I see from the local pseudo-media (see http://www.isleofman.com/News/details/57597/heritage-centre-explores-history-of-the-north ) that the Ramsey Heritage Centre is now “officially” open.
Apart from being untrue (it has hardly ever been open to the public since the first time a local dignitary opened it, and hardly ever will be) this begs a question. Why bother taking away a perfectly good contemporary community facility in order to build a mausoleum based on some ageing Rotarian’s Prozac-addled vision of what it used to be?
The excuse is that it will be a tourist attraction and an educational facility. Totally untrue on both counts.
If there was ever a market for this (and current thinking is that it vanished in the mid 1990’s) it was the Woopy (‘well off older person’). Under current economic conditions that market is deader than the dodo.
With final salary pensions gone for most and pension values decimated the only older people well off enough to visit the Isle of Man are also able to, say, cruise down the Rhine or go on photo-safaris in South Africa. Why would they visit ‘heritage exhibitions’ of communities which, by their greed, they played a major part in destroying?
To gloat? Even geriatric Thatcherites aren’t that sick!
Most will be familiar with the saying “history is written by the victors” (which implies that such history is somewhat subjective). The heritage industry, in comparison, is market-driven history written for the losers. It would not exist unless some bean-counter had calculated that enough losers would pay to view exhibitions portraying a somewhat sepia-tinted vision of past communities which misdirect the blame for their demise onto outside elements (venal foreign manufacturers and evil multinationals, etc. etc.). This is just so much bunkum.
The irony is that the vanished Ramsey it mourns was destroyed by the plans of the very Rotarians and political interests which now proudly claim credit for the heritage centre. The terraced houses and small shops vanished to make way for the first multi-storey flats, intended not for locals but first as holiday flats for wealthy tourists (just as the price of jetting off to Greece or Spain tumbled and the traditional British seaside trade vanished), and then for retiring Brits who might like to escape from the dreary, overtaxed UK (but who quickly discovered that they could retire to sunny Spain for far less). The small shops vanished because government chose, instead of tax breaks or grants for refurbishment to local retailers, to give development grants and tax holidays to the offshore finance firms who are now ‘regrouping’ in other offshore locations when such cash incentives are gone and higher standards of financial supervision are being introduced.
It also has to be said that racism is a subtle undertone throughout the heritage industry. This is a ‘history’ favoured by dispossessed elderly white people because it turns on photographs of houses, streets and businesses in which no black faces are seen. It edits out Empire (except as a source of fortunes for enterprising white people or the cheap goods from the semi-slave conditions in the Empire country farms and factories they were enabled to run). It quietly misdirects the blame for the disappearance of such a mythical community onto the aggressive tactics of ‘foreign business interests’.
Most ironically, in modern Ramsey such elderly locals are not even cared for by their own families, but by carers from other countries. Because in reality the community and family values such exhibitions claim to celebrate and encourage do not exist now, any more than they did in the times of the sepia tinted photographs, and the conservative business and political interests which dismantle our current community while underwriting this myth factory must know that.