Nick Thomas-Symonds, the MP for Torfaen in South Wales and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Industrial Heritage, has every reason to be passionate. His own family worked in the South Wales coalfield, and his constituency is the home of the Big Pit at Blaenavon which is part of the World Heritage Site. On 11 July 2019, a summit of the APPG met at the V and A.
The director of the V and A, Tristram Hunt, pointed out that the museum brings together two strands. The first is the collection of the East India Company; the second is the celebration of industry at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The V and A is the embodiment of Industry and Empire, the title of Eric Hobsbawm’s classic economic history of modern Britain. Whether the V and A adequately interprets its imperial background is a moot point. It is trying to make links with industry in conjunction with regional museums in five industrial centres to inspire thinking about design – and the new base in Stratford in east London will rescue the industrial heritage of the Lea valley and London as a major centre of the industrial revolution.