With four million members, The National Trust is more popular than ever and English Heritage has recently seen its membership boom. In this programme I explore the UK’s love affair with its past and examines how the heritage industry is battling for our money.
I talk to the leading figures in the heritage industry: Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust; Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery fund, with a funding purse of 340 million; and Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage.
I also visit popular heritage attractions to find out what their appeal is and why they are being successful during the recession. In order to increase profitability, families have postively been encouraged at heritage sites around the UK. Whilst there’s been much success with “the Waitrose families”, the industry is keen to attract “the Tesco families”.
In recent years, the ideas of historical interpretation have shifted. The accent is on making the visitor feel more immersed in a historical location – people are encouraged to dress up, the barriers have been removed in some houses and interative exhibits are children friendly. So when you visit Hampton Court Palace, you can bump into Henry VIII and his entourage but I ask how authentic these historical interpretations are.