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Edinburgh World Heritage/News/First international Heritage Leadership School completed in Edinburgh

First international Heritage Leadership School completed in Edinburgh

21st December 2018

Gaby Laing

It might have been a Christmas miracle. After months of planning and preparation, battles with pull-up banners, playing Tetris with speaking slots in Excel schedules, hurriedly learning the Turkish for ‘December’, ‘lunch’ and ‘workshop’*, not to mention our plane of delegates’ unscheduled diversion to Manchester on a foggy Sunday night when we really needed them to be in Edinburgh, we delivered the first Heritage Leadership School (HLS) as part of the KORU project.

The HLS is a key part of our KORU project in south-east Turkey. Working with local partners Kültürel Mirası Koruma Derneği (KMKD) and funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, the project’s aims are to document buildings at risk in the region, develop heritage conservation skills among local communities, support energy efficiency in historic buildings while also conserving and re-using a historic building in Mardin as a demonstration.  

Exchanging ideas in heritage management between cultures is a key aspect of KORU and the HLS was a perfect opportunity to see this in action. International Programme Manager Krzysztof Chuchra said, ‘this week of training supported the development of the leadership skills of the next generation of heritage leaders in Turkey. It was also a great opportunity for us to learn from our Turkish partners and grow our international network through the promotion of Scotland’s expertise in urban conservation’.

The specific aim of the HLS was to teach the leadership skills required for undertaking heritage projects, through a series of lectures, case studies and workshops to an important group of young Turkish heritage professionals. We feel this was a particularly relevant exercise in today’s current climate of scepticism surrounding international collaboration. Even though hosting the HLS might seem like a drop in the ocean in showing how well different communities can learn from each other, it was a significant moment for the City of Edinburgh, and for the heritage sector.



The objectives for the HLS were all met: to have delegates learn techniques to develop a vision for a project; to identify and implement methods and tools to carry out their vision; to get the most out of their team and individuals’ strengths; to develop an effective engagement strategy; and to be able to confidently present their vision. With the participants selected from KORU training schools run in Mardin throughout 2018, the students were able the build upon and showcase knowledge they had gained throughout the year. They will be able to take this information back with them to help in the broader heritage sector in Turkey. As Banu Pekol of KMKD states, ‘The HLS was an exceptional opportunity for a group of actors in heritage preservation to listen to experts and join workshops that broadened their perspective and enriched their knowledge. We believe that all participants in the HLS left Edinburgh having set new, higher standards set for their work. Our aim is that they will set an exemplar through their work in cultural preservation and guide others in stewardship towards global cultural heritage.’

After a much-needed lie-in on Monday morning, all 39 of our Turkish delegates arrived at Riddles Court in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, fresh-faced and ready to become the heritage leaders of tomorrow. Riddles Court was the perfect venue for our school: it is a wonderful example of a sensitive and stunning conservation of a historic building. And it boasts the most accessible toilet you will ever visit – complete with the actual oven used to prepare King James VI’s banquet in 1598. You can find out more about Riddles Court here.

The Heritage Leadership Model (based on the Four E’s Model developed by the CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, but given our own spin) was introduced over the week. The days focused on a different E: envisioning; enabling; energising; and executing. In the morning, delegates listened to a wide range of talks and presentations which expanded on the day’s E theme. Talks included a showcase of EWH’s own work surrounding capacity building, audience development, financial leadership and public realm projects; inclusive governance in tourism; the importance of sustainability; and several case studies of community-led heritage regeneration projects, among much else.

Delegates discover David Hume’s luck big toe

Throughout the week the delegates were given a task to complete focussing on the issue of sustainability in the World Heritage Site. Delegates were split into groups and asked to come up with a new vision for the Tron Kirk, the iconic building ‘at risk’ in the heart of the Royal Mile and currently home to EWH’s ‘Our World Heritage’ exhibition. Afternoon workshops on such things as defining a vision, engagement strategies and team building helped to put skills into practice, and guided their thinking about their own Tron project.

For many of our delegates, this was not only their first time to the Scottish capital, but also their first time out of Turkey. To help them get to know the city, we developed an urban bingo game based on 101 Objects. Players had to plot their own route around Old Town, finding specific objects along the way such as the bust of Patrick Geddes and David Hume’s lucky toe, whilst keeping their eyes peeled for such things as bagpipes, tartan, repurposed historic buildings, and even the Loch Ness Monster…

The whole week was an important success. The delegates came up with some fantastic ideas for the Tron, using their creativity but also employing the skills they learned over the week to make sure they focused on issues such as funding and sustainable resources. One idea put forward was emphasising the Tron as a meeting point in the city, providing a place to sit and pause amid the bustle of the Royal Mile. Interestingly, every group highlighted the importance of the public realm by including ideas for the regeneration of Hunter Square, reminding us that a place is made not just by a building but also the space around it.

The International Projects team at EWH look forward to hosting the next HLS in the near future. We would like to extend our thanks to all staff, speakers, and students for being such wonderful colleagues over the week, and months beforehand.

*And for those of you wondering, the Turkish for December is Aralık; lunch is öğle yemeği; and workshop is atölye.

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