In conversation with Terry Wilden, Chair of the Association about how BITS is helping SHA face up to some of its toughest challenges.

Southwark may not be the first destination for visitors to the capital. But it is home to many interesting attractions and is an area of London rich in heritage.

Southwark Heritage Association (SHA) was formed in 1986 specifically for the purpose of maximising its heritage assets. Back then, the local Chamber of Commerce identified a rise in travel and tourism as having the potential to positively impact the local economy. The council at that time had other priorities and paid little attention to the future impact report. Southwark Heritage Association was formed to explore the implications of the Report and devise a strategy to take advantage of the opportunities identified.

The founding group of SHA defined its purpose as being: “That which we inherit from the past, use and develop in the present and leave, enhanced for our children’s future”. One person who has been involved with SHA for over 30 years is Chair, Terry Wilden.

Terry says: “SHA is a charitable organisation funded by a combination of membership subscriptions and grants. It has been able to champion and support many valuable projects in the borough. A lot of the projects have enhanced the life experiences of young Southwark adults. Perhaps most notably among these was Southwark Young Pilgrims. This scheme provided under privileged children the opportunity to experience working in hospitality with direct person-to-person contact under adult supervision. It was an award-winning scheme and Bespoke IT Solutions (BITS) were the principal supporter. Sadly, in the aftermath of the 2019 London Bridge attack and following a risk assessment, it was concluded the scheme could not continue for the foreseeable future. Then COVID arrived to add further delay and uncertainty.

Setbacks provide an opportunity to re-group and re-purpose

“With our projects on pause, the future relevance and purpose of Southwark Heritage Association was uncertain. The committee’s view was that we needed to re-focus our priorities and become more modern in how we operated. BITS is playing a pivotal role in helping us to do that. Natalie, the BITS company founder and SHA have a long association. Her parents were immersed in the Southwark community and her mother has been a SHA committee member for many years. I have already mentioned BITS support for the Southwark Young Pilgrims project.

A new website and a new outlook

“BITS has provided the expertise to enable us to have a new website that better showcases the work and purpose of SHA. We have no shortage of great local content to add that will engage the community and residents. The website is a catalyst for us to ‘step out’ with renewed confidence and attract new membership and support. BITS is providing the technology so we can have an electronic membership database and to let us send out our regular newsletter by email. BITS is helping us to understand how to appeal to organisations and local businesses as well as residents.
“As the membership numbers go up, as they are starting to do, there will be more support we can provide. But for now, we know Coronavirus has been a big setback. There are visitor attractions in the area whose future existence remains uncertain. Our job, with BITS help, is to prepare now, so when restrictions relax later in the year, we can champion the area’s heritage and visitor attractions. The support of the community will be vital. They will return to the restaurants, attractions and museums long before the visitors and tourists return in any significant number. We want to galvanise the spirit of localism for the collective good”. Visit the SHA website.