Tuesday, 25 August 2020

National Mistrust

I never imagined I would find myself pretty much entirely in agreement with Melanie Phillips. I only normally need to see or hear her on Question Time or somesuch to feel the hackles start to rise. Often outspoken and seemingly angry and intolerant her approach and persona is a million miles away from mine.

So what has she done now? In an excoriating piece in the Times on 24th August - again not one of my favourite newspapers - she goes after the utterly misguided and patronising proposals for the National Trust contained in their, I assume leaked, 10 Year Strategy. I can't find anything in what she's written to disagree with, I only wish I'd written it myself

There's not much point re-writing it and it is readily available for free on-line. Simply to say the strategy's basic assumption that the focus should be on promoting access at the expense of caring for our cultural history and providing 'experience' is wrong. Just so wrong. The underlying thesis seems to be that history isn't relevant, coupled with a patronising contempt for both the historic identity and culture of our society and our own individual capacity to assess and understand this.

In denial of what I like many others think, namely that the National Trust has been put in its current position by both individuals through legacies and gifts and the rest of us by supporting them to look after and nuture our cultural history, be it houses, gardens or landscape, this strategy seems to aim to decide what we should see and, by extension, what we might think. 

I don't want to live in the past, and change and development cannot be denied. But to remove or limit access or how we access the nations' story - particularly by this body - is indefensible. This is to me a betrayal of its members and supporters - the nation. Rarely has an organisation's title and principles been so subverted.