Letter: Heritage Britain is not a 'fiction'

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The Independent Online
Sir: When Frank Barrett writes of the 'mythical image' of Britain as a land of castles, stately homes and thatched cottages, and calls this a 'piece of fiction', one has to ask what image of the 'real Britain' (his term) he would present to those who might want to come here. Industrial estates, sprawling suburbs, uniform high streets, caravan parks?

The millions of us who live and work among stately homes, castles and cottages and in the gloriously diverse countryside that is still one of Britain's greatest treasures know that all this is neither mythical nor stultifying but an uplifting background to everyday life.

And when we talk to the many Dutch, German, Belgian and French tourists who come to this corner of England with their National Trust cards and foreign guidebooks (which highlight the very attractions that Mr Barrett categorises as 'fiction'), we find they value all this very highly.

I have a letter in front of me which was left in our village church the other day. It starts: 'We are a couple of German pianists who love English country towns, villages, churches and country houses, gardens and parks (are NT members) and would like to offer you our music . . .'

Hundreds of such cultural exchanges take place throughout Britain. And when one sees the huge numbers of foreigners in our art galleries, concert halls and theatres, how can one accept the idea that the foreign image of Britain is seriously hurt by the heritage industry?

Yours faithfully,

ROGER COOMBS

Goudhurst,

Kent

19 June

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