People Power (2019)

Then. Now. Always.

In 2019 we celebrated 'People Power' – the ability of local communities, groups and individuals to evoke change.

The theme was inspired by two contrasting anniversaries, which highlight the different forms of People Power:

  • 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre: British forces attacked a massive pro-democracy rally on St Peter’s Field, Manchester. The ensuing outrage helped publicise the call for parliamentary representation and led to the founding of the Guardian newspaper.
  • 25th anniversary of Heritage Open Days:  Over the years, we’ve seen many of you do extraordinary things for your communities: opening museums, creating networks, saving sites from unsuitable developments. All of these have made - and continue to make -  a real difference. So this year, we are celebrating your achievements, which represent two and a half decades of ‘people power’ in its purest form.

People Power in all its forms

People Power can be demonstrated in many ways. Street art; citizen science projects; protest marches; folk songs; petitions; documentaries; craftivism; crowdfunding; letters to newspaper editors; forming groups such as trade unions. It’s rarely one person or action that creates wholesale change, but they can be the pivot that turns the tide of opinion to push forward that change. For example:

  • The BBC’s stunning documentary on our oceans (Blue Planet II) galvanized action on reducing plastic waste.
  • Preston Bus Station was an iconic local building under threat of development. But it was saved after a concerted campaign that included the ‘Save Preston Bus Station’ group submitting a petition with 1,435 signatures to the council.
  • Mary Wollstonecraft wrote a book in the 18th century arguing for women’s rights that helped fuel the women’s suffrage movement.
  • In 1886 the chairman of London Hospital wrote a letter to The Times newspaper about a man whose condition had reduced him to living in an attic room at the hospital, afraid to venture into public. Response to the letter was so generous it funded Joseph Merrick’s (The Elephant Man) stay for the remaining years of his life.

Telling your People Power stories

We put together a special resource pack to inspire organisers to uncover new stories and create special events for the festival. Asking them:

  • Who has changed and shaped your world?
  • What movements have been created, friendships forged, communities strengthened and buildings saved in your area?
  • Which people have been instrumental in creating your Heritage Open Days and what impact has this had on your community?

Over 460 events were staged and a special booklet was produced to celebrate '25 Years of People Power', highlighting the people, places and events that make Heritage Open Days so unique.

Unsung Stories

Made possible by support from players of People's Postcode Lottery. Unsung Stories is an annual arts-based strand of Heritage Open Days, focusing on aspects of heritage that have been overlooked or pushed to the sidelines. For 2019 we worked with award winning craftivist Sarah Corbett, on 'Dare to Dream' a project celebrating past examples of People Power and looking at how we can create the positive change we want today.