Sheffield’s Heritage Open Day festival, which ran for 10 days in September, saw a welcome return to a full programme of in-person events following the Covid-19 restrictions of 2020. Over 70 free events took place in and around Sheffield, making our city one of the largest participants in England’s biggest annual celebration of heritage and culture. 

Heritage Open Days is coordinated locally by Sheffield Civic Trust, and we offer support, training, and mentorship to the many organisations large and small (most of which are volunteer-led), which take part in the festival.

We produce a free printed brochure that is circulated widely across the region, and we have a dedicated website and an active social media presence which all help to ensure that the festival is promoted widely in communities across all parts of the city and beyond.

Every Heritage Open Days event is completely free to attend, making it a truly inclusive and accessible festival. Events in Sheffield this year included behind-the-scenes tours of Sheffield museums, walking tours celebrating the city’s status as the Home of Football, heritage pub tours, a medieval re-enactment day, and the ever-popular ‘Drainspotting’ tours which take a look at Sheffield’s historic drain covers and street furniture!

Churches, historic buildings, and cultural venues throw open their doors, including places not normally open to the public, and many put on special events, talks or guided tours to showcase their rich heritage.

This year Sheffield Civic Trust was delighted to be one of only a handful of organisations across the country selected by the National Trust, (the organising body behind the national Heritage Open Days festival), to run a ground-breaking ‘New Wave’ event during the festival, aimed at attracting the hard-to-reach 19-34 age group who are underrepresented visitors at heritage events and venues.

Working in partnership with the National Videogames Museum, which is located in a Grade II listed building in Sheffield’s historic Castlegate quarter in the city centre, ‘Behind the Screens’ offered visitors an opportunity to visit the museum and discover how Sheffield has emerged from its industrial past to become a world leader in the videogames industry.

Sheffield Heritage Open Days Launch 2021 at the National Videogames Museum, pictured l-r are Julie Grocutt (Deputy Leader, SCC, Janet Ridler (HODs Coordinator, SCT), Mike Drabble (SCC Heritage Champion).  Photo credit: Ian Spooner

Talks by experts, and the chance to play a huge selection of video games old and new, made this event a great success at attracting its target age group and introducing them to what is perhaps a less well-known aspect of Sheffield’s cultural heritage.

We are delighted to have been part of such a high-profile initiative and look forward to sharing what we have learned about attracting younger audiences to heritage venues with our Heritage Open Days participants next year.

Next year’s Heritage Open Days may be many months away, but the coordinator team are already looking towards next year’s festival, and in particular considering how to encourage even more organisations across the city to take part. If you know of any heritage sites, venues or organisations who might like to get involved, or would like to help us with the coordination of the festival, do drop us an email at 

We are grateful to Sheffield City Council for their financial support of Heritage Open Days and are always looking for new sponsors – if you would like to discuss supporting Sheffield Civic Trust’s community engagement work through Heritage Open Days we would be delighted to hear from you.

…Janet Ridler, Heritage Open Days Coordinator, SCT

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