Posted on 7th September 2012 by Louise Rogers
Heritage Open Days comes round once a year so it’s a good idea to try to get the best out of it. Here are some suggestions for those you who intend to come to our open days.
1. The new website is excellent, however it is best do a belt and braces job when looking for events – look at the map and at the town information. Here in Newcastle-under-Lyme we have four events but if you look on the map Keele also has one event. Keele is a village and has a university campus, which will open the magnificent Keele Hall, but no-one hereabouts would call it a town. I was explaining this to a friend on Saturday who was looking up events in Newcastle-under-Lyme. He had a bit of an ‘aha’ moment. A good idea is also to use the 'Local council area' drop down menu in the Advanced search form, as this widens the radius and will include villages that just fall outside town boundaries.
2. Know what date and time the event is on or the venue is open and then write it in your diary. Last year I was dropping off leaflets at our Unitarian Meeting House on Thursday for the following day’s opening. I saw a woman looking a little lost on our drive-way. She’d come along to have a look round. Although the national event officially runs from Thursday to Sunday, many of us open for a fewer number of days and some even just for a couple of tours. Luckily, I wasn’t pressed for time so she got a personalised tour and fresh-off the press leaflets. But I wouldn’t recommend this strategy.
3. Check whether the venue is accessible for push-chairs and those with mobility issues. Find out where the venue is and where you can park (car or bicycle) or where the public transport goes. Each listing has a location map – if you aren’t sure where you are going and don’t have a sat nav why not print off a map.
4. See if you can get a cuppa and a cake. Have some change in your purse or wallet either to buy refreshments or to make a donation for those that are offered free. Most, if not all heritage sites struggle to cover their costs.
5. Have a look at the venue’s website and if it’s not noted in the information about it on this Heritage Open Days website then do an internet search. It can be handy to know a bit about the event or the building. You might have some questions about the history ready to ask when you arrive.
6. Talk to friends and family beforehand about your intended visit. They may wish to come with you and/or they may know a bit about the place and have an anecdote to share. Volunteers love to hear the memories of other people. Some people bring photos that they’ve found and show the venue at some time in the past or a newspaper cutting. We love you for that!
7. Don’t forget your reading glasses – some of our heritage venues can be a bit dark. There’ll probably be booklets and information panels to read. It can be frustrating trying to make your arms grow six inches longer whilst also trying to find a glimmer of light at just the right angle to illuminate the text.
8. If you think that you might want some further information forwarded on to you after your visit, then make sure you know your email address (if you have one). I’ve had people starting confidently to write theirs down, then beginning to doubt themselves. I’ve heard them talking to themselves, ‘Is it dot com or dot co dot uk?’ or ‘Is there a dot between smith and 123?’ or saying to me, ‘I knew what it was when I left the house this morning’.
9. Don’t try to do too many visits in one day. Stop and wonder at the venue and the history. Talk with the well-informed volunteers who have a passion for this part of history. You may even consider becoming a volunteer yourself. The National Trust, English Heritage or the Churches Conservation Trust for example have information specifically for people considering offering to volunteer. You can also get in touch with the Heritage Open Days team if you are interested in volunteering for any of the venues and organisations involved in the event.
10. Enjoy and tell others about your visit! And note down the dates for next year's event: 12th-15th September.
Thank you from all of us who take part in Heritage Open Days for visiting - without our visitors we’d feel very lonely and unloved. However, in my experience it is always a fabulous weekend. There are so many people who value their local heritage and appreciate having the opportunity to look behind the facade of familiar, local buildings. We look forward to seeing you – with or without your glasses.