Beverley Civic Society

Beverley is an historic town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, a quiet, little known gem of a place that for the past 4 years has burnt extraordinarily brightly as a festival hotspot. This is thanks to the work of a brilliant local coordinator at Beverley Civic Society, who partners with the excellent long standing Hull programme to create an annual East Riding HODs hubbub. Plans were well underway for another great year in 2020 and then COVID-19 came along, but that was not going to stop this amazing team.

© Roland Deller - Vicar & Volunteers were ready to receive visitors at St Mary's

Barbara English, Heritage Open Days Co-ordinator for Beverley Civic Society, East Riding of Yorkshire

Why we take part

It has always been a pleasure, helps our Society with the wide publicity, helps our town to know more about its built and historic self, and also introduces Beverley to others who live elsewhere.

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

What we do for HODs

We start planning in January, and by March 2020 had almost completed the programme, which we run annually in co-operation with Hull Civic Society who produce 10K copies of a printed programme for both towns. In Beverley we had planned to have 41 events, stretching over two weekends.

How we adapted for 2020

In March the world changed, and it was clear that many places could not open safely.  We retreated to a plan of one weekend with the emphasis on ‘Hidden Nature’, built around the walled gardens of Beverley which were attached to historic houses.  The gardeners were happy as they had the summer to tend their gardens, many having cancelled their holidays. We recruited 100+ volunteers to manage the flow of visitors by one-way systems, and to take details for track and trace. We made full use of the national HODs directional posters and the distancing tape. We persuaded three sites to go on line.  The programme changed many times, but eventually we had 20 openings, that is 14 gardens mainly in a cluster, the two great churches both of which put on special events for HOD, our Guildhall, our Friary, the Freemasons’ Hall and a medieval inn near Beverley Minster.

Just in time it all came together, not without some sleepless nights.  Then the sun shone, the gardens looked amazing, the people came in thousands, but never in such a way as to overwhelm us, and we were all really, really happy with the results.

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The difference it's made

We recruited 100s of volunteers to help this year, some were members, some not, and we also gained new members for our Civic Society who said specifically that they came because of HOD.

Beverley's HODs organisers - Barbara English (R) and new recruit, Rosie Ryan (L) / © George Ryan & Arthur English

Barbara's Top Tip!

Have a go!  Start small and see how it works for you, and the second year will be even better. My analysis is that clusters of events, in time and in place, work best.  London HQ is really helpful with a wide range of advice and material. 

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