Catherine Farnell

A career in heritage and the arts

Alumna Catherine Farnell (PGCE, 2008) runs Heritage Arts and People (HAP), a community interest company based in Exeter which aims to bring communities together to enjoy and explore the Southwest’s rich and varied heritage. She shares where her degree has taken her in her career.

“Myself and fellow director, Marie Leverett, set up HAP as we wanted to bring together people who are passionate about heritage and want to share it with the wider community. We are lucky to live in the southwest and to be surround by a varied and interesting heritage. We believe that connecting communities with their heritage has the opportunity to provide people with new, fulfilling and enriching experiences.

"Marie and I decided to establish HAP after working together initially as archaeologists and then on community heritage projects in Devon. We met after I finished my MSc in Wetland Environments and Archaeology in 2005. We both worked at Exeter Archaeology on a large excavation in the centre on Exeter before the new Princesshay development was built. I left field archaeology to retrain (PGCE, 2008) and work as a primary school teacher in Torbay. A job which was a privilege to do and I thoroughly enjoyed.

"After having a break in my career to have two young children, when I returned to work I really wanted to combine my two passions of archaeology and teaching and started to work in heritage education. I was lucky enough to work on some innovative projects for a variety of organisations such as the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Southwest Heritage Trust and the University of Exeter.

"After Marie and I worked together again, through a community project, we felt there was the opportunity to create an organisation that could further connect the rich historic landscape that surrounds us and the people who live in it. As a result, we set up HAP.  For our latest HAP project, we are bringing to life the hidden gem that is Dunkeswell Abbey, a Cistercian monastic complex established in 1201 and nestled in a valley in the Blackdown Hills. We have been successful in receiving a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the project and are working in partnership with the Blackdown Hills AONB. We will be working with a full range of different community groups, who will have the opportunity to work alongside professional archaeologists to better understand the significance of this important historic site.  

"We are really excited about the opportunities that HAP will provide. It is extremely rewarding working on projects which help people feel more connected with their surroundings; creating opportunities for people to learn from places in which they live and visit and feel more engaged with it.

"We often have volunteering opportunities through our different projects, so if anyone is interested in being involved then please feel free to get in contact through our website www.heritageartspeople.uk.”

Date: 7 May 2019

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