Do more for our heritage, States are told

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On the eve of leaving Jersey for a top UK post, Michael Day fired a broadside at the States, suggesting that they should make heritage and culture a political priority and occupy their time on what really matters.He believes that much time has been wasted on ill-informed debate, particularly on the Mont Orgueil project.

‘Those two debates were the first time the States had debated the Jersey Heritage Trust, and what it’s for and what it does, in ten years,’ he said.Speaking to the Jersey Evening Post before he left the Island to become chief executive of Historic Royal Palaces in London, and soon after warning that the Heritage Trust faced a cash crisis, Mr Day said Members would better occupy their time considering what really matters.’The issues the States should be getting to grips with, and what’s more important, is an expert strategy for the Island’s heritage and culture.’Education, Sport and Culture have, in fact, recently begun a strategic review of the Island’s arts, culture and heritage.Referring to the two States debates earlier this year on the controversial £3 million States-funded castle restoration – Deputy Gerard Baudains’ projet to reconstitute the trust, and later Deputy Roy Le Hérissier’s move to bring in yet more independent advice – Mr Day said both left him amazed and dispirited.’With some notable and honourable exceptions, I have rarely listened to so much ill-informed comment coming from a group of people who purport to be a government.

I thought it was extraordinary that the States should devote so much time to those issues when the really important issues they should be debating, in relation to the heritage of the Island, are how does Jersey continue to sustain its heritage sites and all the good work the trust does.’Most of the speakers had no knowledge of the facts; that was amazing and dispiriting given the track record this organisation has.

What was said was simply not true and opinions were voiced as fact – I can’t even begin to speculate about the motive for it.

It’s right that the activities and work of the trust should be open to scrutiny but only on the basis of proper appraisal of the facts rather than through opinions and prejudice masquerading as fact.

I thought it spoke eloquently about some of the issues the Island faces generally.’However, Mr Day did not feel it was all doom and gloom.

The trust may be forced by the Island’s belt tightening and falling visitor numbers to cut its services, but he felt his 16 years in Jersey had helped to change attitudes to heritage.He said: ‘What I’m really proud about is we built this great organisation practically from scratch.

It existed before but with not much of a life.

With the wonderful contribution of the trustees, the staff and volunteers we made something very special for the Island.

The Heritage Trust has done great work to provide an extraordinary range of services which are very valuable for Jersey.

It needs cherishing and what will actually matter in the long term will be the political will.

This is a very strong organisation which will go on to other great things I am sure.’

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