A triple launch and why heritage is a token of love

All good things come in threes, they say, and already I’ve broken one of the golden rules of copy writing: don’t use clichés. But it’s fair to say that we are making history today (oops, I did it again) by launching 1. this year’s Heritage Open Days event directory, 2. our very first promotional video ever and 3. a ground-breaking new blog. Surely, these are three good reasons for a cheery toast and an appreciative pat on our collective shoulder (are you keeping up?).

© Heritage Open Days - Heart Frame in Wood

However, this just marks the beginning of a very busy two months leading up to Heritage Open Days. And without wanting to sound neurotic, there’s so much that still could put a damper on things. It’s really only after the last door closes on 11 September with no major incidents reported that we can all lean back for a moment and raise a glass.

The directory

Over half of the 4,000 plus entries we’re expecting this year are now online for you to browse and explore. Registration is still running until 1 August, so it’s worth checking the directory every so often for new additions and amendments. There are already lots of highlights up there, ranging from the world's largest balloon factory in Bristol to Hertfordshire’s best environmental household; the UK’s oldest hotel in Norwich to a Victorian bowls club in Gateshead; England’s largest vineyard in Surrey to a disused cottage hospital awaiting restoration in Devon. In our next blog post, Sarah Holloway will give you some tips on how to pick your personal favourites to help you plan your Heritage Open Days trip. And from today, we will be dishing out daily programme tasters on Twitter. So, if you’d like us to whet your appetite, sign up and follow us.

The blog

Today is also the start of a social media experiment; our new collaborative blog. True to the principle of Heritage Open Days’ grassroots ownership, we have invited 12 volunteer bloggers to share this platform with us and help keep the conversation going beyond the September event. When we launched the call for volunteers with writing ambitions, we weren’t quite sure what the response would be. We were pleasantly surprised though about the number and quality of applications. We didn’t have to revert to social engineering techniques either to assemble an intergenerational team from all corners of the country, different organisations and professional backgrounds. The Blogger Profiles section will tell you who’s on the roll.

It’s only a month since we all met for a one-day workshop in London. Great minds… anyway, we pretty quickly agreed what this blog should be about. Basically, we see it as a way of sharing experience and showcasing the many different aspects of heritage in an engaging and accessible way. Useful, practical, sometimes thought-provoking, often entertaining, always interesting.

To set us on the right path and get our creative juices flowing, we invited Ben Locker along. Ben who now runs a successful copywriting agency in Colchester had managed our education programme some years ago. Combining first-hand Heritage Open Days and ample blogging experience, he surely knew what he was talking about when pointing out that we already had most of the ingredients in place to make our blog a success: an established brand, a loyal audience, a pool of talent to tap into and thousands of places and events to draw inspiration from. May the coming months prove him right.

The video

No doubt, one of this year’s highlights for us will have been the making of our first Heritage Open Days video. It’s been one of these lucky coincidences that introduced us to young filmmaker Jack Mead who volunteered to produce this 5-minute feature. It takes you on a journey from Jean Ezra’s cosy Tudor cottage in Essex to the Victorian splendour of Leeds Town Hall via the G.H. Hurt Shawl Factory in Nottingham, one of the last family-run knit-wear manufacturers in the country. And not forgetting Loyd Grossman, an ardent advocate of heritage matters for many years and president of The Heritage Alliance, who sprinkles a bit of stardust over it all. But let’s not give away too much for now. Nicola Graham will tell you a little bit more about the video’s background story in another post.

Love’s all around

When asked what heritage meant to him, shawl factory owner Henry Hurt’s impulsive answer was just one word: “love”. He may have stunned himself as much as his employees, but there’s nothing hippy about this admittedly unconventional definition of heritage. Think it through, and you will agree that heritage, whatever form it takes, can’t survive without a bit of TLC and the care of people who value the things that previous generations have left behind. And doesn’t the very act of preserving and passing something on for the common good suggest some kind of emotional investment? Ultimately, isn’t heritage a token of love? Well, let’s not become too philosophical, but one thing’s for sure: Heritage Open Days couldn’t happen without thousands of local people who are passionate about their heritage and eager to share it with others. I bet you’ll find it hard to resist!