European Heritage Days

Journées européennes du patrimoine
A New Era for Heritage Open Days in England, United Kingdom

Compared to the celebration of 20th aniversary in 2014, this year's media campaign for the Heritage Open Days in England, United Kingdom was more subdued. Nevertheless, as earlier suggested by Katja Condy, Manager, the event was a great success with over 1684 local organizers participating in the celebration.

In addition to this, there was an important organisational change in 2015, which partly contributed to increasing the number of visitors. Namely, this year, the event attracted over three million visitors from across the UK, two millions of which visited the exhibitions for the first time. In relation to this, Ms. Condy explains:

“2015 marked a new era for Heritage Open Days with the festival now wholly supported by the National Trust, and for the first time being co-funded by Players of People’s Postcode Lottery. What’s more though, with its long-term future secure, new ambitions are starting to shape the programme.

Accordingly, “Do something new” was the festival’s motto that inspired many organisers to create experiences out of the ordinary or take innovative approaches to interpretation. A silent disco on Hastings Pier for instance equipped visitors with headsets and a playlist taking them through five decades of seaside entertainment. In Blackburn, artists of all ages were invited to “Paint the Town…” on the Saturday of Heritage Open Days and return their masterpieces by 6pm to enter an exhibition at the Bureau Centre for Arts the very next day - one of the speediest turnaround exhibitions ever.

New partnerships helped add value to the event’s programme and raise its profile as a cultural key player. Working closely with the RIBA’s (Royal Institute of British Architects) public engagement campaign Love Architecture yielded a range of architect-led events as well as new resources for participants, while signing up as a national champion of BBC Get Creative garnered a seven-feature series on the campaign’s website.”

Bristol and Oxford reporting their best year ever

Apart from these new experiences, some traditional sites within Heritage Open Days reported a record number of visitors. Among the most popular sites, Oxford and Bristol saw a huge increase in interest.

“Some organisers such as Bristol (50+K visits) and Oxford (70+K visits) reported their best year ever. Oxford’s Magdalen College drew 7,000 people over the weekend, many of which packing the Chapel to hear the organ scholars play followed by Pimms (a traditional English summer cocktail) on the lawn, while Gunby Hall and Gardens in Lincolnshire welcomed over 1,000 people.

To mark the European Industrial and Technical Heritage Year, we promoted a selection of industrial highlights on our HODs blog. The post, published on the eve of this year’s HODs, was one of the most popular blogs of the year.”

What to expect in 2016?

Next year, the event is taking place between 8th and 11th September, while the full list of announcements will be published at the organisation’s official website. Considering a great success of this year’s event, we asked Ms. Condy about her expectations for the next year.

“The HODs 2016 will run from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 September and is bound to be another exciting edition. I don’t want to give away too much. But new partnerships and collaborations will add freshness to the way we develop and promote the programme and help us turn Heritage Open Days into a truly vibrant festival of history and culture. With a looming referendum on Britain’s place in Europe, you can also expect that the spotlight will be cast on our shared European heritage!”