I’ve been reading a lot about the London riots, and as a Preservationist I have to say I’m concerned not only for the social implications but also for the repercussions of the rioting on the UK’s built heritage, and so I got to thinking….
Once upon a time, I went to England to participate in a British National Trust working holiday. On this working holiday, I worked on an island off the coast of Devon (Lundy Island to be exact) rebuilding dry-laid stone walls and digging ditches (seriously) and various other maintenance tasks that needed to be done on Lundy. During this week long holiday, I met some great people and got an interesting prospective on how Preservation works in a country that has what many would consider “ancient” heritage. For example, part of our job was “Rhodie” Bashing (and no I don’t mean making fun of the state of Rhode Island), a task that consisted of eradicating century-old rhododendron bushes that were as big as trees and would be considered historic treasures in this country, but there, all the Rhodies managed to do was choke out an endemic species of plant that was the only food source for a species of beetle, and therefore, they had to go. Plus, there’s a 13th century castle and the remains of an Iron Age settlement on the island. Ancient heritage.
Below is a photo from my trip. It’s a view of the local pub and the church can be seen behind it. This is “down-town” Lundy.
I realize I’ve digressed a little, but the point is, I got to know a bit about the British National Trust and some of the great work they do, and that got me thinking… I wonder what the British National Trust is doing in light of the rioting. Then it dawned on me that they could provide a unique solution to part of the problem over there, which, as I understand it, is young people rioting because they are poor. Well, wouldn’t it be great if some of these poor kids could get some skills and then they could work to better their situation? Since they’ve caused all this damage to businesses and homes all over London and other cities, shouldn’t it stand to reason that they should be responsible for cleaning it up and fixing what they’ve damaged? I think so… so here is my big idea. The arrested “hoodies” or “ASBOs” or whatever you want to call them, could be given some sort of probation arrangement, provided that they attend trade classes for technical Preservation and Restoration (put on by the Trust… or an entity similar to the Trust) and then they use those skills to restore and rebuild the damage they caused. Then, after it’s all done, they have a marketable skill to use to earn some money and improve their place in society.
I know that there are myriad of niggling little details that would need to be worked out for this plan to succeed, but it’s an interesting premise anyway. So, to my reading audience across the pond… What do you think? You’re in my thoughts.