No. 93 Vol. VIII No. 10 Published August 1984
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6. 8. 84(7. 82. 75)
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The John Brown Report
T HOSE English archaeologists who have bewailed the upsetting of their calm routine by Mr Heseltine's reforms, have often looked with envy at the serene situation in Wales and Scotland. In Wales, however, the scene is not as calm and serene as it seems, for here too a revolution is brewing in the form of the "John Brown Report". This is a report entitled: Historic Monuments of Wales: Ways of making them—more enjoyable—more enlightening—more profitable; A report by John Brown of John Brown Tourism Marketing & Development Services Ltd., of Worcester.
John Brown did not like at all what he found in Wales. Between 1978 and 1983 he found a fall of 33% in visitors to ancient monuments from 2 million to 1. 37 million. Furthermore, the visitors are not making enough purchases—only 12p per visitor as against 60p per visitor at comparable attractions; there has been no sustained programme of investment; presentation of monuments is dull; there is no organised catering at any site; not one site has a picnic area and none has any "basic play equipment". How can any selfrespecting ancient monument possible operate without "play equipment"?
The report is written with immense verve and enthusiasm—indeed I suspect that many archaeologists will find it quite unnerving. He argues that because ancient monuments were the first tourist resource to come into state care, they have recently fallen behind: in the last decade, agencies like the Countryside Commission, the Forestry Commission and the electricity generating boards have spent substantial sums on fine new visitor facilities: why should ancient monuments be less professionally packaged and promoted than a power station?
He then presents a vast sweep of proposals: on the one extreme, he suggests that Rhuddlan castle might be developed as a show-piece for medieval siege warfare, with reproductions of siege engines and scaling ladders, and re-enactments of the siege. He then goes on to interpretation centres, trails, and audiovisual displays; then he deals with logos, and brand images, and house style and he distinguishes between the "motoring day visitor market" and the "coach market"; and last but not least, he offers a multitude of proposals for better sign-posting of monuments—probably the most valuable (because cheapest) of all his proposals.
There are two main problems with the report. The first is money. Here it is somewhat unfair to the Inspectorate: the reason why visitors have fallen since 1978 is that prices were sharply increased in that year. Indeed the department carried out admirably its task of reducing government expenditure: they put up prices, cut down expenditure, reduced investment, and thus increased their profitability. Mr Brown's recommendations on the other hand are going to cost a great deal of money—not least for all the new staff needed to carry them out. In the short term—for the first five years, at least, this will involve a greatly increased government expenditure—indeed he produces no estimates of how many more visitors will be needed to cover the increased costs. Instead he argues that tourism is a major industry in Wales, and the purpose of ancient monuments is to increase the tourist potential.
Secondly, can a government department run a commercial enterprise in this way? In England a new Agency has been set up to provide this commercial expertise, but Mr Brown believes it can flourish within the Welsh Office. Here however the situation has not been happy. Thus