In Britain, a new organization has arisen to push back against the backsliding of an old organization. Restore Trust believes that the National Trust’s mission of preserving the nation’s most treasured historic buildings has been downgraded in favor of allegedly more pressing issues under the umbrella of “woke.”
The Sunday Times (U.K.) yesterday ran a profile of Zewditu Gebreyohanes, the Ethiopian Brit who since this May has headed Restore Trust. She is 23, a trust member in good standing, a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and a director of the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation.
Although she is reluctant to tag herself as “anti-woke,” the trust, which manages more than 300 historic sites and almost 800 miles of coastline, has allowed major sites to degrade while it pursues the hell out of all historical properties that have anything to do with colonialism and slavery. It has published a report blacklisting 93 historic buildings, including Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill. It appears to have embraced rules that make it difficult for members to oppose the current direction of trust policies. And it also has forced volunteers to undergo compulsory woke sessions.
The Times article, by Liam Kelly, states that “[m]andatory diversity training for volunteers to learn about ‘unconscious bias’ has also been ‘hugely, hugely unpopular,’ said Gebreyohanes.” She adds:
What they’re doing is not what the National Trust was set up to do and the problems happening as a result of management decisions go far beyond what is termed ‘woke’ or ‘anti-woke’. The National Trust is a valuable institution that needs saving.
Few would disgree. And nobody could blame Gebreyohanes for suggesting, defensively, that a diversity of trends may be responsible for the trust’s woes, such as they may be. However, the Times is explicit in its opening paragraph:
[S]he leads an “anti-woke” pressure group waging an insurgency against the National Trust, which she believes spends too much time fretting about slavery and unconscious bias and not enough maintaining Britain’s treasures.
Hear! Hear! What the trust needs is what the psychiatrists call an intervention.
It looks as if Restore Trust under Gebreyohanes’s leadership intends to impose at least one such step to right Britain’s ship of conservation. At the trust’s annual meeting next month, she expects to propose a motion to abolish “quick voting,” a recent change putting more power – Gebreyohanes would say excessive power – in the hands of trust managers to protect its policies from dissident objections:
Already there are claims of dirty tricks. For the first time, the trust has created a “quick voting” option, giving members who vote online the chance to press one button and vote in accordance with what the trust’s nominations committee recommends. Gebreyohanes said it was “dodgy” and “shows their desperation.”
Good luck with that!
Architects and preservationists have wandered away from their missions not just in Britain but in the U.S. Perhaps the founding of Restore Trust last August and Gebreyohanes appointment to lead it argue that the British are suffering under an even harsher woke lash than is America – after all, things have gotten bad enough for an organization to arise to mount a resistance.
What about the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the chief U.S. body in that field? What about the American Institute of Architects? What about the Providence Preservation Society, which has gone so far against its mission as to adopt plans to build a modernist addition on the lovely historic building from which it directs its good works? Are they all woke, too?
Some commenters have wondered why a blog on architecture and preservation bothers to raise questions about matters of woke concern. Well, the answer, I’m afraid, is all around us. America has never had the equivalent of Prince Charles in his valiant opposition to modern architecture. Now it remains to be seen how, and if, King Charles will take up the gauntlet. Here’s hoping that Zewditu Gebreyohanes and Restore Trust will inspire not only the new king but the foundation of similar organizations on this side of the pond.