An ode to cherries: visitor feedback 2012

For the team here, Heritage Open Days is a little like entering an isolation booth before a party. We have been facilitating preparations for months, then the time arrives when we must step over the threshold, hold our breath, cross all limbs possible and hope that the guests will turn up. The door closes. No more calls. No more queries. Nothing more to be done. Silence.

© Salvo Toscano - Stall: Here's Heritage, Reading

When it is over, we step back out. We are greeted by an abundance of stories. And what a delight it is to hear them.

In, in at last!

Your curiosity and enthusiasm for gaining access can often bring a smile to our faces. We imagine you, comfortable footwear adorned, itinerary in hand, sandwiches stowed safely in your back packs and senses bristling: ‘Always wanted to get in and this was my big chance’, ‘I’ve waited over 70 years to see inside’. Doors open and you’re off, scaling towers, walking parapets, Impossible is Nothing: 'I fitted in 24 places...next year I am going to explore further a field '; ‘Loved the fact that we were able to go right to the top’.

Really!!?!

And your reactions when you get there, the in-take of breath, ‘Awesome’ and surprise: ‘didn't realise it was so beautiful’; ‘better than I imagined’. Your surprise, not just for what you see but what you discover: ‘I thought I was knowledgeable but still I learnt something new’, ‘what a lot we don’t know about our own town’; the effect the place has on you, ’feel privileged to be here’ and the pride it fills you with, ‘Liverpool has so much’. Then there are your more personal experiences that touch us ‘Went up the tower to see the notice board from 1947 with my mother's name on. First time she'd ever seen it.’ 

Can I just say….

We are inspired also by your reflections, which you share with us after you have chewed over your day. Your new-found appreciation for local history: ‘I think it wonderful that local societies continue to record and to value their heritage’ and what it means to you, ‘learning more of our history and heritage is always a pleasure and deepens one’s enjoyment of life in our often mundane surroundings’. Your initial reservations: 'If Heritage Open Days had not been organised, I would not have taken my children, simply because I wasn't sure if they would enjoy it any more than going to a free park and having a picnic..' and why they were overcome, '..It was such a beautiful place and I will definitely take them there again'. Or why you cherish the event: 'because it encourages me to go and do something I always meant to do and never got round to' and how you, 'look forward to it every year.' You encourage us to reflect with you, on the value of Heritage Open Days and its reason for being.

Heritage Open Days glow

Lastly you tell us of your appreciation for the effort, the care and the hospitality that you have experienced and which, you say again and again, position the cherry on your Heritage Open Days cake: ‘We liked the way everything was cared for and loved... Lovely refreshments. Caring and friendly people, 5 star’. You tell us of the ‘like minds’ you met and the conversations you had. You share your admiration for the ‘many volunteers at so many locations doing a fabulous job keeping our heritage alive’ and the passion and enthusiasm of the ‘friendly guides (which) add sparkle’.

And so it is your stories and comments that place the cherry on our Heritage Open Days cake. And we are warmed by your experiences. And challenged. We feel glad that Heritage Open Days offers you time to enjoy and experience and remember and reflect. And although, ‘the holiday is over and we must restrain ourselves from continuing in this chugging mode and get cracking with life’, we hope that you continue to, ‘feel inspired to come back and explore more’ and we look forward to that moment when the party has finished and we emerge, once again, from the booth in 2013.