In what way do you think equality and diversity is relevant to the National Trust?

Hughenden, Buckinghamshire

The National Trust’s core purpose is to ‘look after special places for ever, for everyone’. In this context, how are equality and diversity relevant?

Sarah Green, Northumberland

If the National Trust is to deliver on its core purpose then it needs to protect a diverse range of special places which represent the overall diversity of the population. This creates a core challenge as what is valued today as a special place may differ from previous generations and the National Trust needs to balance the commitment to preserving the past with a progressive approach which recognises the changing and dynamic needs of society.

Without an approach to equality and diversity which is actively implemented within the organisation, the National Trust will fail to represent the true breadth of society, will fail to attract the best people as volunteers or employees, and will lose relevance in a changing world resulting in decreased membership numbers and consequent influence.

Steve Anderson, West Midlands

We must not forget that the National Trust was born out of the social reform agenda of Octavia Hill and the language of being ‘for the Nation’ and ‘for everyone’ are what sets the Trust aside from other conservation charities. I believe the biggest challenge for the Trust is to deliver on that commitment, and broaden its appeal beyond the ‘usual suspects’ we see at most properties (both as visitors and staff).

Personally, I think the National Trust has been slow to revisit this key element of its charitable purpose, preferring instead to take a ‘marketing’ approach to make itself attractive to the most lucrative demographic groups. At the last Council meeting we heard the Board describe its ambitions, however, to date the rhetoric has not turned into reality. Something which if re-elected, I promise to continue to challenge.

Virginia Llado-Buisan, Oxford

They should be and are at the core of the National Trust’s values because the very reason for National Trust to exist is to preserve our natural and cultural heritage for the people, through the support of their 5 million members and the work of their 60,000 volunteers that secure its perpetuity and attain its success. There is, however, always more to do in order to represent society as a whole, and to overcome specific challenges that may arise from time to time. As a community, we can achieve this through respectful dialogue, flexibility, and working together to accomplish agreed goals.

In their Equality and Diversity policy (2013), National Trust make these goals very clear, and it is down to all of us as a whole, in our commitment to the advancement of society and the care of our heritage, to understand, value, and respect all colleagues and members of the public without distinction.

Raymond Williams, Buckinghamshire

Equality for every citizen and respect for diversity is my key principle of belief - not only for the National Trust but for our Nation as a whole. I think prejudice is a terrible thing. I know many wonderful volunteers who are from different backgrounds and ethnic classification to me. So what? I respect all our members because they share the same love of the National Trust as me.

So, equality and diversity are key fundamental freedoms of membership and entry to our properties. My positive attitude is based on people of peace and goodness. People who love their neighbour and do not have hate in their hearts.

Leigh McManus, Leicestershire

Equality is about creating a fairer society where everyone can participate and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. It can be summarised in terms of equal access and treatment. This is of course backed by legislation designed to address unfair discrimination.

Diversity is about the recognition and valuing of difference in its broadest sense. It is about creating a working culture and practices that recognise, respect, value and harness difference for the benefit of the organisation and the individual.

This is relevant for both people working for the National Trust as it is for visitors. For example, there is a particular challenge to providing access to disabled or partially disabled people.

Guy Trehane, Dorset

Everyone means everyone. The National Trust has a duty to engage with all sectors of our society. Recent initiatives have seen our membership and visitors reflect our diverse population much more than when I first became a volunteer.

Emma Mee, Cambridge

In the context of ‘everyone’, we must ensure everyone has access or opportunity to enjoy the sites. We can look at how to bring people to the properties, but I would like to focus on bringing the trust to more people by buying inner-city sites and diversifying the portfolio. The National Trust is piloting an interesting scheme in Sheffield that adopts and renovates inner-city parks, which could be a great way to improve urban areas and bring the benefits closer to many people.

Addressing the ‘for ever’, it is vital that the operation of the trust becomes truly sustainable; financially, environmentally and socially. It needs to adapt, pioneer and educate people, to create a future worth preserving too. There are naturally risks in new technologies and approaches, but there is a lot to learn, even through failing, and I’m confident the National Trust can lead us all and create a positive journey.

Michael Tavener, West Midlands

This is very important. The National Trust should reflect its diverse membership and that of the communities in which its sites are located. This should be reflected in the demographic of the National Trust’s operational personnel, and the access, which members and visitors have to sites - including a varied and interesting programme of events throughout the year that offers wide appeal.

The National Trust should continue to invite and listen to a wide range of views on how it can sustain its sites for the enjoyment of future generations.

Elizabeth Staples, Staffordshire

This statement sums up to me the reason the National Trust exists. I do not see how equality and diversity could not be relevant. Equality to me means treating people as individuals, with individual needs and views. Young people are the life blood of any organisation; we need to ensure we can cater for their needs as well as adult members. The National Trust must be able to be relevant in our diverse society to people, whether they live in inner cities or rural shires, and without ensuring that equality and diversity are instilled into this organisation, I feel more mistakes may be made in future.

A simple example would be to ensure all leaflets are checked for ease of clarity; a grey font on a white background as I found at Shugborough Hall this summer, was difficult for me to read with excellent eyesight and perhaps impossible for others.

Inga Grimsey, Suffolk

In endeavoring to reach “everyone” the National Trust must ensure that wherever possible, it does nothing in the properties that limits physical or mental access to any group or makes them feel unwelcome. The National Trust should tell the stories of its properties in a manner that is open to everyone who wants to visit and is faithful to the lives of the people who lived in them.

This also means that if it is not practical to physically give access to everyone, the National Trust needs to consider how it provides virtual access. There is a huge opportunity both in the countryside and with historic buildings to improve on this. Future generations may well choose to access the National Trust in this way.

The National Trust needs to remain alert to feedback from its members.

Christopher Catling, Wales

Surely the clue is in the 'for everyone' bit of the National Trust's remit.

Edel Trainor, Northern Ireland

I believe the Board of Trustees and the Council should be a collaborative force and through working positively together they can accomplish the goals of the NationalTrust as a whole and if elected I would strive to achieve this. Initially I would seek to appoint a Board of Trustees who would represent a broad spectrum of experience, skills and knowledge that will enable the National Trust to achieve its strategic objectives. 

As a member of the Council I would seek to embalm the spirit of the National Trust in any opinion I proffered. I would ensure any strategies brought forward by the Trustees are consistent with the overall strategy of the National Trust by thoroughly reviewing them. I would, along with the rest of the Council, closely monitor the effectiveness of the Board of Trustees in their performance of achieving the overreaching goals of the charity through their management and administration of it.

Bella Mezger, London

Encouraging and enabling a variety of people to enjoy and engage with the National Trust is key to its core purpose, and to its future. The National Trust was founded to provide ‘open air sitting rooms’ for poor urban dwellers—access to its places was at the forefront of its founders’ minds.

My view is therefore that the National Trust must broaden engagement with all aspects of its work, and reach out to all parts of society. Making further efforts to widen accessibility is key. It’s about telling stories in ways that are meaningful to a diverse range of people. This does not mean making everything the same; it means celebrating difference. It means being creative in our approach to improving access and story-telling, and not being afraid to experiment. I’m passionate about accessibility and diversity, and in June was part of a group created to hold the Board to account on it.

Joff Whitten, Suffolk

I have recently been posed this question by a member looking to address their concern for what they believe is the National Trust promoting a false equality, or a fad. The world is a different place to how it was when some of the properties the National Trust is responsible for were built, our shared heritage is different. I live near to Melford Hall and it’s such a charming place with a delightful connection to Beatrix Potter.

However this doesn’t mean I wish to live in a world of huge estates, landowners, great class divide and subjugation. The world changes, as do people, and for the National Trust to be a successful 21st global organisation equality, diversity and inclusion have to be at the heart of this. The National Trust is good at welcoming new people of all ages and backgrounds into the fold and long should this last.

Caroline Kay, Wiltshire

The clue lies in the words ‘for everyone’.  As a charity the National Trust must demonstrate public benefit and that means reaching out beyond its core audiences, beyond even its 5 million members, in order to show in new ways why its special places are worth preserving.

For example, the National Trust’s programme exploring LGBT heritage in the 50th anniversary year of decriminalization was an imaginative way of interpreting the history of some of its properties to shed new light on them because in some places, the ‘gay’ story is intrinsic to understanding the place (such as William Banks’ exile from Kingston Lacy or the Sackville-West/Woolf links in Sissinghurst and Monks House). I was less convinced that the story of the last owner of Fellbrigg Hall had a place in this programme (having visited to see for myself), but the mishandling of that example does not negate the initiative as a whole.

Duncan Mackay Berkshire

Parts of my response are contained in the answers to Q1 and Q2. To Q3 I would add ‘for everywhere’ because research shows that the vast majority of people who go outdoors do not visit green spaces beyond 5 miles from where they live. When this is aligned with the demographic fact that 90% of the UK population live in cities and rural towns then expanding the Trust’s offer to acquire/lease more land in and around villages, towns and cities makes sense both now and in the future.  Urban places are where our population is most diverse but where there are still the greatest inequalities of opportunity to enjoy Hunter and Hill’s original vision of the Trust. I would prompt the Trust to launch ‘Operation Octavia’ to acquire Green Belt and urban fringe land in the same way that it successfully acquired much of the coastal fringe in ‘Operation Neptune’.

Grevel Lindop Manchester

The Trust should be completely honest, without either hand-wringing or sugar-coating, about the part played by slavery, child labour, the Empire etc in the creation and enhancement of its properties. It should look to increase recruitment of volunteers as well as staff from ethnic minorities. It should see whether more needs doing about braille signing, audio guiding etc. It should be alert to the possibility of preserving places and buildings which have a special place in Black British history.

Caroline Jarrold Norfolk

I think that the answer relates to everyone and that the aim should be to encourage anyone to visit National Trust sites and that they should feel welcome at any NT site and see the value of the work of the organisation in looking after these special places. Promotion of the NT offer should be relevant and attractive to all but care should be taken not to 'overegg' or exaggerate particular aspects of relevance to try to attract a specific audience.