Monday 18 May 2009 10:41
English Heritage (South East)
English Heritage rescues Heritage Open Days in the South East
English Heritage today (Monday 18th May), took ownership of Heritage Open Days, securing the future of the popular cultural event and reassuring one million participants and 35,000 volunteer organisers by guaranteeing that it will take place this year. English Heritage previously helped the Civic Trust to fund and operate Heritage Open Days, but concern had been raised over the event's future since the Civic Trust in England announced that it had gone into administration.
Heritage Open Days is England's biggest voluntary cultural event. More than 3,500 historic and unusual buildings open their doors to the public for free and put on tours and events during the second weekend in September. 90 per cent of the population live within 30 minutes of a Heritage Open Days event.
In Salomons, Tunbridge Wells, visitors will have free access to the Salomons estate so that they can learn more about the Salomons family and the mansion which they occupied. It has been owned by three generations of the Salomons family (the first, Sir David, was a campaigner for Jewish rights, the second, Sir David, a science pioneer). It still has many original features, including two rooms now home to a museum of the family's history, and the science theatre where the magnificent Welte organ is set.
In Ventnor, Isle of Wight, visitors can visit Alexandra Gardens, a Victorian terrace of eight architect-designed, semi-detached villas built in 1882 on the site of the Ventnor corn mill and mill pond. Number three was the honeymoon destination of Sir Edward Elgar and visitors will see a blue plaque which commemorates Elgar spending part of his honeymoon here in May 1889.
Steven Bee, Director of Planning and Development at English Heritage, said: "English Heritage can reassure all those who like to take part in Heritage Open Days that it will happen this and every year - and we look forward to an excellent weekend of events on the 10th-13th September. Heritage Open Days is an important cultural event and we are very grateful for the continued support of all the volunteers across England, on which the success of the event depends.
Katja Condy, Heritage Open Days Manager, said: "When the news of the Civic Trust's demise broke a month ago, the news came as a shock to thousands of volunteers across the country who were already gearing up for another celebration of their local heritage in September. It put a huge question mark over the future of the event. We are greatly relieved that the programme has found a new home and that we can now focus on making the 15th edition of Heritage Open Days another success.
"We have been working very closely with English Heritage for many years, and they proved a friend when we needed them most. The transfer of Heritage Open Days to English Heritage will build on this long-established partnership. We see it as a fantastic opportunity for both England's largest grassroots heritage event and the Government's lead body for the historic environment."
No information is yet available about the future of the Civic Trust's other responsibilities. Steven Bee continued: "We were saddened to hear the news about the Civic Trust, and that as a consequence, the many trusts and societies across England, on whose behalf it has acted for the last 50 years have, for the time being, no single voice. We believe that the future representation of these local trusts and societies should be decided by their members. We will be contacting regional civic society groups, offering moral and operational support to help them get together and decide how they want to proceed."
Issued on behalf of English Heritage by COI News & PR (London & South East). For more information please contact Shelly Naylor on 0207 261 8326 or Shelly.Naylor@coi.gsi.gov.uk
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