“Renewable” traditions for the rebirth of wealth and local identity
Mills have represented the center of European economies for centuries, with a boom of installations in the XI century. Mainly belonging to ecclesiastical and municipal entities, some structures have remained more or less intact until today – even if their activity has ceased – thanks to the commitment of families who have handed down, from generation to generation, the milling tradition.
In England, the Mill of Carlisle dates back to 1169. Even today, the building and its machineries tell their own story thanks to the combined efforts of researchers, locals, municipalities, and non-profits, most notably the Culture Trust.1 This team of actors has demonstrated that changing the approach is essential to recover a structure of historic interest which, at that time, was inscribed in the National Register of Heritage in Danger.
Perceiving cultural heritage not only as an object but also as a real contribution to the economy, environment, and community is the first step (the sensitization and training of local powers). The second, following a well-structured Business Plan. The final, sensitizing communities to tangible and intangible heritage by making them actively involved in the regeneration process. Not observers, but actors; not only informed but, above all, engaged.
After restoration and securing operations, Carlisle Mill’s blades spun again in April 2019. Thanks to a “community-volunteer system” assisted by experienced NGOs, the Mill was operating and, already in the fall 2019, activities re-started. New job opportunities have arisen as well as several educational offers such as courses in traditional baking, heritage and renewable energy engineering, and history of local traditions.2
The Re-Cultural Heritage project, partnered by Glocal Factory, matches into this frame. Revitalizing rural heritage cannot be limited to conservation and restoration activities. Rather, rural realities – both buildings and open spaces – must be reused in a sustainable way, drawing from the intangible elements connected to them. This is how the recovery of traditional know-hows – as essential components of the intangible heritage – ends up creating cultural, social, economic, and environmental value.
Innovative approaches based on heritage awareness, trainings in its valorization, and active engagement of local administrators and communities should be adopted widely. In line with SDG 11 of the 2030 Agenda,3 the Re-Cultural Heritage project perceives rural heritage as the ultimate goal but also the resource to provide historical continuity and new employment opportunities to those communities residing in lands where identity values are endless but, until now, have never been adequately valorized.