Monday, 13 July 2015

Spirit of Place

Last week I attended a workshop on Spirit of Place for the Southbank Centre.  I attended as a representative from a neighbouring national performing arts institution alongside members of their staff and I wanted to note down some points that I found particularly interesting from the day.  I won't go into details on the workshop as it is a work in progress by the Southbank Centre but the principles of Spirit of Place were really interesting.

The National Trust uses Spirit of Place as a means to identify what is unique, distinctive and cherished about a site.  All of the National Trust sites are to write one in the next year as this will form the basis of strategies and projects.  If the Spirit of Place is set then all work that comes from that will be consistent and fit with the brand and thinking of that site.

Queen Elizabeth Hall 
It was really tough coming up with what was unique about the non-Royal Festival Hall section of the Southbank Centre.  Everyone knows that their site is unique and distinctive but actually putting your finger on the specific qualities that make them this way is pretty hard but we came up with a fair number of qualities from architecture to exhibits.

The Spirit of Place can then be used in decision making, held up as the standard to which everything must conform and it means that everyone is signed up to the same objective.  It isn't always something that you create but the Spirit of Place can be influenced by outside factors, those things that make you unique.  It can then be used to spark oral history projects or inspire artists to create new work.

A view of the NT I have never seen before
I began thinking about how useful it would be to have a Spirit of Place document for the NT.  It is something that is very helpful to have in place before a funding bid is made to ensure that all projects are coming from the same direction and appealing to the correct audiences.  A Spirit of Place statement would really help with the interpretation strategy for exhibitions, for example, and help inform the selection of exhibition topics going forward.  It sounds like a good multi-purpose statement and is a great way to get everyone thinking in a similar way about your institution.

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