The talk by Darren Barker to the Society on 19 March was inspiring. He is
Principal Conservation Officer at Great Yarmouth Borough Council and also
Project Director of Great Yarmouth Building Preservation Trust.
The Trust was formed in 1978, in a town which had been heavily bombed in
World War II and has suffered much more deprivation than Ipswich has.
Near-derelict 'Row houses' and former merchants' houses have been saved and
restored, as one would hope and expect.
A much larger project was St George's Chapel built by the Corporation in
1714 and Grade I Listed. This major scheme restored "one of the finest
Baroque churches outside London" as an arts centre and "a catalyst for
regeneration". (The architect, Sir Michael Hopkins, described the work in
his talk to the Society.) Mr Barker then took us on a photographic tour of
other projects in the town.
Very unexpected, however, was the great emphasis the Trust has placed on
involving and professionally training unemployed young people and people
with other problems. As he said, it helps to make "heritage inclusive
socially." And again in his own words, "we are not social workers but we
are socially responsible." Finally, we heard about the Trust's carefully
chosen partnerships with an area of Bulgaria and another with Estonia,
because "we can learn from their traditional skills." Exchanges of workers
have benefited from the practice of crafts such as plastering, wall
painting, carpentry and even thatching.