HODs Festival Review 2020

In a year of unprecedented change, the Heritage Open Days community pulled together to ensure the festival not only survived, but thrived. Learning new skills, coping with change and finding new opportunities, 769 local organisers created 1,788 events in record time for our most innovative festival yet!

© -

Methods to make a change

To help navigate the challenges and opportunities, we consulted widely to create new guidance, resources, and communication lines.

Staying connected:  A series of online Community Café sessions connected organisers across the country, providing a space for people to simply check in and chat as well as discuss ideas.

© -

Staying safe on site: For those able to open up and run events on site there was updated guidance on risk assessments, social distancing tape and a suite of downloadable template COVID-19 posters.

© -

Opening up to digital: To encourage people to explore the possibilities of digital events a Beginner’s Guide was published. This was complemented by our first webinar and a follow up topical cafe session for organisers to hear from and discuss other's experiences.

© -

New online events: Bedfordshire Archive's 'Rat in the Stacks', Wisbech in Minecraft, Ure Museum talks, Hooton Park Hangars

The difference digital made

The festival flag flew in every region of England, but opening up to digital enabled sites to welcome more people to more places, and visitors to 'travel' much further abroad! 

Royal Holloway, University of London - Hidden treasures Tour

Going where no-one could go before…

  • Clock Tower, Royal Holloway, University of London - Not even the curator had been up the ladder before, but videoing a tour for HODs meant we could all climb it for stunning views and fascinating insights into the clock's workings and construction.
  • Liskeard Railway Station Signal Box, Cornwall – Sited on a busy line, it isn’t safe to open the signal box to visitors but a new film took rail lovers up close to the action, watching as the staff signalled a train through the tracks.
  • The Barn, Essex Historic Military Vehicle Association - For both safety and security reasons this restoration and storage site is off limits to the public. A digital tour gave the group a chance share their work and the stories behind an array of historic vehicles from bikes to tanks.

Online events meant more people could 'visit' more places across the country / Liskeard Signal Box, Exeter Passages, 575 Wandsworth Road NT

Reaching more people…

  • 575 Wandsworth Road – This remarkable town house is only open by pre-booked tours, limited to groups of no more than 6 due to the confined space and conservation concerns. A trial of interactive online tours over the festival tripled the number for each session and enabled a visitor in America to join in!
  • Underground Passages, Exeter – These 14th century tunnels are a tight squeeze but a high speed video walk through meant masses of us could take a peak beneath the city streets!
  • Hands across the Ocean -  The Old Meeting House in Mansfield crossed the Atlantic to link up with the Congregational Church in Mansfield, Massachusetts to live stream a series of talks.

© -

A big thank you

Many thanks to all who participated and made the festival possible this year, in the face of challenging change you made it more special than ever. Whether by attending, or planning and promoting; by providing funding or advice or indeed the all important supplies of tea and cake! THANK YOU and see you next year!

New digital resources were available for local organisers like this video end credit slide

Save the date! HODs will be back next year: 10-19 September

Find out more

More details will follow in the weeks to come as the full report is released.