A knight swirls to victory in a skirt; a queen rules with a fist clad in iron. What we choose to wear says a lot about us, and how we want, or need, to be seen. Intricate, powerful, stories like these are connected to perhaps surprising objects in an iconic collection. The current exhibition and self-guided object trail at The Royal Armouries, Leeds, was created by volunteers and researchers who identify under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella to showcase diverse voices and hidden histories. Get a taster of their brilliant exhibition and trail with these highlights.
New Year is a time for lists, resolutions and honours; so reflecting on last year and thinking about what highlights lie ahead, we’ve come up with an alternative Honours list. To get you thinking about what catches attention, here are some events that proved firm favourites for the team and media in 2023…
Come closer, these images will be worth a second look! From a smoking urn to a hallway hiding in a cupboard, turns out you definitely shouldn't believe everything you first see! Two of the National Trust's curators have seven wonderful optical illusions to share from amongst their curious collections. Enjoy!
Think of a Victorian mill working at full tilt - it's big, noisy, terrible working conditions that damaged the health of workers. But look closer at those workers, and we find examples of how disabled people have always been a valued part of the team. A brilliant exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum explores these histories, shining a light on overlooked voices from the past, and inviting disabled artists today to respond to them. Read on for a taster, then explore more at the museum, or through their website.
Think archives are just full of dusty old documents? Think again! Creaking open the door of their 'dark fortress' Callum from Buckinghamshire Archives is here to give us a peek at some of their treasures. From truly 'delicious' (?!) documents to delightful doodles, with some alarming discoveries and curious mysteries to boot - archives really are awesome!
Now that the bunting has been packed away, and the festival buzz has slowly subsided for another year it's the perfect time to take a step back and reflect on another fantastic festival and share some of our plans for the winter months. From filtering through feedback to future proofing our festival, go grab a cuppa, here's 5 things we've been working on behind the scenes over the last few weeks!
Actors, choral singers, circus owners and steel pan musicians; all part of our rich creative story. This year we’ve been unwrapping the history of creativity and for Black History Month wanted to share a snapshot of just some of the stories to be found across England.
Blazing sunshine heralded the start of our festival, though it blew out in Autumnal style. All the team were able to get out and about this year though, to meet up with organisers and see events in action, so, whilst we gather our breath before planning the next chapter, we thought we'd take 5 with you and share some highlights.
Hello, I'm Maddy and I’ve been the Volunteer Web Content Creator for Heritage Open Days this year! My job has been to write the Festival Spotlight posts, and it’s been so much fun to ferret around in the warren of the 5000 strong-events registry to pick out some of the best that HODs has to offer.
Well, the last few months have been quite the whirlwind as the festival planning caravan gathers pace (and people)! We’ve been out and about across the country (and beyond) meeting amazing organisers and promoting their work to others across the sector. Including a glitzy awards night, a parliamentary reception and even a catch up in a Viennese Palace! Time for a quick break then before we continue – so go on, grab a cup of (iced) tea and take 5 with us for an update on what's been happening behind the scenes with the national festival team.
An astounding invention made from Meccano and elastic bands.
A pop-up book on the master of suspense.
A stylish poster.
Just three treasures you might not think to look for in the collection of our fantastic British Film Institute national archive. I was lucky enough to attend their Heritage Open Day last year, and it really is like walking in to an Aladdin’s cave. The brilliant team throw open the doors once a year, but there are so many wonders to explore – so I am handing over to their coordinator, Jo, to tell us more!
No livestock allowed is one of the golden rules of a local allotment (please pass that message on to the rabbits!) At a site in beautiful Yorkshire plot holders grow their own bounty ranging from prize winning pumpkins to dazzling dahlias. The soil they are digging in to though contains another kind of treasure – the land has a fascinating history, which the Allotment Committee have been uncovering.
Between the covers of a book lie whole new worlds, conjured by words and beautiful illustrations. Worlds that range from the heavenly (17th century star atlas) to the mundane (13th century instruction manual). From business (introducing the shampooing surgeon!) to the deeply personal (18th century diary). Books that have been jotted in whilst on the move or beautifully designed and produced in extreme conditions. Fascinating worlds - and all can be found in a new book of books from the National Trust. Take a moment and tour them with us!
Pretty wallpaper? Pretty poisonous! The historic decorative features in our old buildings provide character and are much loved but require care. Careful care. Especially when some of those features are potentially deadly! So who do you call when your paper starts to peel or your doors to decay? A clever conservator please! Here’s Geanina Beres from Icon with 5 things to watch out for next time you walk the floors of a historic building…
Did you know a library isn’t just for books? When I asked our organisers for stories about the history of creativity Leeds Libraries came back with these amazing posters. Turns out a peek at playbills from across the centuries gives a fascinating glimpse of past pleasures. Take a break with their senior librarian as she talks us through the designs of the times – from competitive creators to fears of a nude pantomime!
'The cherries’ only fault / the crowds that gather / when they bloom'*. The sight of blossom in Spring has inspired poets throughout the centuries and celebrating the season is an important benchmark in Japan's calendar. Now the National Trust are building on the success of their #BlossomWatch campaign to bring that joy and inspiration into ours. Launching today with a new poem from Simon Armitage there's a whole feast of opportunities to get involved and be inspired - will you plant a tree, write a poem, or simply look up and smell the blooms?
Born to french aristocracy, scammed into poverty, and bouncing back to face all critics, including the British Admiralty – Celeste Sinibaldi was clearly an enterprising, charismatic woman. Her extraordinary tale is one of the stories that surfaced from a special project run as part of our New Wave cohort last year. We’re delighted not only to share this story with you now, but also to congratulate the Thames Discovery Team for their recent special commendation in the Heritage Alliance’s Heritage Storyteller Awards.
Spring is in the air, which means the months of winter planning are about to burst into bloom! From webinars and workshops to technical logistics, it’s a busy, and exciting, time behind the scenes at Festival HQ. Grab a cuppa and take 5 with us for an update.
Flowers - beautiful, cheering (hello 1st snowdrops!)…. and fascinating. Yes, blooms too have tales to tell! Last year, we heard how they can be considered ‘Astounding Inventions’. This year we’re exploring the history of creativity and, well, flowers have been used for display since humans first found them! As it is LGBTQ+ History month, we’ve invited Ian Giles to tell us about some of their queer connections. He ran a fantastic flower arranging workshop for the festival last year with Celebrating Hidden Middlesbrough. Take 5 with us to smell the roses and make a statement, which petals would you pick for a posy?
New Year is a time for lists, resolutions and honours; so reflecting on last year and thinking about what highlights lie ahead, we’ve come up with an alternative Honours list. To get you thinking about what catches attention, here are some events that proved firm favourites for the team and media in 2022…