A Night to Remember…

Wow – what a night our 25th party in London was! 170 organisers, colleagues and friends joined us as we kicked off the first of 7 celebrations happening up and down the country, marking 25 years of Heritage Open Days and all those who have made it possible. Having planned this for months, for me the event was a bit of a whirlwind, but I’ll try and recollect it as best I can…

Annabelle raises a toast - cheers to all past, present and future HODs participants! © Phil Jackson

The venue

After looking at many beautiful and unusual historic venues, we settled on the stunning Two Temple Place. This Grade II listed building was once the private office of William Astor (some office huh?), who at the time of its completion in 1895 was one of the richest men in the world. Usually closed to members of the public, this architectural hidden gem was a fitting place to celebrate 25 years of opening doors!

The London Swing Band helped get the party started as people start to arrive at the stunning Two Temple Place

The speakers

Heritage Open Days is only made possible through the tireless work of over 2,000 local organisers. It was therefore only appropriate that they should open the night in a beautifully synchronised speech. Many thanks go to...

  • Andy Perkin, Potteries Heritage Society
  • Mark Hignett, Oswestry Town Museum
  • Beth Garlington, Blackpool HODs
  • Emma Muscat, Resident Historian of MuCollective
  • John Netherwood, Hull Civic Society
  • Richard Smith, The Forum Norwich

They were followed by speeches from Richard Graham (MP for Gloucester and chair of the Gloucester History Festival), Hilary McGrady (Director-General of the National Trust) and Sarah Corbett (Craftivist Collective and creator of our new Dare To Dream project). The evening was rounded off by our HODs manager Annabelle, toasting 25 years of the festival with some excellent English fizz from HODs participants, Albury Organic Vineyard. Naturally, I was given the most important job of the night - cutting the cake!

The décor

Stepping in from outside, guests found themselves at an English garden party - thanks to Morden Hall Park Garden Centre / © Phil Jackson

Decorating such a huge space was a big challenge. We wanted to bring nature indoors and recreate that most typically English of things – a garden party. Luckily the incredible Bella and Steve from Morden Hall Park Garden Centre (the only peat-free garden centre in the world!) came to the rescue, providing us with a literal forest of beautiful plants, flowers, and even a tree. Tea lights and lanterns were scattered whimsically and the walls were adorned with a photography gallery featuring some of the best moments from previous festivals.  

The entertainment

The Cabinet of Curiosities held treasures from across England - from headmaster's diaries, to a freemason's jelly mould and a diamond ring!

The London Swing Band got the party going giving modern songs (Uptown Funk, Teenage Dirtbag, Hey Ya etc.) a vintage feel. For those wanting a bit of a chill out space, Sarah Corbett set up a Craftivist corner, where guests could unleash their creativity whilst they Dared To Dream of a better future. And in true HODs style a Cabinet of Curiosities sparked many conversations, filled with intriguing items supplied by local organisers to further showcase the diversity of the festival.

So that’s it…170 guests, a forest of plants, 25 stunning photographs and one amazing venue – the perfect ingredients for a great party. If this was anything to go by, this year’s festival looks on course to be our best ever!