Once again Heritage Open Days (HODs) experienced a year like no other, coinciding with ten days of national mourning for Her Majesty the Queen. As a community event, the festival went ahead with respect for her memory, bringing people together to share stories and experiences. Whilst many places did have to cancel or adjust their plans, nationally over 85% of events went ahead in some form. The theme for the year was Astounding Inventions celebrating England’s rich history of invention, industry and innovation.
The resulting feedback has been truly heart-warming as thousands of visitors enjoyed events and praised the local organisers and volunteers who helped them connect with their communities and discover Norfolk’s history and heritage.
“Norfolk HODs is great. I’m already looking forward to next year and doing a full weekend of activities!”
The Forum hosted an exhibition celebrating 250 years of Norfolk & Norwich Hospital. Encompassing the hospital opening in 1772 the exhibition shared the story of its patients, staff, and the people behind the organisation: honouring the remarkable history on this special anniversary.
Featuring films from British Pathé and East Anglian film Archive dating from 1909 to the end of the 20th century, the exhibition included never seen before artefacts taken from the archives. Visitors were able to explore the past, present, and future of the organisation.
Many visitors had a personal connection to the hospital and the exhibition helped showcase the human stories associated with the hospital and how they celebrate our community and cultural heritage.
“We are proud of our heritage and how, through philanthropy, the community of Norfolk came together to help create the hospital back in 1771. We’d like to thank The Forum for giving us the opportunity to take our heritage out into the community.”
Devised by Curious Spark, HODs played host to events which immersed audiences into Queen Elizabeth I’s Royal Progress to Norwich in 1578. Using virtual reality technology, ten actor-led, historically placed-based, immersive room experiences were filmed and embedded with hidden ‘hot spots’. Wearing a VR headset, audiences became ‘Watchers’, Elizabethan MI5 agents! As a Watcher you were challenged to complete tasks devised by Sir Francis Walsingham to prove your value to his spy network, by bearing witness to privy council conversations and royal entertainment; enlightening, emboldening and enhancing understanding of this fascinating age.
Additional activities for younger audiences included creating vibrant window displays inspired by this incredible journey, which will be displayed as illuminated window trails in local communities from January 2023.