The H factor: visitor feedback 2013

Sifting through your visitor feedback is like munching our way steadily through a tray of chocolates. Each a little more delicious than the last: you have the toffees and the nutty ones; then there is the selection of creams. And once you have consumed the entire tray, you consider the lingering taste and the question comes to mind (still munching)….

..but what IS it that unites all these flavours? I mean apart from the fact that they are all chocolates? What puts the H in your Heritage Open Days experience? What IS the H factor? Perhaps tray 2 will have the answer…

Go for green triangles: Access!

The first grab! We greedily gobble up your tales of enthusiasm for exploration of the unknown. You tell us you ‘always wanted to see inside’ or explore ‘the rooms downstairs and the rooms with no entry’. You are excited at the ‘rare opportunity to climb the tower’ despite it being ‘slightly disconcerting in the wind’. We are delighted you have finally gained access to places ‘admired externally for years’ or see the places you’d ‘read about but never thought I’d visit’.

Toffee wrestling  

Once inside you get stuck in. Your family is in tow: grandparents, parents and children. You take tours, enjoy chapatti making, watching the water wheel ‘whizz around’, you ring bells, make cardboard buildings, dance and play instruments. You tell us ‘the climb up the 161 steps was well worth it for the amazing view’, the clock mechanism was ‘fascinating’, the talk ‘enthralling’, the tour ‘illuminating’ and the organ music ‘delightful’. You enjoyed the exhibitions and ‘the permission to explore visually and tactilely’. There was so much to see ‘you could have stayed all day’.

Cozy caramel  

You particularly notice a warm welcome: the homemade tea and cakes, that everything was ‘so clean and loved’.  You tell us you were made to ‘feel welcome’  through your whole visit, so much so you could 'happily move in.’ And you tell us of the people you talked to. The tour guides whose ‘humour, passion and abundance of knowledge’ made your day. You tell us of their pride in their places, which has ‘moved’ you. That you ‘felt appreciated and valued’. That you are grateful: ‘thank you for sharing your house and your memories’.

But what’s this?! …Do the creams have it?!  

The ‘gem on my doorstep I was not aware of’, the ‘building I have walked past many times and never noticed’, so often the last of the bunch and yet and yet, ‘so much better than I had anticipated’. It is your surprise that sends a shiver down our spines. Wide-eyed you share your new knowledge about ‘the local history you never knew existed’ and the ‘layers of history’' that you now see (‘there is more to my village than I realised’). You share your new knowledge, ‘I have taught history for 35 years but have found lots of new ideas here’ and new perspectives, 'I have been walking in these gardens for 40 years - I learnt so much about them today’. And how in exploring your local history, you have discovered your own: ‘where my grandfather had been a master printer‘; ‘my husband’s name in the fallen history of WWI’; ‘the original entry of marriage of my great-grandparents’; ‘if you close your eyes you can imagine sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen’.

Heritage Open Days is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.  

Tray 2 is finished. Are we any closer? It is difficult to put our (sticky) fingers on. But as we reflect on the empty box, we feel warm and awake and thoughtful. If there are moments of epiphany, how possible is it to pinpoint the reason for them? Perhaps the H factor is the unexpectedness in your experience. The moment of surprise, when understanding shifts and perspective changes. Or perhaps it is the warm cup of tea you are met with and the passion of the person holding it. Perhaps it is different for everyone and that is the H factor itself...

..What do you think?