We welcome the return of England’s largest festival of history and culture this weekend, with dozens of free events taking place across the county as part of the annual ‘Heritage Open Days’ campaign. It’s a chance to rediscover Cumbria. Between 10-19 September you can explore the wealth of arts, crafts, industry, and culture that have shaped and continue to influence our communities today.
Established in 1994 this year’s Open Day programme includes various guided tours taking you behind the scenes of castles, churches, Turkish baths, a grand town hall and an immersive self-guided sound walk. From railway restoration projects to vintage recipes and a medieval festival at a corn mill there are opportunities a plenty to discover old industrial buildings that have been brought back to life with new purpose. Events are taking place right across the county from Carlisle and Barrow, to smaller communities such as Beetham, Backbarrow, Kirkby Stephen, Sedbergh and Waberthwaite.
Barrow Borough Councillor and lead member for wildlife and heritage Helen Wall says, “We are so pleased to be able to take part in Heritage Open Days with an event like this. It’s important the town is recognised for its history locally and nationally. Furness people love Barrow town hall and are always keen to come inside and have a look round when we are able to open it. There is no other town hall like it in Cumbria and visitors are always impressed. I never get tired of showing people the stunning banqueting room, drawing room, Queen’s Hall and impressive council chamber.”
Whilst in Barrow visitors to find out about the town’s changing high street via the immersive sound walk created by artist Dan Fox which can be downloaded via Historic England’s website from 10 September.
“Heritage Open Days shines a spotlight on the wonderfully varied history and culture of Cumbria” says Gill Haigh Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism. “Encouraging visitors to explore beyond the well-trodden paths is a key part of our tourism strategy and this festival provides many opportunities to do that. Across the county there are many arts exhibitions opening in September offering the chance to see contemporary work that draws on the area’s rich artistic heritage, vibrant communities and dramatic landscapes.”
“The families, charities and volunteer bodies, all just temporary custodians, of Cumbria’s great houses, castles, gardens and cultural attractions, are always delighted to share the places and stories of the people who have shaped our cultural heritage” comments Jeanette Edgar, Cumbria’s Living Heritage. “Their resilience, creativity and openness continue to make them relevant to today’s visitors and make heritage attractions some of the most exciting and beautiful places in our county to visit. I hope when we say – heritage – people don’t always just think about the past – but join us in the present – to make the future.”
With so much going on here’s a few highlights. Open studio and art trails not to miss this month include Eden Valley Artistic Network (4-19 Sep), Egremont on the Easel, the Green Door Art Trail (25-26 Sep). For a large group show under one roof head to the Lake Artists Society Annual Exhibition (18 Sep-21 Nov) at Rheged’s Gallery or for an intimate experience go see Mark Woods ‘Absorption’ at Cross Lane Projects (until 18 Sep). Enjoy a relaxed stroll along the Victorian Promenade at Grange over Sands and soak up the atmosphere at Prom Art (26 Sep) one of the largest outdoor art and crafts fairs in Cumbria, or explore the enduring legacy of artistic exchange between Britain and Japan in ‘House of the Setting Sun’ (until 10 Oct) at Blackwell House.
You can see Cumbria’s full Heritage Open Day listings here, and remember to book-ahead, directly with the organisers of each event before attending. For arts and culture events take a look at the what’s on listings on www.visitlakedistrict.com.