02 Jan 2024
by Sarah Holloway

New Year Honours – 2023 festival favourites

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…

Blue starburst fireworks

Each year we keep an eye out for those entries that really sparkle - the images that catch the eye, the titles and descriptions that make you want to know more. You could have the best event in the world but for people to come to that event, to know it is happening, the way you present it matters - particularly in the crowded marketplace of our event directory! Here are our favourites from last year by category...

Media knock outs

These events featured the most in press pitches. Key to their success: details were submitted to us early (including an image!) with titles and descriptions that caught the team's, and later the media’s attention.

  • Hidden Heritage Graffiti Trail (Oxford Preservation Trust, Oxfordshire): 'Discover the amazing and secret history of Oxford's graffiti through the ages - from ancient wall carving to tags!'
  • Classic Jukebox Manufacturer Factory Tour (Sound Leisure Ltd, Leeds, West Yorkshire): 'See where the magic happens and meet the talented team who build our incredible jukeboxes on a guided tour of our factory and showroom together with an overview talk and look at some of the jukeboxes we have built since 1978.'
Man with short brown hair and glasses, carefully using a long paint brush to touch up the black paint on-top of a jukebox.
Many layers of creativity were revealed in this special factory tour. Fab images and early submission made it a highlight! (© Sound Leisure)

Inspiring images

A picture's worth 1,000 words... and they're the first thing people tend to look at on a page. So with thousands of listings on our event directory, they make all the difference. Here are two of the most 'liked' images from our social media streams last year:

Aerial view of river bordered by trees and a semi-circular pool bordered by a curved building.
(© Casey Rider)

Cleveland Pools - Britain’s oldest lido (Cleveland Pools Trust and Fusion Active Lifestyle, Bath, Somerset): 'Dive into the history of Britain's oldest lido! Ideally situated next to the River Avon, this Georgian Bath has been transformed into a modern outdoor swimming facility. Discover the rich history of the pools - from naked swimming to a trout farm, have a splash in the water, and go on an activity trail!'

Man in medieval costume sorting through a wooden gaming box on a table in a wood panelled room.
(© National Trust)

Moseley Old Hall (National Trust, Wolverhampton, West Midlands): 'Get ready for an immersive experience that engages the senses with the sights and smells of a 17th century farmhouse, with a crackling open fire and costumed characters to interact with!'

Tantalising titles

What’s in a name? A lot! After an image, it’s the first thing to catch someone’s eye when looking through event listings. Here are some that caught the team’s imagination last year:

  • Pimms and Hymns (All Saints, Basingstoke, Hampshire): 'Celebrate the creativity and art of sacred music across the centuries. Singing is punctuated with the background to the origins of the hymns, hymnwriters and tunes.'
  • An Historic Scoop (Molten Gallery Cafe, North Shields, Tyne & Wear): 'Light hearted, full mouthed unwrapping of some historically spiced flavours creatively re-imagined... with a Scoop of Gelato Icecream.'
  • Bound to Impress: Creativity and the Book (Norfolk Heritage Centre + Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk): 'Discover more about the creative elements to be found within their covers, and trace the development of the book from the Renaissance era onwards.'
Book lying open with gilt edges and a blue silk lining.
The beauty of books was revealed in a twin event at two Norwich sites. They impressed us with their clever title too! (© Bill Smith)


  • One More Thyme (Norwich Historic Churches Trust, Norfolk): 'Meet our Heavenly Gardeners volunteers, learn about creative uses for medieval plants and the church repairs.'
  • From Steam to Stegasaurs - Swindon's questions answered (Swindon Local Studies, Wiltshire): 'Send us your questions about Swindon's history, serious or silly! We will research them, and try to answer as many as possible in our talk!'

Delightful descriptions

The first few lines of an entry can make a world of difference. Questions tease us, descriptions entice us, or simply make us laugh! Here are some that had us smiling and made us want to know more:

  • Undersea Inventors (National Museum of the Royal Navy, Gosport, Hampshire): 'When is a spoon not a spoon? Discover the creativity of submariners who reuse, recycle and adapt everyday things they have around them to solve problems in this fun filled, playful tour for all the family.'
  • Piecing the Past: People, Pastimes and Puzzles (Ulverston Parish Church, Cumbria): 'Explore memories and mysteries at Ulverston Parish Church. Secrets and stories that shaped a community. ... Hunt down your heritage using the Marvellous Monument Mapping Mission, an online burial ground mapping system. Be beguiled by the bells, “have a pull” to sound a bell, if you dare to climb the stairs to the ringing room in the tower! Wonder at the beauty of unique stained glass, secreted in the cellar revealed for the first time in 100 years! Explore indoors with our mischievous church mice and outdoors using trail maps or QR codes Immerse yourself in fascinating talks from local historians and enthusiasts.'
Square towered church in a grassy graveyard.
This entry really sang with alliteration and delightful description. (Ulverston Parish Church)

SPECIAL MENTION - For their brilliant description of family activities!

Whalley Bells: One hundred years of ringing out in celebration (St Mary and All Saints Church, Whalley, Lancashire): 'The teddy bear zip wire (other soft toys are also welcome) will be running all morning for brave bears to see if they dare slide from the ringing room window across the churchyard. The excited toys can then recover safely in the soft toy creche in church to allow their owners to enjoy all the activities of the day.'

Creativity Unwrapped

Last year’s theme was our most popular yet - there were hundreds of inspiring ideas and stories but one local coordinating team really knocked it out of the park - congratulations Liskeard Unlocked (Cornwall), who's brilliant programme of events included:

  • Music in Art - 'See ancient instruments depicted in period paintings and hear them played.'
  • Frame the Town - 'Use our specially created selfie frames to see Liskeard buildings through fresh eyes.' 
  • Where Liskeard Artisans and Artists Honed Their Skills in Days Gone By: 'Smiths, Sadlers, Stonemasons, Straw Bonnet Makers, Singers and many more lived and worked in Liskeard. Stroll around the town centre, stopping at the places they have been traced and hear a little of their history.'
3 square pink frames held up to outline parts of a building or view.
This Cornish town took the theme to another level! (Liskeard Unlocked)


  • Fashion on the Homefront (Ramsgate Tunnels, Kent): 'A story of colour, invention and determination to create wearable fashion during rationing in the Second World War.'
  • Bonnets to Boats (Heatherfield Heritage, Cheshire): 'Short videos released each day showcasing the arts of the inland waterways.'

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