Heritage Open Days: 10-19 Sept. 2021 - what did you discover?!

Take 5 with the Team

We did it! After just 2.5 months of continually revised prep (including legal changes with just 24 hours to go!) over 700 local organisers created 10 days of festival fun. A HUGE thank you to all involved, whether you planned, ran, or visited, online or in-person, you made some real festival magic happen in the most extraordinary of circumstances!

Now we’ve reached the other side, it’s time to take 5, cast an eye back and consider where do we go from here? So grab a cuppa and get comfy, as I give you a behind the scenes update!

We created a suite of new signage for in-person events following the guidance of our 'backstage' crew at the National Trust.

Navigating new waters

My last update was just as we relaunched registration for a whole new look festival, since then we’ve embraced new technology and navigated the tricky changing currents of COVID policy to see the festival bunting fly in a whole new way. Too many things to mention got us here, but these two are worth highlighting:

  • With the A team back from those furlough fields it was full steam ahead to rewrite our database and provide extra guidance and support to help local organisers consider new ways to take part. Alongside our online community cafes we held our first webinar with over 100 people tuning in to hear from 4 speakers about how to create digital events.
  • An extra special mention needs to go out to the backstage crew – those people so rarely noticed but who this year more than ever before, were fundamental to ensuring your festival could safely go ahead. Yep, that’s right, I’m talking about the staff advising us on insurance, operational risk, and safeguarding. You never see them, but without this team at the National Trust, your festival could not have made its way through the choppy waters of change this year.

Festival Fun

One of the secret garden gates that opened for HODs this year / © Rosie Ryan

The result? An astonishing 1,788 events were on offer at the start of the festival, over 1/3 of them as online experiences.  Whilst I wasn’t able to visit anywhere in person this year it was fantastic to skip about the country with the digital events. I learnt that watercress has more Vitamin C than oranges, that near my office (when we’re eventually able to return) I should look out for Indian Bean trees, and that beneath our feet is a world of stories (and tunnels!).*

There were some fantastic in-person events as well though – including a special series of open gardens run by the ever excellent Beverley Civic Society, making full use of our guidance, signage and social distancing tape. You can hear more from them in their case study.

Extra, extra!

If the festival itself wasn’t enough, we’re delighted to have also been able to contribute to a couple of other projects in the sector recently:

Our fantastic local coordinator in Gosport, Terry Rhodes, was photographed for a special National Trust commission/ © John Millar

125 portraits Heritage Open Days is run by the National Trust who are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year. As part of that a special series of portraits was commissioned (pre-pandemic) to highlight the wonderful people that make up the Trust… including one of our brilliant local organisers, Terry Rhodes, from the great Gosport Heritage Open Days group.

Heritage, Health & WellbeingThe Heritage Alliance has just published this report, which could not be more timely or important right now. Heritage is a tricky word but it encompasses so much that is intrinsic to our identity and wellbeing. Heritage Open Days shows every year that connecting with and sharing our stories, places and traditions makes us happier individually, and stronger as a community – you’ll find our case study on p.38!

So what happens now?

Well, first, we take stock! We’re gathering in and going through all your feedback from across the year, so that we can see what worked well and what we could work more on. This will all feed in to our planning for next year… what will our theme be, will we still be open to digital offers, will we be able to get back on the road to meet organisers around the country in person? Stay tuned for the next Take 5!

*Many thanks to: The Watercress Company / Leamington Spa Civic Society / Museum of Norwich / Exeter City Council

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