Culture and Heritage

The cause of Wessex goes beyond just a demand for devolution; it also includes nurturing its diverse culture and promoting that culture as a recognisable symbol of what it means to be “of Wessex”.

The whole point of advocating for a WESSEX Region instead of just going along with a South West or South East Region is that Wessex has its own identity, rooted in its history and cultural traditions; a range of characteristics that make it unique, different, special.  Those differences, whether in accent, food, history, monuments, climate, landscape or seascape, mark Wessex out from the rest of England and Britain.

We reject the idea that what it means to be Wessaxon is defined by ancestry or genetics. Rather, it is a sense of connectedness to the place in which one lives.

The people of Wessex have a duty to future generations to foster our cultural traditions and teach our history. Our identity matters and must be protected. This means developing measures throughout the school curriculum to protect cultural traditions in Wessex.  Little of the history and culture of Wessex is taught in our schools.  It is not uncommon for children to leave school ignorant of the fact that they live in Wessex.  

Wessex dialect is, perhaps, the most obvious marker of Wessaxon identity.  Opportunities must be available to all who wish to develop their knowledge of it.  Those who speak with a strong Wessex accent should not be expected to hide it and there must be no discrimination against them in the media.  Indeed, Wessex-based broadcasting should be positive about Wessex identity.

We have no intention of weaponising culture but aim to rescue our own culture from being absorbed into a grey, estuarine version of Englishness.  We work closely with and take our lead from the non-political Wessex Society, which has pioneered much of the work on our culture, particularly in gaining official recognition of the Wyvern flag, by the Flag Institute and by central government, in developing a Wessex Dialect Dictionary and much else.

The Wessex Regionalists are above all a regional party and would devolve most of the functions of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to a regional government.  Functions such as museums, libraries, heritage and arts funding are currently handled by the devolved governments of the UK, and a devolved Wessex would be no exception.

Short Term – campaigning within the UK – Wessex Regionalists will:

Campaign for more responsible policies that ensure:

  • arts funding from general taxation is allocated to Wessex in proportion to its share of the UK population (currently, London receives nearly two-thirds of all public arts funding)
  • National Lottery funding is distributed to local councils in proportion to ticket sales in each council area
  • the study of Wessex history and culture is made available at all levels in the educational system: we would encourage Wessex universities to offer Wessex Studies as a degree course, a long-standing aim of the Wessex Society
  • the creation of an advisory regional curriculum that puts more emphasis on the study of Wessex poets and novelists in English Literature classes
  • pride is developed in the region’s accents and dialect traditions; regional accents on TV and radio should be valued not denigrated: We’re proud to be wurzels
  • promotion of the region as a cultural community within England, Britain, and Europe
  • the encouragement of local patriotism, actively seeking to identify with and preserve the land and cultural heritage of Wessex
  • full protection of World Heritage Sites in Wessex in accordance with international standards
  • the independence of the BBC and Channel 4 from government interference, including the threat of privatisation as a means of securing compliance.
  • an increase in the Community Radio Fund to 2005 levels
  • support for community buyouts of local newspapers
Long Term – in a fully devolved region – Wessex Regionalists will:
  • devolve most DCMS functions to the regional government (see above)
  • create regional collections, and adopt strategies for allowing them to be viewed outside traditional museum and gallery settings
  • abolish Arts Council England, leaving cultural policy and funding largely in the hands of local government
  • promote a ‘percentage for the arts’ policy
  • require English Heritage and the National Trust to operate through a Wessex region, ultimately replacing them with a single, Wessex-only body
  • simplify and extend heritage protection legislation, including by making all demolition subject to planning control
  • enable free or discounted entry for Wessex residents to all publicly funded museums in Wessex
  • press for Wessex-related objects in collections housed in London to be circulated more widely, or returned to Wessex if appropriate
  • restructure our national broadcasters to ensure that Wessex is treated as a region with a mandate to provide a quota of regional programming (radio and TV)
  • support tax breaks for the film and television industries, to make Wessex an attractive location for filming
  • abolish fees in schools for arts education
  • mandate a quota of 25% songs by Wessex artists on regional music radio stations
  • promote a Wessex identity in sporting activities on a par with Scotland and Wales
  • democratise sport with players and the supporters being the main driving force
  • create new partnerships between local authorities, universities and independent media providers, as recommended by the Media Reform Coalition
  • establish a Wessex Media Council to distribute funds to not-for-profit independent media within the region

Food & drink and tourism are aspects of Wessex culture and heritage significant enough to warrant their own policy papers.  In both cases, the focus of the culture and heritage content is on developing, promoting, and protecting a distinctive regional brand.

For further analysis, see here.