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Black South West Network (BSWN) has been awarded a grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to work with African Caribbean, African, and South Asian communities and organisation in Bristol to develop, preserve and exhibit their cultural heritage. 

The project focusses on ‘intangible cultural heritage’ – these are aspects of culture that can’t be touched or displayed in a case in a museum. They are cultural practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, or skills that are captured in audio, video and digital ways. They are living stories, songs, poems, dances, plays, photographs and other images of the past and the present.

The engagement with intangible cultural heritage is recognised as an important aspect of community life, cohesion, inclusion and the need to preserve it is recognised by UNESCO. In 2016, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) issued its Culture White Paper, which said that culture and heritage ‘has an intrinsic value through the positive impact on personal wellbeing’, and that it makes ‘a crucial contribution to the regeneration, health and wellbeing of our regions, cities, towns and villages’.

Esme Ward, a Clore Fellow (2016-17) exploring cultural leadership, figuring out what museums are for and exploring the social, learning and civic purpose of arts and heritage said “Memories, histories, rituals and sites are what bring people together. They remind communities of who they are, the values they share and the future they might collectively build” 

Over the past nine years, BSWN successfully delivered four National Lottery funded projects focusing on heritage of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in Bristol. With this track record and its contribution to the cultural heritage sector, The National Lottery Fund recognised the value of BSWN’s work and awarded the organisation this funding under its Resilient Heritage programme.

The purpose of the funding is to develop the capacity of BSWN to be a leading cultural heritage organisation, increasing audience diversity at heritage sites across the South West and developing a range of capacity-building resources for heritage organisation led by BAME groups. Critically, the project includes the capacity to develop an online archive of BAME Intangible Cultural heritage to preserve it, develop exhibitions from it, and to enable students and researchers to have access of a unique repository of BAME cultural life.

The project also seeks develop the capacity of mainstream heritage organisations to see the ways they help perpetuate inequality. In this vein, one end goal is to decolonise mainstream heritage organizations so they can fully serve, and be in service to, BAME communities. We are delighted that, as part of this project, Bristol Museums have agreed to BSWN running workshops with their staff and Bristol City Council’s Culture and Heritage Department have indicated their desire to work with us in diversifying their audience numbers.

Sado Jirde, Director of BSWN said ‘We are delighted to have secured resources for this exciting, innovative, and much needed project.  The funding will not only support BSWN to develop its capacity as a Culture and Heritage organisation, but it will also allow us to work with other BAME culture and heritage organisations to collaboratively develop and grow the sector. We are also looking forward to working with The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the wider heritage sector in the South West to raise the profile of BAME culture and heritage, and diversify both their output and their audiences and staff.’

To find out about the roles we are recruiting for this project, please see our ‘Join our Team’ page here.