WORCESTER must make much more of its Civil War heritage to bring in visitors and could even be rebranded the "Civil War City" as museums leaders seek to better tap the tourist trade.
How to make the most of Worcester's rich heritage was the overriding theme of a meeting at Worcester Guildhall. The city was the site of the last battle of the English Civil War which raged between Royalists and Parliamentarians (1642-1651), resulting in the execution of Charles I and the defeat of his son, later restored to the throne as Charles II.
Ian Rutherford, general manager of Museums Worcestershire, said in a speech delivered to dignitaries including the mayor of Worcester, Cllr Pat Agar, that the Civil War was "part of the city's DNA".
He said: "Regardless of political persuasions, I know there are many people in this room who feel a sense of injustice that such an important period in our national life should fail to be recognised as it deserves to be and that Worcester should make more of its position "where England's sorrows began and now are happily ended". Whether this private and civic passion should be converted into public policy and the platform for a tourism strategy is the central question for tonight's gathering.
"It is also a key issue for us as museums service and for the city too as it aims to grow its visitor economy. Should Worcester adopt the strap line – "the Civil War City" and what implications would that have?"
Museums Worcestershire which manages four sites on behalf of Worcester City Council and Worcestershire County Council, including the city's Commandery, has ambitions to develop these sites.
Museums Worcestershire has identified several key objectives, including spotting markets abroad and at home for "the English Civil War and the Commandery" and finding out whether it could "fulfil a unique selling point for tourism in Worcester". They are also looking with consultants at promoting the heritage of Worcestershire, including the theme of "Romantic Royal escapes". Speakers on the day included Andrew McIntyre, described as an authority on arts marketing and audience development who called for more focus in the Commandery displays and Simon Matthews, an economic development and tourism consultant, who said Worcester's heritage was particularly attractive to overseas visitors but investment was needed to create "a quality Civil War tourism product". Worcester city councillor Roger Berry, chairman of the Joint Museums Committee, said it was important to make the best use of the city's assets and heritage which would be vitally important in the bid for City of Culture 2021.