Flo Bird, Founder of the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust and founder member of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation was a surprise guest speaker at the 17th annual symposium of the Heritage Association of South Africa held at Heidelberg last week. Flo’s speech was given at the remarkable NZASM constructed Heidelberg Station.
Flo’s task was to draw on her experiences gathered over a lifetime of commitment and campaigning. Her message was one of support and solidarity for the Heidelberg Heritage Association as the organisation sets out on the battle to save the town’s heritage.
Flo’s advice and message was drawn from her 46 years of fighting the cause of heritage in Johannesburg. It provides a useful checklist for all heritage warriors.
1) Make your list – Top heritage sites
It starts with your own idea of just what you believe is important and want to save. Later some experts will suggest other items, but begin with the ones that mean a lot to you. It takes passion to save the heritage and especially passion to stay the course. Is one in any danger right now? If so, that tops your list.
AG Visser House makes the list (The Heritage Portal)
2) Document these sites and buildings
The facts you gather are the weapons you will need. When was it built, for whom and by whom, what important people or events are associated with it? What legal status does it have now? Is it a Provincial Heritage Site? (if it was a National Monument then it is now a Provincial Heritage Site). Is it more than 60 years old? (this means it is protected by Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act). How can you prove its age? You must have the facts because your opponents will certainly try to use them against you.
Get people to know the heritage site and understand its significance.
3.1 The symposium is a brilliant initiative: You have taken the first step by hosting the symposium in Heidelberg. This proves that the heritage is valued by a much wider group than your local association. Ask the organisations involved in HASA for letters of support.
3.2 School tours and inclusivity: Offer tours to schools and other community organisations. For school groups make it as exciting as possible so that they talk about it to their parents. Be very careful NOT to be sectional about heritage. It must be everyone’s heritage. We are all South Africans and good or bad we share this heritage.
3.3 Fun Events: Arrange events to focus on this heritage site. Do a ghost tour, but don’t take it too seriously.
3.4 Media involvement: Get the media on your side. You have already had coverage from the local newspapers. How much coverage can you get on Radio and which radio stations can you approach?
3.5 Local support is vital: Are there any local organisations o