Heritage Open Days

Exhibitor category: Audience Development and Insight

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,000 organisations, 5,500 events and 53,000 volunteers. Every September this extraordinary community network gives people the chance to explore hidden places and try out new experiences – all for FREE! It’s an opportunity to uncover the stories, sites, places and people that traditional history has overlooked or forgotten. The National Trust coordinates the festival with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, providing organisers with a supportive national framework and promotional platform to open up and trial ideas – again, all for free.


Last year, more than two and a half million people took part in over 5,700 events, from exclusive tours to private collections, hidden gaol cells and secret gardens to the re-enactment of a peace parade and contemplative dream cloud workshops.


With such a diverse array of activity on offer, led by enthusiastic local people, Heritage Open Days has proven itself to be a gateway event for the sector. It consistently attracts visitors who wouldn’t normally engage with heritage or heritage groups and inspires them to connect more in future. Last year:


  • 24% hadn’t attended a heritage event in the last 12 months
  • 69% go on to visit more in future
  • 78% felt now that heritage/cultural sites are for people like them
  • 91% felt greater pride in their local area


Sarah Holloway, Programme Manager says: “HODs is much more than an annual showcase of heritage in all its technicolour glory, it is a community of extraordinary people. Every year I am humbled by their dedication and drive, and inspired by the stories and ideas they share.”


This year may look a little different but we’re determined that the festival will happen, in some form. We are monitoring the Covid-19 situation closely, watching advice from the government and Public Health England, listening to our organisers and adapting our planning as we go.


Annie Reilly, Head of Producing says: “Heritage Open Days is all about celebrating community and local stories, and right now that’s exactly what we need to do. Many of our organisers are excited about the possibility of trying a different approach, if needed, and taking things to the virtual and digital realm. Uncovering stories, sites, places and people that traditional history has overlooked or forgotten has always been at the very heart of Heritage Open Days, and we’re looking forward to seeing what our organisers reveal this year.”


Heritage Open Days is coordinated and promoted nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Every single Heritage Open Days event is free, including access to many sites that usually charge for admission.


Find out more at – www.heritageopendays.org.uk


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