with a new National Jersey Day.
There are also plenty of possible initiatives that would not cost much money. The first is to update the 2005 Cultural Strategy, a ground-breaking document in its time but now in need of updating. The Board lamented the lack of a dedicated Cultural Officer in government, but in its absence suggested Arthouse Jersey could assume responsibility for drawing up a new plan, tapping into the huge treasury of knowledge, care and energy amongst those responsible for the stewardship and direction of the Island’s cultural, artistic and heritage output.
Another important low-cost suggestion is just that we properly celebrate our cultural and artistic figures in the naming of roads and buildings, and with a set of re-thought and much expanded plaques (perhaps as part of a new Cultural Trail). This need not be confined to historic figures (such as Sir John Everett Millais, Lillie Langtry, Wace, René Lalique, Claude Cahun, Victor Hugo, Edmund Blampied) but can also include Jersey’s distinguished visitors (such as George Eliot, Karl Marx, Anthony Trollope, Claude Debussy) and talented young filmmakers, songwriters, actors and artists (who have been recognised by the BAFTAs, GRAMMYs, Brit Awards and Turner Prize, but less so in their native Island). The Board would also like to see it become easier for artists and organisers to put culture in public spaces – and for the main Ports of entry to showcase such works.
Finally, the Board singled out the Battle of Flowers as an exemplum of the enormous power of cultural activity to express identity and provide an important social ritual. Its real value should be recognised by Government not as a tourist attraction as something which unites our communities in a creative, artistic endeavour. If le Carnaval de Granville can achieve UNESCO Intangible Heritage status, why not the Battle?