Do something new in Norwich

Brass bands, fashion shows, and a chance to throw wet sponges are amongst the new highlights for Heritage Open Days in Norwich this year. Flo Reynolds, Communications Assistant at Norwich HEART tells us more about the festival in the city...

© Kevin Lambert - Heritage Heroes performing ‘The Trial of William Tuck’ at The Guildhall, Norwich, in 2014.

How long have you been involved in Heritage Open Days?

2015 is the eleventh year that HEART has organised Heritage Open Days in Norwich. Over the past decade, HODs has grown locally from around 12 events in the city, to 200+ events across much of Norfolk coordinated with our area partners. Last year we challenged ourselves to make HODs 2014 the biggest and best we’d ever done, and we were delighted when we were named top organiser in terms of number of events. The 2015 programme is looking even more exciting and we can’t wait to ‘do something new’!

What makes HODs in your area so special?

Norwich and Norfolk have a peculiarly rich history, with waves of different industries, migrants and rebellions helping to make our local heritage unique. This includes the greatest number of medieval, vaulted undercrofts in the UK – some of the oldest parts of the Fine City. Every year during HODs there’s a rush to explore the open undercrofts, to see if rumours of secret tunnels are true! But most importantly, the people here are exceptionally passionate about keeping their heritage alive into the 21st century. We work with some wonderful volunteers to make HODs happen. Last year the bookings team at HEART HQ processed a record-breaking 1,261 booking requests, and, at events across Norfolk, volunteers help with everything from showcasing their letterpress printing skills to teaching visitors to ring church bells. Our volunteers are practical, passionate people, and we couldn’t do it without them.

What new things do you have planned for this year?

We’ve never had such a wide variety of events. It looks like a very musical year for Norfolk HODs, with concerts from the University of East Anglia Chamber Orchestra and City of Norwich Brass Band (fully booked!) taking place in some beautiful heritage venues. Perennial favourites such as the Old Meeting House are also getting in on this new musical trend, which is wonderful to see. At The Guildhall we’ll be hosting a vintage fashion show, and with the centenary of Edith Cavell’s death coming up later this year, there are events in Norwich and her home village of Swardeston celebrating the life of the WWI heroine. There’ll be a range of talks on all sorts of subjects, from poet R. F. Langley, to the Victorian sex trade, to Tudor feasts. We’re really excited by two events clusters in Harleston and North Walsham, Norfolk, one of which includes the chance to throw wet sponges at a prisoner in the stocks – the perfect chance for kids to get their own back!

What has been your favourite HODs moment/memory?

There are so many to choose from! Last year we had the pleasant surprise of discovering the WWI exhibition at St Mark’s Church, and it’s wonderful to now be working with a volunteer from there on our own WWI-themed Colman’s Connections project. But an absolute highlight was last year’s Kids Takeover Day at Norwich Guildhall with our group of young Heritage Heroes, who performed a mock trial to over 400 members of the public. Seeing children and young people get involved in heritage, and growing their confidence in the process, has to be top of the list!

Have we whetted your appetite, do you fancy discovering something new? 

  • Take a look at the event directory for details of all that will be happening in the city (and beyond!) for Heritage Open Days.
  • Download the local brochure and find out more about the work of excellent coordinators Norwich HEART from their site.
  • To find out more about what's on offer in Norfolk, see the VisitNorfolk website
  • ​​If you are looking for further inspiration take a look at our other do something new blogs.