Celebrating Gosport Heritage Open Days 2021

And, as Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas found, it was also time to start the planning for next year…

DOWN came the curtain on Gosport Heritage Open Days 2021 last Thursday as the volunteers took time to celebrate its success before launching next year’s festival of the borough’s history and culture.

This September, the open days bounced back from last year’s Covid-restricted programme with 69 unique events – many repeated several times during the ten days – all free of charge.

‘93% of visitors found the events either enjoyable or highly enjoyable’

The number of visits to events was 30 per cent higher than in pre-pandemic 2019, at 16,436 – 12,513 in-person to the sites of events plus 3923 who viewed the online presentations.

Photo of Terry Rhodes

Chair of the voluntary body which coordinates the open days in Gosport, Terry Rhodes, said: “Feedback shows that 93% of visitors found the events either enjoyable or highly enjoyable.”

 Of the 338 people who responded to the feedback survey, 44 per cent said they visited because they wanted to find out more about a site or area, and nearly a quarter were visiting an open days event for the first time.

 This visitor profile also found 94 per cent of visitors were aged over 45, 54 per cent were female, and three percent declared a disability.

The last figure was a concern because an estimated 17 per cent of people in the Gosport area are disabled and Terry was keen to point out that, “accessibility is at the core of all we do”.

 ‘GHOD cost was 5p per visitor’

 She was also able to announce that the estimated cost to the organisation of this year’s events is £920 – about 5p per visitor – due to sponsorship and the 200-plus volunteers involved.

 Particularly important was the support of  England’s Heritage Open Days – which provided materials, advice and public liability insurance – while Gosport Tourist Information Centre staff dealt with enquiries and bookings, and the printing of leaflets was carried out by Gosport Borough Council. Funding had come from HMS Sultan’s Charity Chest and from private donations.

There had been little expenditure on advertising. So, unsurprisingly more than half of the survey respondents had found out about events either from previous visits or from the GHOD’s website.

Time and expertise of volunteers estimated to be worth more than £94,000

Terry made special mention of the volunteers who gave of their time and expertise – GHOD estimates that in 2021 volunteers contributed at least 8,149 hours which is worth £94,121 in kind.

And she was quick to add: “It is a real privilege to be part of the team.”

The report was presented at GHOD’s celebratory ‘party’ at the clubhouse of Hornet Services Sailing Club and the invited guests – including Gosport Mayor Councillor Mark Hook who had attended 42 of this year’s events – were informed about the club’s history by Paul ‘Arty’ Shaw and entertained by the Solent Shanty Buoys who, of course, sang ‘Gosport Nancy’.

Thoughts turn to September 2022

But Terry made it clear that the grass is not allowed to grow long under GHODs feet. Her final message was that planning is under way for 2022 – September 9 to 18, to be precise.

Having seen that survey figure of 94 per cent of visitors are more than 45 years of age, she said: “For 2022 we are planning new events to inspire younger people and families to join this community-led festival, which unites the public, private, military and voluntary sectors in sharing heritage stories.”

Each year the national open days have a theme – in 2021, it was ‘edible England’ – but GHOD is still waiting for the announcement of what it will next year.

 For the local festival, Terry had two suggestions for 2022: 100 years of the Borough of Gosport or Gosport’s innovations and inventions.

And the search is already on for volunteers and ideas for events. More information and an ‘expression of interest’ form are available HERE.

Photo (top): Ann Sandall leading the Mottes and Trenches Walk. GHOD, reproduced with permission

 Photo (inset): Terry Rhodes