Report on the Third European Historic Houses NextGen Conference Weekend
Siena, 24-26 March 2017

The European Historic Houses Association’s NextGen were privileged to start their weekend in Siena on Friday 24 March with an informal supper at the Circolo degli Uniti, the oldest private members’ club in Europe, and possibly the oldest in the world.

Conte Franco dei Marchesi Bargagli Petrucci welcomed the group to Siena officially as Club President along with a number of the club’s members. He explained the proud history of the club and participants were given the rare opportunity (ladies are never allowed otherwise!) to visit the upstairs rooms and to stand on the famous balcony, offering surely the finest views in the city, overlooking the main square.

This year’s Conference was held at Vico Bello, the villa of the long-standing and influential Chigi family. It was the perfect place to discuss the importance of Social Capital, examining intangible aspects of succession of family heritage business. Over 100 attendees from 12 countries were welcomed to Siena by Professoressa Monica Barni, Vice-President of the Regional Government of Tuscany, who expressed her commitment to heritage and its value to the community, something particularly evident in this city which lives and breathes heritage on a daily basis.

Count Gaddo della Gherardesca, President of the Associazione Dimore Storiche Italiane (ADSI), and Count Rodolphe de Looz-Corswarem, President of the European Historic Houses Association, both warmly welcomed the participants and stressed the importance of involving the young generation to ensure a sustainable future for historic houses in Europe.

The keynote speech was delivered by Peter Englisch, Global Leader for Family Business with Ernst & Young, our lead partners for 2017’s programme. He explored the trends and challenges for “succession, values and social capital in family business” through examples taken from his extensive experience as an advisor.

In particular, he was keen to stress the importance of ensuring that a family has a core set of values which informs its decisions; that those decisions should be sustainable on the long term; and that decisions on the direction of the family business should be right both for the family as a whole and for the individual members themselves. This entailed evaluating the human capital within the family, and maximising that potential by playing to the individual strengths (and recognising the weaknesses sometimes also) of the family members. In addition, the trend towards a more active model of social engagement and philanthropy by family businesses was considered.

Peter took a range of questions from the attentive audience who were keen to benefit from his evident understanding of family businesses big and small; and the discussions continued informally throughout the coffee break.

“Community engagement” and how best to connect heritage with those around us was the topic of our Panel discussion. Robin Hereford from the second of our sponsors, Bonhams International Auctioneers, discussed how appropriately curated family art collections can help to ensure that heritage remains relevant and connected to the community. He advised a proactive approach to managing and indeed improving a collection, through consideration of the family’s needs today, rather than an inflexible approach to the art and antiques from the past just for the sake of it.

Greek NextGen member Anne McCabe gave a very personal testimony of a project she is involved with. Thought for Food seeks to preserve vital rural skills and thereby the natural beauty of the island of Patmos. This is done by supporting those artisans and farmers who might otherwise leave their traditional rural communities in search of other work owing to a combination of low financial returns from farming and high land prices from increased tourism. Conference delegates were invited to consider their own responsibilities as leading landowners in their communities and what we could do to protect the heritage of rural crafts before they are lost forever.

Lancelot Guyot, a NextGen member in France, recounted how his company “Tous au Chateau” has developed a management and turnaround business for heritage assets which opens up historic properties to community participation and interaction at various levels. He showed how each individual property has its own unique appeal to the public, and by harnessing the specific aspects of each property, one can create sustainable businesses and ongoing community relevance for heritage assets otherwise challenging to maintain.

Connecting with the online community was the subject of the final presentations. Maunoir de Massol offered a demonstration of the new online ticketing solution Patrivia, to connect heritage businesses with a wider public. Lucio Patone of Sowire Media Factory was keen to demonstrate how heritage (a sector which changes little on the surface) can take advantage of the extraordinary revolution in connectivity which has occurred in just the last 30 years.

Finally Ludovico di Maistre, an Italian NextGen member who manages his family property of Borgo Cornalese, recommended an example action plan to promote and build a business in a heritage property, through his own experience of running a venue for filming and a company that undertakes drone photography.

In his concluding remarks, conference Chairman William Cartwright-Hignett noted that the aspect unifying all the conference interventions had been the importance of uniqueness – whether that be the unique values of a family, the unique importance of a historic property to a community or the unique opportunities that each property has to remain relevant and sustainable into the future. It is precisely the uniqueness and adaptability which makes heritage in private hands all the more important with regard to
social capital and its ability to impact positively on community.
NextGen Conference Report 2017
The Heritage Ball took place at Villa di Catignano, outside the city – a beautiful 17th Century fattoria largely reworked in the 18th century and still home to the Marmoross family, who have impressively converted much of the property into accommodation for events and weddings, enabling to survive in the modern world. Over 200 revellers enjoyed the opportunity to visit and relax in the beautiful surroundings of the villa, before dancing into the night.

Those who made it into the city on Sunday morning were treated to a guided visit to the museum of the Contrada dell’Oca, offering a fascinating glimpse into the intricate and mysterious world of the ancient Sienese culture surrounding the great race Il Palio and the political importance that it holds. A second group visited the Palazzo Pubblico to see the beautiful frescoes of Good and Bad Government, demonstrating the enduring impact that art can have on society.

Lunch was taken after a tour of the Mazzei family winery at Fonterutoli, 10 miles north of Siena. The family, who have been producing wine since 1435, recently commissioned and completed the stunning new winery which typifies their belief that heritage must be both respected and constantly refreshed.

This report would not be complete without giving thanks to our lead sponsors for the year, Ernst & Young and Bonhams; and particular thanks are also due to Giulia Lechi (ADSI NextGen coordinator), Gaddo della Gherardesca (ADSI President) and to those Sienese families who made the weekend possible through their generosity and hospitality. Finally, a special thanks needs to be addressed to the European Historic Houses Association for their support in organizing this great event.

Plans are already underway for the Fourth NextGen Conference which will take place in Seville, provisionally on the first weekend of March 2018.

Thank you!