Truly open to all: a selection of accessible events on the South Coast

As I venture into the world of blogging with my first Heritage Open Days post, I am wondering how I can pick out specific events that are accessible? Don’t we all aim to put on events that are ‘accessible, inclusive, open to all’? Isn’t this the ethos behind Heritage Open Days? 

© Esther Gill - Accessible to all: drawing the heritage around us on The Stade, Hastings

Well, yes and no. After two years on the Creative Landscapes Project, working with disabled people in Hastings and Gosport to explore how we can make our tours, open houses, workshops and exhibitions accessible, I have come to realise just how subtle and complex a process this can be. It’s not just about the more obvious visible changes – ramps and lifts, handrails, British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation, hearing loops, accessible parking and toilets – it’s also about seemingly small but critical changes that make a real difference for disabled visitors. Such as:

  • Planning in places for regular stops and to sit down on your walking tour
  • Providing information about distances that people will have to travel between programme events
  • Printing information in large font sizes
  • Displaying artefacts at a variety of levels
  • Laying out rooms spaciously
  • Creating simple English activity sheets
  • Making volunteers confident about what adaptations they can make on the spot.

I could go on (and will do in future blogs) but at its core, it's about a willingness to change the way we usually run our events to include everybody. It’s about attitude and listening to disabled visitors. 

So, here's a handful of events in Hastings and Gosport where the organisers have done some lateral thinking about what they can do to make their events more inclusive to a wide range of disabled people. As ever, for more detail and full listings of all the events, have a look at the Heritage Open Days directory.

Hastings & St Leonards

Creative Landscapes Exhibition 
8th-11th September, 10am-4pm: Running throughout the four days of Heritage Open Days in the new Stade Hall, this exhibition of work by two disabled artists, Sally Booth and Lynn Weddle, explores the historic area and community around The Stade. Audio descriptions, interviews with the artists and large print information panels all aid access. 

Here and There Film Show 
10th and 11th September, 12-4pm:
A screening of films made by young learning disabled people in Hastings exploring both their own and the local heritage as part of the UScreen Project. The cinema is a 20ft shipping container on St Leonard's seafront! Films are audio described and subtitled for access.

Explore the maritime history of Hastings 
11th September, 2pm: Join a BSL Interpreted tour of The Stade, the historic fishing area in the town, led by one of The Stade Education Project’s Tour Guides. Learn about the unique Hastings net huts and the survival of this distinctive area of the town. 

East Hill Funicular Railway 
10th September:
Throughout the day the wheelchair accessible East Hill Lift will be taking people up and down from The Stade to the East Hill Park for FREE. You can even bring your breakfast along for an early morning introduction to the park’s natural history at 9am. Please note that there is a steep incline up to the entrance of the East Hill lift.

The Accessible Minibus
10th September: Take a free ride on the East Sussex Disability Association accessible minibus which will be running between Hastings Station and various HODs events throughout the day. Booking essential: Ring Wendy Hiscox on 01323 514512 or


Jolly Accessible Bus Tour: Angelseyville
8th September 12-5pm: Book onto this fully accessible bus tour around 19th century Gosport and hear about Robert Cruikshank's vision for the fashionable resort of Angelseyville.

Fort Brockhurst: ‘Avoid the Rush’ Opening
8th September, 11am-1pm: If you prefer a quieter visit to this amazing 19th century fort, come and wander on this Thursday morning ‘avoid the rush’ opening. Move forward to the 20th century and learn more about wartime Gosport at the My Home Front talk. 

HMS Alliance: Signalong Choir and BSL Tour
10th September: 12pm and 1pm: Come along at midday to see and hear the amazing Signalong Choir (singing and BSL) and then join the BSL Interpreted tour of the submarine. Booking essential for the tour.

Victorian Photo Fun
10th September, 11.30-2.30pm: Step off the beaten track and come into the New Inn in Elson where disabled artist Mandie Saw will be taking Victorian-style black and white photos of you and your group. Dress up in your own outfit or something chosen from her collection, have a drink at the bar and join in the fun in this relaxed and welcoming event. Mandie’s photography of the local area will also be exhibited in the pub.

Jolly Accessible Bus Tour:  Army and Navy
11th September, 12-5pm: Another accessible bus tour by the Jolly Bus, this time taking in two of the key military sites of Gosport: Fort Brockhurst and the Institute of Naval Medicine. Events will be running at both sites. 

Institute of Naval Medicine Accessible Event
11th September, 3pm: Book onto this accessible event to find out more about the illustrious history of the Institute of Naval Medicine and the Royal Navy Medical Service.  See some of the history books and handle some of the Institute’s more unusual objects. Booking required.