Heritage Open Days, the UK’s largest festival of heritage, is in full swing. Over the next 3 days you can enjoy free access to events and venues celebrating what’s special about your local places. In today’s blog Dr. Rebekah Wood tells us about one of the last remaining music halls of its kind and how Heritage Open Days and Heritage Lottery Funding are helping to keep its memories alive.
My first experience of Heritage Open Days was back in 2008 when I volunteered for a lace shawl manufacturer demonstrating their 300 year old knitting machines. I was amazed by how eager the public were to engage with sites that capture the history of their local area. I now co-ordinate the Heritage Open Day activities for the Malt Cross which is a beautiful Victorian music hall set in the heart of Nottingham’s city centre and I have the pleasure of creating memorable and meaningful experiences for others. It is wonderful to witness that glimmer of excitement in someone’s eyes when they learn something new or connect with a site they’ve never visited before.
The Malt Cross is one of the last remaining music halls of its kind in the UK and dates from 1877. It was recently restored thanks to a £1.38 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which has enabled a complete restoration of the site including two basement floors and a sandstone cave which were previously inaccessible.
We are a small independent charity which greatly benefits from our involvement with Heritage Open Days as this national platform helps us to become more visible to the public. This increases the reach we have to different communities; increases the amount of people who visit our site at other times of the year; and increases the amount of people who approach us as potential volunteers.
In the East Midlands we’re fortunate to have a thriving community of larger and smaller heritage organisations that work together to share ideas and to support each other. However there is a constant pressure on these heritage sites to maintain a vibrant programme of activities, education facilities, or exhibitions going whist at the same time facing budget cuts and other pressures on their sites and staff.
In my area we have been lucky that over the past few years there have been major investments made by funding organisations to revitalise some of our beloved heritage sites, but in contrast to that we have lost valuable sites too. The D.H. Lawrence Heritage Centre in Eastwood, for example, closed in March of this year and was an important asset to that community, through its ability to engage the public through education and outreach.
It is a sad fact that many of our valuable centres for local heritage will close unless visitor numbers increase, and that will only happen if the public feel inspired to get up, get out, and actually visit these places. This is why free open events are so essential in bringing in new audiences.
As part of this year’s Heritage Open Day events the Malt Cross is putting on a wide range of exciting family friendly activities. Visitors can step through the doors of our historic site and hear about its glorious days as a live music venue from one of our costumed Victorian guides and watch archive film footage of music hall performers projected onto our stage.
We’re offering crafts and costumes for children to discover and for the adults there’ll be a chance to sample some of Nottingham’s most iconic real ales. Artistic visitors can try out traditional Letterpress printing techniques, and get hands-on with history through our handling collection. Those who seek further thrills can venture further below and explore our sandstone caves and hear all about these ancient spaces that are so synonymous with Nottingham.
To plan your activities for Heritage Open Days 2016 visit https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/ to see what events are happening in your area.
Share your cultural treasure by posting a picture or video on social media using the hashtags #TreasureYourTreasures and #HODs