Canterbury: Heritage Open Days
Heritage Open Days is a national scheme sponsored by the National Trust. Each year, members of the public are given free access to buildings or events to which access may be unusual. In 2016, 58 Quaker Meetings participated in the national event called Heritage Open Days, drawing many newcomers into Meetings Houses, and many people into contact with Quakers. Knowing this, Canterbury Meeting decided to get involved.
In 1991 the Council of Europe and the European Commission set up European Heritage Days to raise appreciation for Europe’s rich and diverse cultural assets and their need for care and protection. The central principle was as simple as it was compelling: to throw open the doors to historic monuments and buildings, in particular those normally closed to the public. Today, they are held annually in September in 50 signatory states to the European Cultural Convention. Each country running it in their own way, the festival not only highlights the dazzling diversity of Europe’s heritage, but also its intercultural links. Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days is England’s contribution to the European Heritage Days and has since grown into the country’s largest heritage festival, with over 5,000 events listed.
In 2017, the Heritage Open Days ran from Thursday 7 September to Sunday 10 September. In 2018, the Heritage Open Days ran from Thursday 6 September to Sunday 9 September, and also from Thursday 13 September to Sunday 19 September. In 2019, the Heritage Open Days will run from Friday 13 September to Sunday 22 September.
Quaker Week is an opportunity to witness and share our worship across the community, in our case: Canterbury and its surrounding towns and villages. Meetings, with or without Meeting Houses, throughout the Yearly Meeting, host outreach events such as ‘open days’, ‘family days’, a stall at a local festival, and ‘bring a friend to Meeting’ Sundays.
Our first Heritage Open Day was on Saturday 9 September 2017, when the Meeting House was open to the public. Our choice of day was determined by the date of Kent Churches Ride and Stride, of which Canterbury Friends Meeting House has long been a venue, and several Canterbury Friends enthusiastic participants. The combination of these two events was a highly effective use of volunteer resources, and gave us 50 or 60 visitors.
There were exhibitions on the history of Quakers in Canterbury (Doreen Rosman), on Quaker values, on the Children’s Meeting (Janet Wilson), and a little on the Quaker Tapestry. Members (and Attenders) of Canterbury Meeting made themselves available to talk with visitors and answer questions. Refreshments were available.
Our Heritage Open Day in 2018 was on Saturday 8 September, and followed a similar pattern. This time, however, in addition to the fascinating exhibitions created by members of Canterbury Meeting (including material by Wendy Oliver on support for refugees), we were also able to borrow two significant, professional ‘pop-up banner’ exhibitions concerning Friends’ service, including the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, especially regarding the First World War. Hugh Miall had discovered, and made available,some original documents regarding his father’s involvement with the Friends Ambulance Unit. Listed both on the Heritage Open Days national website, and also in the Canterbury Society brochure, the Meeting House received 83 visitors.
Canterbury Meeting has decided to participate in a similar way next year, opening the Meeting House on Saturday 14 September 2019.
If you want to know more, or wish to volunteer, please contact Peter Hughes.