Inclusive heritage conference

A snapshot of two HLF-funded projects: RSPB Minsmere and the Foundling Museum
The Inclusive Heritage conference in October 2015 brought together an invited audience of heritage and disability leaders to explore inclusive heritage.

The conference marked 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act was passed, and focused on current achievements and improvements for the future. It challenged delegates to address the under-representation of disabled people in shaping, visiting and working within heritage.

The results of this debate will help inform our work and encourage more ambitious sector partnerships in the future.

“We must raise the bar when it comes to making our heritage more inclusive.” Sir Peter Luff, HLF Chair

Two examples of excellent inclusive practice - RSPB Minsmere and the Foundling Museum - featured in a film shown at the conference. Both these places, with projects funded by HLF, demonstrate that true access is achieved by making every visitor feel welcomed and able to fully participate.


Sir Peter Luff, HLF Chair, introduced the conference. He explained that inclusive heritage is one of our most important aspirations: ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to be involved in the UK's heritage.

Dr Tom Shakespeare, Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia, delivered the key note speech, ‘State of the Disability Nation’, reminding us that, throughout history, disabled people have inspired change.

“In a rapidly changing world, disabled people are the experts in readjustment.” Dr Tom Shakespeare, Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia

Esther Fox, Head of the Accentuate Programme, spoke of the necessity to ’Think Big’ in achieving ambitious, disability-led heritage projects.


Delegates took part in a series of five workshops, each looking at different aspects of inclusivity in heritage:

  1. Broadening engagement with heritage
  2. Heritage access
  3. Social history of disability
  4. Inclusive communication
  5. Tate Modern gallery workshop

Inclusive Heritage outcomes

The key message from the conference was that 'everyone has a right to their own heritage'. As part of the conference, all delegates were asked to share an individual or organisational action to improve inclusive heritage.

  • Gus Garside from Carousel, an organisation supporting learning disabled artists, pledged “to encourage new ways of enabling people with learning disabilities to become leaders, planners and trainers in the heritage sector”
  • Visit England pledged to “gather and share real stories of how inclusive tourism experiences enhance lives”
  • Lizzie Guntrip, a freelance campaigner, pledged “to raise a greater awareness of the diversity of acessible practice and to champion places that are working to be fully inclusive”
  • The Woodland Trust pledged to “consider how we can make our woodlands more accessible – both physically and digitally”

And there were many more.

Carole Souter, HLF Chief Executive, closed the day with her reflections of what she had heard and shared her own pledge.

Read Carole's pledges, and share your thoughts on inclusive engagement with heritage, in our Online Community.

Q&A panel at Inclusive Heritage conference
Dancers from Corali dance company performing on stage at the Inclusive Heritage conference
HLF Chief Executive Carole Souter meets delegates and speakers
Inclusive Heritage pledges
Inclusive Heritage pledge cards
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