How Winchester Heritage Open Days was created

We recently learned why volunteer Becky got involved with Heritage Open Days. Now we are delighted to hear from Nicky Gottlieb, leader of the central Winchester team, who explains the origins of the Open Days.

(Photo taken at Kingsgate Arch). Photo left to right:  Mike Fowkes  of Kingsgate Books & Prints (Box Office for tickets to Treasury and Marjorie Huntley's tour),  Clare Dixon  (Chair of Winchester Tourist Guides),  Rachel Wragg  (Curator of Winchester College Treasury),   Marjorie Huntley  (Kingsgate: A Walk in Time),  Nicky Gottlieb  (Winchester Heritage Open Days)

(Photo taken at Kingsgate Arch). Photo left to right: Mike Fowkes of Kingsgate Books & Prints (Box Office for tickets to Treasury and Marjorie Huntley's tour), Clare Dixon (Chair of Winchester Tourist Guides), Rachel Wragg (Curator of Winchester College Treasury),  Marjorie Huntley (Kingsgate: A Walk in Time), Nicky Gottlieb (Winchester Heritage Open Days)

How did I get involved in 2015 . . . . . 
You may ask which planet I’ve been on for the past twenty years but Heritage Open Days was simply just not on my radar in 2015!  By chance, a friend happened to tell me about an exhibition they were holding over the HODs weekend and invited me along.  Not wishing to appear ignorant I nodded and shot back home to consult Google.  This was swiftly followed by a call to the HODs team in London. How could the ancient capital of England have as few as six events taking place? I demanded to know who was the local rep. Well…as they say, the rest is history!

Why did I get involved . . . . 
Winchester is not short of festivals – poetry, fashion, film, comedy, jazz, cocktails and even ukuleles, to name just a few.  However, the city was missing out on celebrating the very reason for which it is best known – its heritage. Having discovered for myself, on those six events I attended back then, what an extraordinary amount of fabulously rich history is hidden behind Winchester’s doors, I knew that it was just the tip of the iceberg and that our beautiful city had so much more for people to experience themselves. Winchester needed a proper heritage festival – HODs was the perfect fit!

History, buildings and people fascinate me and I have always had a strong interest in fine, decorative arts and architecture but I don’t pretend to be a scholar and can never remember dates! However, I do appreciate beauty and fine craftsmanship when I see it and you don’t have to go very far in Winchester to find it. 

And why do I continue to do what I do!
I had set myself a goal and was determined to make HODs a success here.  Past experience I had of helping to coordinate charity fairs and campaigns proved to be very useful as they required good organisation and networking skills. I was thrilled at the success of HODs in Winchester last year and, thankfully, it seems to be going from strength to strength with over sixty events registered in the city centre this year. As Dan Snow says, “Winchester is history’s HQ”. It is such a unique and special place, and it really does deserve more recognition. 

But for all the wonderful history of a place it’s the people that bring it alive for me. Speak to some of the locals and they will tell you things you just can’t find in history books. And then there are all the event organisers and helpers behind the scenes who make it all happen.  There’s so much goodwill out there, so much commitment and enthusiasm and love for what they are doing – it’s all very positive. I think our shared passion and the fact that we all pull together to create something really special is what I enjoy most about doing this job. I also now have two brilliant volunteers who do fantastic work and keep me sane as well. I love how every day is different and how you are constantly meeting new people, learning new skills and discovering new events. The hours can be really long but, for all the hard work, the reward is worth it at the end of the day. 

You can stay in touch with Winchester Heritage Open Days on twitter, facebook, instagram or their website.