My time as Heritage Open Days manager has come to a close, but what a year it’s been !
And so another Heritage Open Days festival comes to an end; a glorious, sun-drenched, smorgasbord of events unlike any other. What an extraordinary year; our 25th anniversary, celebrated nationally and at regional hubs across the country, the longest festival ever and the biggest, with over 5,700 events to choose from. In 2019, we celebrated People Power in all its forms – something at the very heart of HODs – with craftivism workshops, a peace procession, walks, talks and a chance to celebrate those who have created positive change of every kind.
It’s always a little sad when HODs is over, but I’m more wistful than normal this year, as my time as National Manager is ending. It’s been an extraordinary nine months, a chance to steer the festival through its anniversary year, and hopefully leave it in its best-ever shape for the next quarter of a century. In 2019, we welcomed some fantastic new names to the fold – the Greenwich Maritime Museums, Eton College, Castle Howard – and celebrated with some old ones; sites that have been with us from the very start, such as Clarence Yard in Gosport. Maharajahs danced in Milton Keynes, Roundheads and Cavaliers fought at Crowland Abbey and hundreds of people stitched their dreams for the future at out Dare to Dream workshops.
One of the most positive developments has been the opportunity to get out and about around the country, and strengthen links with regional co-ordinations and organisers. At national level we are a small team, but there is an army of organisers and volunteers that make HODs happen and it was wonderful to meet so many at our new HODx workshops, our co-ordinators conference and our anniversary party. It’s inspiring to encounter so much passion and energy, and to be part of something that brings people together, to celebrate our shared heritage and stories.
But the best part has been working with the fantastic HODs team, who have worked so hard to ensure that our 25th anniversary year was our best ever. You all know them, of course; Alex, Sarah, Andy and Laura – who work together so brilliantly, support each other, and ensure that every person who deals with them – whether an organiser, supplier, partner, visitor or volunteer – comes away with only good things to say.
I’m delighted to be handing the reins back to another familiar face, Annie Reilly, who I know will take HODs onto even greater things next year. In the next couple of months, we’ll be announcing our theme for 2020 and there are exciting new developments for HODs in the pipeline. For now, to all HODs organisers, volunteers and co-ordinators, a HUGE thank you from me for your dedication, hard work, warmth and enthusiasm – it’s been an absolute privilege to work alongside you.