13 Oct 2020
by Meleri Roberts

Brass owls on a wrought iron fence.
The more you look the more you see, with an innovative series of events Leeds Civic Trust help you do just that!

Why we take part

As an organisation that champions the heritage, culture and diversity of Leeds, Heritage Open Days is a natural platform for the Trust to reach a wide audience and to showcase the treasure the city has to offer. It is a great way to bring local organisations, businesses and passionate local storytellers, historians and creatives together on an annual basis to explore, reinterpret and provoke our city’s ever evolving heritage.

What we do for HODs

  • Manage an organisational Steering Group, coordinating volunteers to devise and attract an exciting programme of events, as well as supporting and encouraging our core openers to take part annually.
  • Produce an annual 50 page booklet, as well as local marketing including press releases and social media promotion. 
Adapting for 2020

We are really proud of how we adapted our usual offer and reinvented our traditional programme. As an organisation our events went 100% digital and although we were nervous about audience reach and marketing – with less events we managed to maintain ‘visitor’ numbers

A old drawn map of Leeds - titled 'A New & Exact Plan of the Town of Leeds'
Online trails could be explored on foot - this is one of a series of old maps posted up for the festival.

The difference it's made

We see Heritage Open Days as our annual flagship event, and there is a devoted core of ‘super-fans’, however we are keen to expand our audience beyond those who are familiar with HODs. This year, our online events allowed those who might possibly be reticent about attending traditional in-person events to ‘dip their toe’ into the wonderful world of Heritage Open Days.

Another important change to our usual offering was that this year’s programme meant that those with for example; caring responsibilities, restricted mobility, or other physical impairments were able to take part from their own home. Being able to provide live captioning and subtitles to talks and performances was a gamechanger for us, and although the more traditional audience missed their walks and tours, it has allowed us to engage with a different audience.

Three people, one man and two women, joking around wearing fabric blue face masks.
Trio Literati 'popped up' online this year with a performance of poems from local artists written during lockdown.

Best bit

This year has been a real learning curve and it really took us out of our comfort zone…but in a good way – we have gone from digital novices to natives! We’ve learnt about basic video editing and production as well as recording our own talks and events, skills which will be invaluable in future.

We feel really incredibly proud of our volunteers and how they rose to the challenge – many of our volunteers had never heard of Zoom before 2020 and for them to adapt their talks, walks, performances and events online has been nothing short of incredible. It has strengthened our relationship with openers, and we all pulled together to keep this year’s show on the road.  

A vintage wooden box TV.
This year visitors could sit back and tune in to 'Trust TV' a new online channel hosting all the local HODs films, clips and performances.

Meleri's top tips!

Don’t try and reinvent the wheel – be confident in your story and what you have to share and there will definitely be an appreciative audience for it.  

In practical terms, we would also recommend using platforms like Eventbrite – these make managing bookings, guests and future mailing lists much easier. We also recommend that any videos or films are limited to 30 minutes or less.

A group of primary school aged children working on an archaeological dig site in the mud.
In 'Hidden by Nature – The Lost Ice House' the findings of recent digs were shared online this year. (© Friends of Middleton Park)

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