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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

“Oh no it isn’t!” - Panto set to be formally recognised as UK joins UNESCO Convention

May McFetridge on the stage in panto at Grand Opera House, Belfast

Communities across the UK will be able to nominate their most cherished local traditions to be included in a new register of cultural heritage in the UK.

Festive favourites, such as pantomime, carol-singing and the art of making a Christmas wreath could all be formally recognised – as could others from throughout the year, such sea shanties, cèilidh and calligraphy.

Seasonal celebrations taking place at Patron Saints’ days, Hogmanay, Burns Night, Shrove Tuesday, and the Welsh tradition of holding Eisteddfodau, where all cultural activities including singing and spoken word are conducted in the Welsh language, could also be included.

Traditions that are central to the rich tapestry which makes up the UK’s many cultures and identity – from Highland dancing to bagpipe playing, cheese-rolling and the male voice choirs of the Welsh valleys – are expected to also be put forward for a UK-wide official inventory. This could also include traditions brought to the UK by immigrant communities, such as Notting Hill Carnival and steel-drumming.

Artisanal crafts such as basket-weaving, thatching and the arts of creating tartan and tweed, as well as the practitioners of these traditions, will also be considered.

It comes as the UK Government has confirmed its intention to ratify the 2003 UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which seeks to protect the crafts, practices, and traditions which are recognised as being key part of national life and providing a sense of identity to communities across the UK.

These practices are often also referred to as ‘intangible cultural heritage’ or ‘living heritage’ and are inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants.

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said:

"The UK is rich in traditions which are passed down from generation to generation.

"These crafts, customs, and celebrations have helped to shape our communities and bring people together, who continue to shape them in turn.

"In ratifying this Convention, we will be able to celebrate treasured traditions from every corner of the UK, support the people who practise them, and ensure they are passed down for future generations to enjoy."

By ratifying the Convention, the UK Government will be able to recognise our most important crafts and traditions in the same way as we have considered our physical heritage sites such as the Giant’s Causeway, Fountains Abbey, and the Tower of London.

As intangible cultural heritage can only be considered as such when it is recognised by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and share it, it will be these groups and people who will be able to nominate the UK’s cherished traditions to be formally recognised.

A public consultation launched today will seek the public’s views on the UK Government’s proposed approach to implementing the Convention across the UK to safeguard valued traditions. This will include the approach to how people will be able to nominate traditions, how they will be adjudicated, and any criteria that the nominated practices will need to meet before they are considered.

The UK Government has been working closely with the Devolved Administrations, the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories in the run up to this decision, and will continue to do so in order to implement the Convention and collate the UK-wide inventory, which is expected to launch for nominations next year.

Minister of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker said:

"Northern Ireland has a rich culture, and I welcome this initiative to enable communities to nominate what matters to them for recognition.

"This is a great opportunity to ensure the UK’s cultural heritage is preserved for the benefit of future generations."

• Further details on the public consultation can be found here.

• Responses to this consultation will need to be provided by the end of February.

• Further details of the 2003 Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage here.


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