Crispin Truman is Chief Executive of CCT, a UK heritage charity which owns and opens to the public 349 beautiful historic churches all over England. "Our churches form one of the finest single collections of religious heritage in Europe and are conserved for the nation and promoted for tourism, community and cultural use. We run a wide range of programmes aimed at both protecting the buildings and bringing them back into the heart of the community."
Note: this interview is in English, the language of the international congress in October 2016.
Although he is a heritage enthusiast, Trumans professional background is in social work and charity management and he is very concerned with ensuring that their charity serves the people and communities around their buildings and that they find new ways of engaging wider audiences in the work that they do. "Only by attracting younger people and people who have no tradition of churchgoing, by enthusing them and interesting them in our rich ecclesiastical history, can we ensure that our churches will be looked after and valued in the long term."
Besides his work for CCT, Truman is also on the Council of European network, Future Religious Heritage and is a member of Defra’s Civil Society Partnership Network core group.
Religious heritage is a valuable, shared resource
He hopes that this conference will, above all, put the message out that religious heritage is a valuable, shared resource to be enjoyed and cared-for in the 21st Century, by people of all faiths and none. Truman: "I also see it as a very valuable opportunity to share experience and learning between ourselves, to attract new support and to strengthen our joint resolve to protect European heritage. In particular I hope it will help put religious heritage tourism into the mainstream, so that visitors to an area start to include religious heritage in their itinerary as part of an enjoyable experience."
"I think that tourism is not only a big part of the solution for sustaining religious heritage, but also a great part of the tradition & history of European religious heritage. FRH are holding a conference on Pilgrimage in November, which demonstrates the important history of tourism and religion. CCT has established Champing ™ , a hugely popular opportunity for overnight stays in churches, which itself harks back to ancient pilgrimages and people sleeping in churches in the hope that the holiness would ‘rub off’ onto them."
Increasing number and variety of visitors
Truman doesn't think we have to worry yet about the balance between tourism and religious use, except perhaps in some of Europe’s greatest cathedrals where numbers of visitors start to affect the experience and use of the building. "Most religious sites can take a lot more visitors before we need to worry – and we need their support. The biggest question for CCT at the moment is how to increase the number and variety of visitors and how to encourage them to give more financial support."
"I think there are huge opportunities for Dutch and other European churches to gain from tourism and the financial and profile benefits it brings. Owners need to ensure churches are open to the casual visitor – not dependent on collecting a key which puts people off; they need to massively improve signage and information and they need to train volunteers to provide a friendly and helpful welcome, and to ask for donations!"