Largest Ever Commonwealth Heritage Programme Launches To Boost Skills And Rejuvenate Heritage Buildings Across The Commonwealth

The Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme – the largest ever Commonwealth heritage project – will be launched tonight by the Hamish Ogston Foundation and the Commonwealth Heritage Forum. The charities have been granted the rare honour of naming the five-year programme in honour of the Sovereign, thus recognising Her Majesty’s seventy years of service to the peoples of the Commonwealth.

The programme, to be launched at Marlborough House, home of the Commonwealth Secretariat, in the presence of Baroness Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, will help Commonwealth countries to develop the range of specialist skills needed to protect valuable heritage sites. Over an initial five-year period, the programme will build capacity across the Commonwealth by training up to 600 people in a wide range of heritage skills from stonemasonry and joinery to mud brick and thatch. Through targeted on-site training projects, it will help to secure the future of up to twenty important, but threatened buildings and places across the Commonwealth. 

With £4.5m in funding provided by the Hamish Ogston Foundation, the Commonwealth Heritage Skills programme will be delivered by both UK and international partners, including The Prince’s Foundation, the World Monuments Fund India and an international network of educational institutions. One of the first initiatives will be bursaries at The Prince’s Foundation Summer School enabling trainees from different Commonwealth countries to develop their knowledge and understanding of traditional architecture, design and building techniques, and how these can be applied in the 21st century to repair and conserve historic buildings at risk. Other opportunities will include MA scholarships at The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, Commonwealth training fellowships and online courses covering up to twenty core heritage skills.

The initial focus will be on the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent with countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Barbados and India benefiting in the first tranche of projects supported. Trainees are already undertaking crucial restoration work under expert supervision on three historic gateways at the Osmania University College for Women in Hyderabad, India. Later phases of the programme will be extended to cover Commonwealth countries in Africa, Australasia, the Far East and the Pacific.

Amita Baig, Executive Director at the World Monuments Fund India and John Darlington, Executive Director at the World Monuments Fund Britain:As two of the World Monuments Fund Commonwealth affiliates (India & Britain) we are delighted be key partners in an inaugural conservation project for the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training programme. Funded entirely by the Hamish Ogston Foundation and managed by the Commonwealth Heritage Forum, this pioneering project involves the repair and restoration of the three monumental gateways at the Osmania University College for Women in Hyderabad (once the former British Residency), as well as the reinstatement of its grand axial central Mall. Six UK trainees will have the opportunity to join ten local apprentices working alongside each other to learn a range of specialist heritage skills.”

Robert Bargery, Heritage Project Director at the Hamish Ogston Foundation: “The Hamish Ogston Foundation is proud to be funding this unique programme in honour of Her Majesty The Queen, whose dedication to duty over seventy years is repaid with the respect and affection of Commonwealth peoples across the world.  We are delighted to be providing, in Her Majesty’s name, training opportunities for young people that will stand them in good stead for sustainable careers and enable them to contribute to the preservation of historic buildings of real value to their communities.” 

Philip Davies, the Chairman and Founder of the Commonwealth Heritage Forum: “Supporting heritage training and building local capacity in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities, our Commonwealth Heritage Skills programme will make a real difference. By creating the heritage champions of the future, we will help local people save the buildings and places they value generating unprecedented opportunities to enhance heritage skills, create jobs and build a more sustainable future.”   

Simon Sadinsky, Executive Director of The Prince’s Foundation: “As a champion of heritage craft skills, The Prince’s Foundation is proud to support The Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme, an exciting collaboration between the Hamish Ogston Foundation and the Commonwealth Heritage Forum.”

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