chapter  6
21 Pages

Don’t mourn organise: heritage, recognition and memory in Castleford, West Yorkshire: Laurajane Smith and Gary Campbell


Self-respect is a key issue in the study of heritage and class. As Andrew Sayer (2007: 94) notes, shame is a powerful emotion associated with class and is a response to the imagined or actual views of others. Class still matters, it defines the sorts of access people have to certain economic and material resources, and it ‘affects how others value us and respond to us, which in turn affects our sense of self-worth’ (Sayer 2005:1). This chapter, drawing on interviews conducted in the West Yorkshire, ex-coal-mining town of Castleford between 2003 and 2009, illustrates the ways in which ‘heritage’ has been used to assert self-worth and self-respect at both individual and community levels. In this context, heritage is used not only as a tool for collective remembering, but also in self-conscious and critical ways for negotiating and defining the social and moral values that underpin and define the cultural identity of a working class community. In the face of de-industrialisation and the disastrous aftermath of the

1984-85 Miners’ Strike, Castleford’s identity as a mining town has been redefined. It is now a town commonly identified by what it has lost: it has become an ‘ex-mining community’. In negotiating a new identity for Castleford, and in reasserting community self-respect and self-recognition, resident and community action groups have used and redefined ‘heritage’ in ways that question the legitimacy of dominant and authorised definitions of the term. In exploring the uses of heritage in Castleford, this chapter develops three aims. First, it outlines how ideas and discourses of ‘heritage’ are used in community debates and negotiations about what it meant to live in de-industrialised Castleford. Second, the chapter illustrates the linkages between these notions of ‘heritage’ and trade union legacies to argue that, after the defeat of the unions by the then conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in 1985, ‘heritage’ has taken on an ‘organizing’ role in the Castleford community. Finally, we discuss how the first two issues can illuminate attempts to theorise heritage as a cultural practice. In particular, we demonstrate how understandings of heritage in Castleford exist in opposition to the ‘authorized heritage discourse’ (AHD), and the implications of this for the development of a democratic sense of what heritage is, or can be.