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A Stinging Rebuke To The NT Press Release

Dear Ms. Parsons,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter about the Uffington White Horse and Big Brother, by providing me with your official press release. Whilst I appreciate some of the points you are making, I still feel my concerns have not been adequately addressed.

As such, I have attached a copy of my original letter for your perusal.But in return, I should like to address some of the points you have made in your press release.

1) We must also be open to opportunities that enable us to connect withaudiences for whom the landscapes and properties we look after are not necessarily familiar. The use of our properties as locations for films andTV dramas is long-established. We have taken the view that the TV exposure the White Horse will receive can achieve the same ends, promoting this landscape to a wider audience than would normally be familiar with it.

There is a difference between using a location as a integral part of a film or TV drama and using merely as an advertising hoarding, which is what has occurred here.

2) A number of conservation organisations have taken the same approach - indeed Historic Houses of Scotland will shortly be working with the same art groupthat prepared the Big Brother "Eye".

Just because one person does something, it does not make it acceptable for others to follow suit. For example, in your mind, it appropriate behaviour for the pro-hunting lobby to deface national monuments in a ‘copy-cat’ fashion? I would be interested to know what you think.

3) In considering opportunities of this type, however, we have to weigh up the benefits against the impact on the property/landscape involved. We gave the Channel 4 proposal very careful consideration and only accepted it after we were completely satisfied that there would be no impact on the landscape of the White Horse beyond the two day period in which the image appeared.

I agree with your reasoning here, but I harbour very grave concerns that other parties may not approach you first for such a considered opinion. Instead, they may feel that this action has given them carte blanche to vandalise whichever monument for their own interests. After all, as you have colluded in such action on your own property, you can hardly complain if others perceive this to be a ‘green light’ for such behaviour.

4) We conducted extensive tests with the chalk paste used for the Eye to make sure that it would completely disappear when washed away, with no impact on the soil and chalk substrate. We organised to wash the image away manually, as soon as filming had finished, ensuring that the image appeared on thelandscape for only two days.

Whilst I’m sure the land was fine, I’m not so sure the wildlife would have appreciated being coated in emulsion. Were appropriate tests carried out to ensure that there was no impact on the insect life in that area?

5) Arguments that our actions jeopardised the archaeological integrity of the site are wide of the mark, since it has left no physical traces.

On this occasion, maybe, but please refer to my comments to point 3 above.

6) In making our decision, we were also aware that Channel 4 would have beenable to produce computer generated images juxtaposing their Eye with the White Horse, so the images would have appeared on national television anyway, with or without our involvement. In these circumstances, we felt it better to take the route that enabled us to generate some funds for conservation work. It is important to emphasise that all the funds raised are being channelled into conservation projects on the White Horse site itself.

If Channel Four could have done this digitally, I simply do not understand why you prevented them from doing so; this is exactly why digital imaging was invented. I know that the BBC used digital imaging for some of their famous ‘Globe Balloon’ shots, I am at an utter loss as to the reason why it was not used on this occasion. In addition, the paltry sum of money raised is an insult to the monument - surely you could have pushed for something in double figures. £2,000 is a few tasty corporate lunches, really.

7) Some have expressed concern that our association with Channel 4 is an
inappropriate use for a much-loved landscape. These decisions are finely balanced. Perhaps we made the wrong decision in this instance but we need constantly to find the funds to support our conservation work - and find ways to spread knowledge of our wonderful properties to new audiences. I would agree that this particular association with Channel Four ‘is an inappropriate use for a much-loved landscape’.

I also agree with your assertion that: ‘Perhaps we made the wrong decision in this instance’. You most certainly did.

With regard to your statement: we need constantly to find the funds to support our conservation work - and find ways to spread knowledge of our wonderful properties to new audiences. I am quite sure that there are far, far, better ways to attract attention to your properties and to gain new audiences. For example: An advertising campaign could be carried out in which NT properties could feature in clearly digitally manipulated images! New, exciting, cutting edge technology to appeal to the masses. I think it’s got something . . .

Finally, you say: We wish to reassure anyone who feels offended that, throughout, scrupulous care has been taken to ensure that conservation of this fantastic site has been given the utmost priority.

Sorry. I don’t feel in the least bit reassured, and I’m even more offended that you did not have the courtesy to address the questions I put to you in my original letter. I hope that you feel able to do so now, and I look forward to your reply,

Yours sincerely

treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
4th September 2003ce

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