GET INVOLVED! Chelmsford Heritage Open Days 2021

EXCITING NEWS! Empty the larder, preheat the oven, and set the table – the theme for Heritage Open Day’s 2021 is Edible England. From woodland foraging to factory floor, forgotten recipes to regional delicacies, we’re asking our festival community to explore the past, present, and future of our culinary heritage and culture. More information coming soon, along with a dedicated Heritage Open Days website with inspiration, resources and ways for you to get involved.

Heritage Open Days is a national celebration of local history, culture, and identity. It provides a unique opportunity to see hidden places and try out new experiences – all of which are FREE to explore

It is sometimes perceived that Essex and Chelmsford has very little to offer in the way of national Heritage. This is of concern to me, Alan Pamphilon, the Chelmsford Civic Society and Chelmsford City Council, especially when every effort is being made to communicate to the world that Chelmsford is the birthplace of wireless! Marconi aside, there are many historical achievements that can be attributed to Chelmsford and many diverse stories about people who have made Chelmsford home. So the annual Heritage Open Days Festival is seen as a great way to inform the nation of the historical gems that we have in our part of the country.

As part of this national programme, Chelmsford Heritage Open days has been initiated to showcase the hidden history and culture of the city and responsibility for organising the Festival is with Chelmsford Civic Society. The people that volunteer to be involved in this festival are diverse and range from community groups and public buildings to places of learning, Heritage Centres and Industrial sites. To back these events up there is a selection of activities including talks, creative workshops, lectures, and walking tours. These are staged by local people who are keen to share their passion for Chelmsford’s history and heritage.

The event takes place each year over 10 days and last year attracted a total audience of over 2600 people. Because of the pandemic in 2020, a more creative approach to events was required and this inspired the local team to look at a different way of communicating the heritage message.

Assisted by the members of the Essex 2020 hub, new ideas came to light in the form of a scavenger hunt and virtual events. Additional funding was obtained for better recording and editing of this content and the end result was videos that could then be broadcast on the Civic Society’s new YouTube channel.(add link?)

With this in place for the first time, Chelmsford Heritage Open Days was able to reach an audience that was able to stay safe in their own home which could potentially be anywhere on the planet. This whole experience has enabled the local Heritage Open Days team to face 2021 with new enthusiasm and there is also the added benefit that they now have a regular monthly slot on the airwaves courtesy of Chelmsford Community radio.(link?)

What next and how can you get involved?

With several years success under our belt, our team’s attention has turned to thinking about how we can widen participation and engage a more diverse audience. To help us with this we are establishing a volunteer steering group, made up of people who have the skills and ideas to help achieve our objective of making the festival broader and more inclusve. We hope this will enable some fresh thinking and new ideas,

We’re also launching a new dedicated website and have teamed up with Chelmsford City Culture department and Ignite Chelmsford to welcome, nurture and connect ideas to a wider community of support.

With all this in place, Chelmsford Heritage Open Days 2021 has the potential to be even more spectacular than previous years and work has already started on what we hope will be something that the people of Chelmsford will remember in the years to come. No idea is too wild, small or grand – if you are passionate about telling Chelmsford’s full story and you would like to join the steering group and/or or have an idea for this year’s Edible England theme, please email

We look forward to hearing from you!