Take 5 with the team - festival travels

Wow, what a month! What a year! Our biggest festival ever has just come to a close and the team is getting its bearings back after travelling about to see as much of it all as we could! A huge thank you goes out to everybody involved for putting on such a spectacular showcase of local stories (in the sunshine no less!) Here are some of the team's personal highlights from the places we visited – we’d love to hear yours!

The view from Jellicoe Roof Gardens looked especially dazzling in the sun, which shone in full force for most of our amazing festival

Laura's surprising family day out

For HODs this year, I decided to head to Lowestoft for a family day out with my parents to enjoy some of the events from the town’s rapidly growing programme, and to find out a bit more about the place where my dad grew up.

Laura learnt more about her family on a trip to Lowestoft / © Mike Page

First stop was The Port House, which was holding a number of exhibitions including a fun display by the Reclaim & Salvage Company, where we saw everything from fireplaces to kitchenware, and accidentally started a craze amongst children to press the still-working doorbell on a front door (sorry parents!). Upstairs, it was great to see People Power in action with the impassioned campaign to Save Our Record Office. Then, after a quick lunch at the seafront, it was all aboard Excelsior and Mincarlo, where a friendly guide showed us around the fishing trawler, including a visit to the kind of engine room my great-grandad would have once maintained, and there I also discovered that my grandad learnt his carpentry skills through a boat-building apprenticeship. And the day prompted other family memories too, such as the archival photo exhibit at the Railway Station Parcel Office, where I found out that my great-grandma was such a regular passenger on the line that she met and married the man who sold the tickets!

It was really lovely to meet so many enthusiastic volunteers, find out about the town’s past, and learn more about my connections to the area from my family. It really shows that whether you’re an organiser or a visitor, Heritage Open Days can provide the perfect opportunity for us all to share our stories.

Sarah's powerful people

Mat talks dominoes! An excellent choice from the Caribbean Social Forum for this special tour of an extraordinary collection

Once again I've been left pretty speechless by the extraordinary power of people across the country to inspire and deeply move us through their amazing events. I started with a barnstorming and heartwarming launch event in Leeds as a new plaque was unveiled at Holbeck Working Men's Club, before snatching some time in Stoke on Trent  for their special 'Speaker's Corner'. It gave a taster of all the things I couldn't get to in person, but could at least hear about there and meet some of the amazing team (and yes, of COURSE I made time to duck into a bottle oven and eat an oatcake!). Then it was on to the beautiful town of Clitheroe, where people crowded out of coffee shops to watch the special re-enactment of the 1919 Peace Procession walk up the High Street telling tales of the town's past inhabitants. As with all the best HODs events this was a real team effort, so many shops had soldiers in their windows for a very special children's trail, the library was overwhelmed with people eager to see their old police cells (not for the faint hearted!) extra information on the Pendle Radicals could be found in the Market Place and up at the castle you could paint a pebble as part of a lasting art installation. I walked miles, met so many amazing people, and now could not recommend the lovely train trip to this wonderful town enough. Go visit!

And if this wasn't enough, on Friday I popped down to the newly opened Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre. WHAT an afternoon that turned out to be! From the posters along the footbridge and smiling faces of staff greeting us as we entered the bunting festooned gates, I knew this was going to be special. But HOW special... this is an extraordinary collection full of celebrity items - you want something from the Titanic, how about some embroidered evening slippers? Queen Victoria's oven, check! Nelson's coat, yep that too; ship models; paintings by Turner... it's all there, and all well worth a trip, but this tour was extra special, because as Mat told us from the start, this is YOUR collection, and so he gave us an amazing tour based around objects chosen by local community groups. I especially loved the delicate domino box and the layers of stories (not always lighthearted) to be told around the Invicible knickers. If that wasn't enough, we then got to 'play' in the Mystery Story Store; I left a card - search the drawers under the clock if you go and you might find it, before adding your own tale.

Alex's great escape

Can this really be England - why, yes, yes it can! Hello from Albury Vineyard in Surrey.

I escaped the HODs office over both weekends, made the most of the amazing weather and visited the very best that the festival had to offer! The wonderful Oxford Preservation Trust coordinated nearly 100 events, revealing the widest range of heritage within the city. Personal favourites included trying (and failing) to repeat Sir Roger Bannister’s 4 minute mile at the Iffley Road Sports Centre, exploring the hidden Elizabethan wall paintings above a betting shop and going behind the scenes at many of the famous colleges. 

Out and about in Guildford, I explored our natural heritage. The Jellicoe Roof Garden provided stunning views over the Surrey Hills, whilst the abandoned Chilworth Gunpowder Mills trail provided a detailed insight into the ruins of an industry that dominated the area for almost 300 years. Albury Organic Vineyard provided some fizz to finish my festival, with a guided tour explaining the rise of organic wine making in England.

Our volunteers

Always so many stories to tell over HODs - including those inspired by these log books at Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre

They've been beavering in the office all summer working through the registrations and writing up highlights to inspire us all, but what caught their eye over the fesival itself? Find out by reading their final posts... Eleri made some Doorstep Discoveries while Catherine took a Trip Through Time

What did you discover?

A huge thank you to everyone involved in the festival this year, be it by visiting, organising or volunteering!

Please tell us how it all went – we’d love to share your stories!

Find out more