Try Storytelling Old Style; History and Nostalgia Are Big Business in the Fast-Paced 21st Century. Karen Dent Discovers Why Trading on the Past Is Good News for the Region's Economy
Byline: Karen Dent
MORE than seven out of 10 adults in the North East visited a historic site of some sort in the region last year and more than nine out of 10 reckon it's important to save our heritage for future generations.
The statistics come from the Heritage Counts report, an annual snapshot of the region's historical landscape carried out by the North East Historic Environment Forum.
An in-depth exploration of what the heritage industry means for the regional economy hasn't been carried out since 2005, when analysts estimated that around 7,345 North East jobs depended on people's thirst for nostalgia.
That report, An Economic, Social and Cultural Impact Assessment of Heritage in the North East, also suggested that the heritage sector generated more than pounds 47m of direct spending in the region during 2002-3.
Most of this came from the six million-plus visitors to historic attractions, who helped pump a total of pounds 180m into the wider regional economy - representing around 17% of the total tourist spend in the North East.
Museums, libraries and archives directly employ more than 2,000 North East workers.
One of the biggest heritage employers is Beamish Museum near Stanley, which has around 230 people on its books at the height of its season.
The open air museum, which has an annual budget of pounds 3m and 300 acres of grounds, is aiming to retain more staff during the off-peak season by opening for 12 months of the year for first time in 2009. The museum is normally closed just after the October half-term holiday and then again between December and early January.
During that period, the museum's town would usually be opened up specifically for school groups.
But Beamish director Richard Evans said: "We are working to keep Beamish open all year round. We've got a large number of events.
"From mid-November to January, there is a large Christmas event which we have never done before - it's the story of Christmas over the years. "We won't be closed other than Christmas Day.
"We know we now need to attract more people in the non-peak and Christmas period. It's something that we've been looking to develop more and more.
"We've run special Christmas events in the past and they've been oversubscribed. We'll keep more people employed and bring more money into the local economy." Mr Evans, who took up the top job at Beamish last year when he moved from being director of South Yorkshire's Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust, says there had been concerns that the plummeting economy would impact on visitor numbers this year. …