Skip to main content
  • Community

Designs on the past - an essay by Carey Newson

One of a series of essays written by independent thinkers exploring how people and places are changing through Big Local

July 2018

Carey Newson explores how four Big Local areas – Ramsey, Plaistow, Gateshead and Boston – are each tapping into unique local histories to reignite pride in their community. Heritage draws on issues of local identity and community cohesion by reminding people they are part of a story that began long before they were born and cannot be written for future generations without them.

“Why do these residents, looking to overcome serious local challenges, see heritage as part of their toolkit for local improvement? In each of the areas the primary answer has been a different one… but all view their heritage work as a way of generating pride in their area. People are turning to history to answer the question, “who are we really?” in a way that satisfies the demands of the present."

Read the essay

Other essays in the series

'The grammar of change: Big Local neighbourhoods in action' - David Boyle

'New seeds beneath the snow?' - Julian Dobson

'Skittled out? The collapse and revival of England's social infrastructure' - Dan Gregory

'Community Spirits' - Stephen Bates

'Building wealth' - Hazel Sheffield

Local Trust podcast - Pride of place

Why do today’s communities turn to history to make sense of how places and people are changing? In this podcast, panelists from the RSA, discuss how stories from the past are rediscovered and reinvented by local residents and are used to explore current issues – such as Brexit, immigration, the NHS and unemployment – and harness a community’s sense of pride and aspirations for the future.

Participants: Carey Newson, author of ‘Designs on the Past’. Becca Antink, The RSA. Paul Bristow, Arts Council England. Jane Sills, Ramsey Big Local. Helen Graham, Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage. Chaired by: Jessica Wenban-Smith, Local Trust.

Download PDF

Our phones are down

2 Jan 2019: Our office is open but our phones are not working. Please email us at while we fix them and we will respond to messages as soon as we can.

Got it

We’re making changes to the website. Your feedback will help us improve the site. Your feedback: