The National Trust should be a safe space from the culture wars

Sep 24, 2020 by

by Kit Wilson, CapX:

In totalitarian societies, all culture eventually gets frogmarched into championing the cause. Under Stalinism, for instance, even music — the most abstract of art forms — was required to convey, say, idyllic peasant life in the fields. Communism slithered its way like an amoeba over the press, the courtrooms, and the arts, absorbing every last bit of civic life into itself. Anything that so much as alluded to other, non-political, ways of thinking was immediately neutralised, lest it cracked the Communist facade — with all its beguiling frescoes of a blissful utopia — and revealed behind it a world of all sorts of mysteries: religious, spiritual, and human questions that no political project could ever adequately answer.

Ours, thankfully, is a free society. Our civic bodies are permitted — encouraged, even — to sit at a separate table from the politicians and ideologues and fling things in their direction without any repercussions. Which makes it all the more curious that so many of our institutions have nonetheless gone ahead and arm-twisted themselves into complete ideological uniformity.

The latest in this ever-growing list is the National Trust. In an internal document leaked to The Times last month, its Visitor Experience Director, Tony Berry, spells out plans to “dial down” the Trust’s role as a “major national cultural institution”, proposing instead to “re-purpose” its country houses for a variety of more “relevant” functions. In a phrase that may as well have been planted by Russian trolls to bring down Western civilisation from within, he claims the National Trust needs to “flex our mansion offer to create more active, fun, and useful experiences”.

Now, I realise skirting past a phrase like “flex our mansion offer” is a bit like ignoring a corkscrew in your kidney, but let’s scroll forward a little — the key word here is actually “useful”.

What, exactly, constitutes a “useful” visit to a stately home? And for whom, indeed, should it be “useful”?

Read here

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