Introducing Heritage Open Days…

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,500 organisations and 40,000 volunteers. Every year, over four days in September, places of every age, style and function welcome visitors free of charge, staging events as wide-ranging as a Silent Disco on Hastings Pier, a town-wide mapmaking exercise in Sunderland and the record for the longest line of bunting in Winchester. In 2016, three million visitors from across Great Britain took advantage of the festival’s 5,000 events.

Our Change Creation Plan

We want to increase our relevance, our inclusivity and our impact. Central to Heritage Open Days is a belief that culture and heritage belong to everyone, and we are committed to enabling volunteers, organisers and visitors from every social, religious and cultural background to share, experience and enjoy their heritage.

Begun as part of a European initiative to provide access to and increase care for the built environment, Heritage Open Days has evolved naturally into a broader celebration of heritage, tangible and intangible. We are keen to push this even further, to ‘flatten’ the definition of heritage and empower a body of organisers whose diversity reflects England’s, to ensure that everyone’s story is told and that everyone can play a part in shaping and sharing ‘place’ at a local and national level.

We are keen to challenge ourselves and others to question what heritage is and to whom it belongs. We want to advocate for positive appropriation and equip people to be custodians of their own culture.

We believe Heritage Open Days, in a revitalised and contemporary iteration, can advocate to decision makers, key holders and those in power on behalf of everyday heritage champions and smaller organisations. We’re keen likewise to explore ways to maximise the impact of our organisers on place-making endeavours, local plans and other civic projects beyond Heritage Open Days, building capacity and confidence to take an active role in local decision making, preservation and community life.

Annie Reilly

Annie attended Brown University (USA) and Mansfield College, Oxford University, achieving a degree in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. Having worked as an actress at theatres throughout she studied at GSA/University of Surrey before working at Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, where she eventually became Producer. Annie joined Heritage Open Days as Manager at the start of 2017 where she oversees the national strategy and delivery of the festival. Working with a wide range of individuals and organisations, she is keen to help HODs evolve and continue to flourish.

Denise Foster

Denise’s National Trust career started 15 years ago, as national Learning Adviser for Cultural Heritage.  Since 2002, Denise has led and played a key role in a wide range of projects.  These include a national Schools Arts Partnership, transforming the role of 12,000 visitor-facing volunteers; developing the Trust’s approach to service, leading the strategic drive to turn the Trust into a family friendly organisation, overseeing and leading the growth of Heritage Open Days into England’s largest heritage festival, as well as supporting significant property transformation projects, including most recently Clandon Park and Sutton Hoo.