Friday, 12 October 2012

Shock Horror - Students Talk Sense!

Hope pub
Hope for us all?  (this one in Smithfield)
Hat's off and a resounding three cheers to the group of Kingston University architecture students who have submitted a proposal to UNESCO to grant World Heritage status for the London Public House as a "type".

"When you talk about a special pub and what's unique about it, it suddenly seems a bit futile to only protect the physical elements of the building, without thinking of who uses it and for what," says tutor David Knight, who oversaw an army of 435 students compiling a survey of 87 distinctive or typical London pubs, including one-minute Lumière-style films.

 "Hopefully our survey can start to describe more than just the physical things, or rather understand how they relate to occupation and the needs of the pub's community," he says.
"For example, it could be that the loss of an upstairs function room has a catastrophic effect on a pub which is used by community groups for meetings, wedding receptions, and so on. Accordingly, our research captures extraordinary examples but it also aims to try and describe the typical, or generic qualities of 'London pub-ness' which might influence policy."

The London pub, and I would venture a good many in the rest of the country are deeply embedded in this country's cultural identity and of immense social and economic value. What a shame that so many are still closing on a permanent basis to be replaced with convenience stores and residential developments.

To make it on to such an august list, the heritage subject must meet a range or criteria in the assessment of Outstanding Universal Value, which include "representing a masterpiece of human creative genius", "containing superlative natural phenomena", "exhibiting an important interchange of human values", and "bearing a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition".

There is no doubt that the great British pub, whether in the capital or not, is a work of genius, exhibits an invaluable medium for the "interchange of human values" and undoubtedly provides "exceptional testimony" to our rich "cultural tradition". The 350 page submission has been sent to the Department for Culture Media and Science and I sincerely hope it is taken up … maybe one government department at least will formally recognise what the rest of the country do, that pubs in all their guises and locations are an integral part of UK life, UK culture, UK plc … and then, just maybe, other departments such as the Treasury will take note and start giving our much benighted industry a break.

With thanks to Oliver Wainwright in the Guardian for bringing this to my attention, as he says " If Viennese coffee house culture has made the list, surely our humble London pub can too."

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