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Reflections from Finland

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Collecting our award for Project SAMPHIRE
 
We were delighted to announce recently that one of our flagship marine heritage projects, Project SAMPHIRE had been awarded the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards 2017 in the category of Education, Training and Awareness building. 
 
Wessex Archaeology’s Chris Brayne (Chief Executive) and Dan Atkinson (Director) have just returned from the European Heritage Congress 2017 in Turku, Finland where, alongside John McCarthy (former Manager for SAMPHIRE) from Flinders University in Australia, they together received the highly prestigious award. 
 
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Here are their experiences of their weekend in Turku
 
Finland rolled out under the wing of our small aeroplane as a patchwork of closely packed islets, shining lakes and endless forest – more like its map than any other country in the world. In early May, winter was just about over and the sky was a clear pale blue but spring was still waiting to be sure of its footing. 
 
The first day of the Congress, held in a converted ropeworks by the river, consisted of project presentations from all thirty Laureates, and we talked to Europa Nostra representatives about the work of their organisation. We learned more about the individual project achievements and started to understand how such remarkable initiatives are developed, how they are funded and how the teams work to deliver real social impact. 
 
John McCarthy presented SAMPHIRE at the end of a very long, but very rewarding day. The presentation highlighted the project’s innovative approach to community engagement and applauded the hard work of the project team and the individuals and communities on the west coast of Scotland who gave their time and knowledge so freely to the project. 
 
John commented:
It was a great honour to be considered alongside such fantastic projects, and the success of our project is due to the participation of maritime communities and the flexibility of the Crown Estate funding that allowed the project to develop in such an effective way. It is also great that a maritime project such as SAMPHIRE has helped to raise the awareness for this important cultural heritage resource among coastal communities, and to encourage the stewardship of their heritage.
 
The evening of the second day was crowned by the awards ceremony at the beautiful St Michael’s Church in Turku where Chris was honoured to receive the award on behalf of the project team. Guests were also treated to some amazing operatic performances and an address by the President of Europa Nostra, Maestro Placido Domingo. 
3434 Europa Nostra / Felix Quaedvlieg https://www.flickr.com/photos/europanostra/34019068954/
 
As part of Chris’s acceptance speech, he commented:
The SAMPHIRE team struck a deal with the communities they visited. They traded technical expertise and professional capabilities for local knowledge and traditional skills. Together they built a resource which will continue to provide value for the community and for academics on into the future. To find ourselves selected to receive this award is humbling but wonderful and will be a source of encouragement to maintain the momentum on this and other projects. It has been genuinely inspirational to experience the level of recognition and value placed on cultural heritage by our colleges across the European Union
 
The evening finished with a gala dinner at the Castle of Turku where surprised guests were met with flaming torches and trumpet fanfares from the tower windows. Champagne and a dinner of reindeer, potatoes and lingonberries was accompanied by a string quartet and a thousand-year-old vocal lament in old Finnish – enhanced (as these things should always be) with an interpretation in contemporary dance. It was quite a night.
 
Full acknowledgement for the achievement must go to the SAMPHIRE team and to those individuals and communities from the west coast of Scotland; and to the Crown Estate for funding the project. Congratulations must also be extended to all the prize winners, and to Europa Nostra for putting together such an engaging and successful event. A local award ceremony will also be held in Edinburgh in the near future to celebrate this achievement. The standard has been set.
 
What the jury said about SAMPHIRE
 
In awarding the prize to project SAMPHIRE the jury stated:
This project was not just a survey but also contributed to identity building in these West Scottish communities and encouraged the participants to act as stewards of their heritage. It has had a far reaching and long lasting effect in inspiring consciousness of heritage sites and, impressively, informing fishing practices where known drowned heritage assets are located. SAMPHIRE’s methodology has a great degree of transferability and is an excellent model for similar sites throughout Europe.
 
A major part of this project’s success was the community’s choice of their own ‘local champion’, giving ownership of the heritage to these local communities. The project gave these participants the skills and confidence to participate in a major archaeological project which may otherwise have been viewed as being in the inaccessible domain of specialists
 
Other award categories included Conservation, Research, and Dedicated Service which recognised excellence in heritage projects from throughout Europe.
 
 
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