Heatherfield Heritage

Traditional skills don't have to be lost in the past. To demonstrate this Heatherfield Heritage's eclectic team (including painters, carpenters, mechanics and much more!) took a punt with an online offering for their first Heritage Open Days. Overcoming challenges they created a series of bitesize videos showcasing the stories and craft behind the arts of our inland waterways, with a lighthearted touch that proved popular.

Brightly painted canal dipper, with a miniature landscape scene with a building by water, a ship, and mountains in the background.© Kerry Dainty - The art of the inland waterways is bright, beautiful, and full of interesting detail and stories.

Kerry Dainty, Heatherfield Heritage

We had no preconception as this was our first Heritage Open Days (HODs) event (and our first public outing), but we had a lot of fun participating and have had some lovely feedback.

Several pieces of lace laid out on a table

Beautiful but time consuming, in one video 'Bonnets to Boats' showed how lace has been made and used by boatwomen / © Kerry Dainty

Why we take part

We want to support the HODs as we believe that heritage should be accessible to everyone, and it’s a good opportunity to raise our own profile and show off heritage in our own style.

Brightly painted sign with the name 'Tim'

Another video explored 'Brightwork' - a colourful painting style unique to the boats of the Leeds & Liverpool canal / © Kerry Dainty

What we do for HODs

Bonnets to Boats: From the iconic clothes of the canal boaters and the colourful paintwork of the boats, right through to the skilled art of working the boats themselves, join us each day online to watch brand new videos and live-streams demonstrating some of the many arts of the canals and inland waterways. (Event Directory description 2023)

We ran an online video series because we figured that not everyone can get out and about, and there were quite a lot of in-person events jostling for attention in the day, whereas a video can be watched whenever. We decided to wing it a bit because we didn’t want to make our series come across too rigid and overthought. We honed in on the specific aspects we wanted to cover, then had at it with the go-pro!

Old photograph of a woman in a balloon sleeved dress with a white apron and a lace headdress. Stood by a painted metal bucket?

Annie Stokes wearing traditional boatwoman's clothing / © Canal & Rivers Trust Archive

Overcoming challenges

We were down a key member of the gang during preparation and had a catastrophic internet failure at the beginning that necessitated putting the dongle on a boat pole and waving it around trying to get a signal! But making the videos caused a lot of giggles in the office, although we were very nervous as to what the reception would be. We were very surprised when compliments started coming in.

Visitor comments:

  • 'Charming videos, very interesting'
  • 'Didn’t know half of what came up in the series, loved finding out more!'
  • 'Lovely introduction to canal arts, hope you do more'
  • 'Fascinating and relaxing at the same time'

The difference it makes

We’ve used this as a little bit of an experiment to help us find our feet with how to present our heritage to the public and going forward we’re a lot more confident on how to do that. We’re very excited for next year’s HODs now we know what happens and we’re keen to expand with some in-person events as well as internet based.

Kerry's Top Tip!

Make sure the internet is reliable, pre-stock the tea and biscuits and don’t make it too serious.

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