Heritage Open Days 2015 proves good news for people and places

3.4 million people from across Great Britain discovered the joys of Heritage Open Days this year, with a record 2 million visitors sampling the four-day festival for the first time. Winds and showers may have blighted the weekend in some areas, but they didn’t dampen the spirits of those who took part. Up on last year’s rates, an overwhelming 97% of visitors and 93% of volunteers enjoyed their experiences, while 85% of visitors reported feeling happier as a result.

HODs 2015 at Kings Lynn Town Hall© Rahil Ahmad - Volunteers and visitors at King's Lynn Heritage Open Days

Find out more below or download the press release here.

Positive impact on wellbeing

For the first time, Heritage Open Days was able to put a figure on the impact a visit can have on individuals’ wellbeing. 85% visitors saw their wellbeing enhanced as the festival either helped them to relax (78%), keep active and healthy (71%) or made them feel better about themselves (64%).

It comes as no surprise to the Heritage Open Days team at the National Trust that England’s most popular festival of local history and culture boosts participants’ happiness. Each year, reams of visitor comments drive this point home. Few, however, are as poignant as former marine Martin Webb’s feedback following his visit to the Memorial Gardens at RH Haslar in Gosport: “I always appreciated Haslar hospital where I have been treated many times. Haslar’s history and mystique have enthralled me and my visit has fulfilled so many of my questions. How wonderful and proud I feel. Thank you for helping preserve our heritage. The gardens are wonderful. I’m very happy, sublime, chuffed.”

Connecting communities and places

In a similar vein, the 2015 festival demonstrated that participation in Heritage Open Days can change people’s perceptions and behaviours. Following their visit, eight out of ten people felt inspired to explore their local area, while an even larger percentage experienced a greater connection with their historic environment (83%) or an increased pride in their area (85%). With half of all visitors attending heritage sites rarely or not at all before their Heritage Open Days encounter, local cultural venues and organisations can take heart from the fact that 85% felt encouraged to visit other attractions in the future.

Heritage Open Days supports local economies

For the first time, Heritage Open Days assessed the festival’s economic impact. In total, Heritage Open Days is estimated to be worth a minimum of £15 million to local economies.  With admission to every single one of the 4,855 events in the festival free of charge, an estimated £9 million was spent on food, shopping, travel or accommodation as part of people’s trip to the local area, supplemented by a further £7 million of secondary spend on refreshments, souvenirs or books at individual events.

Katja Condy, Heritage Open Days Manager, said: “Participating in Heritage Open Days makes a real difference to both individuals visiting and communities hosting an event. This is largely due to the wonderful work of the 48,000 local organiser and volunteers who make this grassroots festival happen. Volunteers spent over half a million hours on opening up places to the public, sharing their expertise with passion and panache and making Heritage Open Days a truly transformative experience.”

Download the full release or our 2015 headline facts and figures at a glance.

Heritage Open Days in action

And if you need a further reminder of all the reasons Heritage Open Days is so special, we hope you will agree, our latest video hits the spot. Produced by Haze Films and filmed in Hull and Kings Lynn, it captures just some of this year's eclectic programme of events. Yours to watch and share, we hope you enjoy it.

Want to know more? Take a look behind the scenes with its producers Martha and Lauren.