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The demise of blue plaques: it’s not about just bricks and mortar

2013 January 8
by Paul Vallely

There will be no blue plaque affixed to the façade of the London house in which Jacqueline du Pre lived.  Memorial plaques are scrapped by the organisers, English Heritage, because public spending cuts have slashed their budget from £130m to £92m. Given that each plaque costs an average of £965 to install this is a banal and pettifogging economy.

Blue plaques humanise the largely anonymous buildings of the capital, inspiring Londoners and visitors alike. They remind us of the difference individuals can make in history. And they are a salutary prompt to us to pause from in our busyness and reflect on the weight the past brings to bear upon our flimsy present.

Just 869 of the blue-glazed clay plaques have been erected since the first marking the birthplace of Lord Byron in 1867. The slow procession of personal greatness since then has continued uninterrupted, save in time of war, through far more austere economic times than this. It would be an unnecessary blow to our collective morale if some way could not be found to keep the scheme alive.

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