Monday, 7 October 2013

Heritage and Naming Rights: What's in a Name?

Is the name of a building part of its heritage? The Guildhall in Southampton, a grade II listed building, has been renamed the O2 Guildhall Southampton, to the consternation of some local residents. The focus of historical building conservation and listing is (unsurprisingly) on the material fabric of the structure. Yet the name can have special significance for the local community. We see this most starkly in sports stadia. In 2011, Newcastle United renamed their stadium the Sports Direct Arena, in a sponsorship deal with the sports clothing company, a move which some supporters described as "abysmal" and "a nightmare".
Names are, after all, a vital part of our heritage and identity as individuals, families, communities. We define ourselves by our names and the move towards commercial sponsorship of sports arena and entertainment venues, while making perfect commercial sense, sits uneasily with our innate need to define ourselves according to who we are rather than who funds us. And at its worst, renaming can just make us look silly...Spare a thought for the supporters of Merthyr Town.

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