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Get into Heritage at Birling Gap

Get into Heritage (GiH) was a partnership between the National Trust at Birling Gap, Wakehurst Place, and Weald and Downland Living Museum. The project aimed to increase access for people with learning disabilities to heritage sites through developing creative strategies to help people connect with each site.

Activity was led by artist, Anne Colvin, with staff from each of the partner organisations. It forms part of our Arts Connect programme for learning disabled adults.

Objectives

  • To open up heritage sites to people with learning disabilities and their carers, building confidence and enthusiasm to support future visits
  • To build skills with staff and volunteers at each site to support ongoing relationships and provision for learning disabled adults
  • To share the learning from the project through resources, dissemination at events targeted at the heritage and social care sector

Who was involved?

  • Artist: Anne Colvin
  • Staff and volunteers at Birling Gap
  • Culture Shift staff
  • Groups and individuals local to each site

What happened?

The programme ran over 5 weeks in March and April 2018 and there were 12 participants.

Activities were structured around the concept of ‘Walk, Talk, Make’, where participants were guided to notice things in the environment, ask questions and investigate their surroundings, and then explore their experiences through creative activities.

They walked on the beach and examined found objects (both natural and man-made), looked at birds and other wildlife using binoculars. They walked to the Belle Tout lighthouse, and volunteered with conservation activities in the meadow.

Each member of the group collated their creative work from the 5 week course into a scrapbook to take home – a wonderful souvenir of their time at Birling Gap.

Culture Shift, in partnership with Birling Gap and Anne Colvin, have produced a set of resources for use by groups of learning disabled visitors and their carers.

These are available to download here:

How to use Birling Gap Get into Heritage resources

Birling Gap Get into Heritage Resources

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Reflections on the project

All the participants have left happy and smiley every session I attended. It’s been a fantastic opportunity for us to share this beautiful & unique place and all it has to offer to some lovely people. It’s clear everyone involved has enjoyed themselves!

Conservation ranger, Birling Gap

Everyone seemed to embrace the practical work we’ve done – raking up bramble, building up the chalk gabions, weaving yarn in the gardens. It’s great to get people actively involved so they feel part of the work we do here. Sharing experiences has also been great.

Conservation ranger, Birling Gap

It’s nice to meet new people, it makes a change. We have had fun. We prefer doing things in a group, it’s better than being on your own. You can talk to people. We picked up litter – it’s more fun in a group, lots of laughing, it’s more interesting with other people.

Participants

The sea is rough. There is a lighthouse, Visitor Centre, restaurant, garden, beach, green fields and a meadow. It’s not a boring place. We would like to come again and cut the grass and cut the brambles down with a strimmer. We would like to have a job here, like a job in the lighthouse. I think the best thing is the Lighthouse. We both like being outside best.

Participants

This work has been shared at two Get Connected events in Chichester and Haywards Heath and with the Sussex and Surrey Museum Learning Network.

Get into Heritage was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Eastbourne Borough Council.