Only connect…

The Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Heritage for Society (Faro Convention 2005) identifies cultural heritage as a ‘resource’, but often it has a less utilitarian emphasis when met on an emotional level and touches upon the intangible aspects of heritage that feature more and more in academic and professional discourse.

“To them Howards End was a house: they could not know that to her it had been a spirit, for which she sought a spiritual heir.” Chapter 11, Howards End, E.M.Forster

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A wily estate agent might well promote a ‘character property’. What does this mean? Simply that it is old? That it is unique?

There is a house for me that has a character, a personality, much like E.M. Forster’s Howards End. My Grandmother’s house.

It is a straightforward case on paper. Grade II* listed, multi-period, original features.

For me? It is a story teller (tales of where priests hid), a trickster (a symphony of nocturnal creaks and groans enough to send even a teenager scuttling to her grandmother’s bed), a secret keeper (mis-spelt faxes folded inside Catherine Cooksons) and more than anything a teacher.

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I learnt that:

a. 1960s flower power and golden velvet are perfectly matched;

b. Glen Miller and Shirley Bassey accompanied by wild knees, twirling arms and kicking ankles = “the girl who danced through the war”;

c. smoking is an individual art form (clipped bird-like, long sucks. hollow cheeks, sideways mid-speech).

“Houses have their own ways of dying, falling as variously as the generations of men, some with a tragic roar, some quietly but to an afterlife in the city of ghosts, while from others the spirit slips before the body perishes”. Chapter 31, Howards End, E.M. Forster

My Grandmother died in 2006. I saw the house for sale online the other day. – No lumpy horse-hair chairs. No flower power. No orange crayon graffiti by a child twenty years long gone. – Faux fur rugs. Neutral walls. Candles in the hearth where once settled fag ash, twisted chocolate liqueur wrappers, and embers. I’m mourning.



During a university trip to the Grade II* listed post-war brutalist style Park Hill Estate (I won’t go into it here, but a very interesting redevelopment study including many participants – Urban Splash! (the developers), English Heritage, Sheffield Council, long-term residents…) my attention was drawn to the now infamous piece of graffiti pictured above. Its touch of rebellion and blatancy mixed with an age-old message has seen it enter into popular culture. Its symbolism has even been used by Urban Splash as a part of the redesign, as pictured below.

Yet this documentary into its origins uncovered a story to crush the most ardent of love enthusiasts. Not the expected vibrant tale of romance but full of instability, confusion and sadness.

Could my initial appreciation of the haphazard declaration of love be dented by this fresh knowledge? Truly it was. Yet, I believe that my perception of the graffiti was tarnished as soon as precise individuals were attached to it, regardless of the details. Whilst the two ‘lovers’ remained a mystery the message contained infinite possibilities.

From the power of anonymity for the observer, to the author. The Archaeologists Anonymous project invites persons within the field to respond to the question ‘What are your hopes and fears for the future of archaeology?’ by altering and modifying postcards to suit their answers. A few examples can be found in this article by Katrina Foxton. Interestingly, the idea of anonymity does not sit comfortably with everyone and some cards have been signed to emphasis the importance of taking ownership of opinions.

This made me wonder, is anonymity freeing, as it initially seems? Or does more satisfaction lie in providing individual expression? After-all, this is not a universal liberty, and should, then, be cherished.