History steps out of the past: European Heritage Open Days launch

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Communities Minister Paul Givan MLA today invited the public to enjoy European Heritage Open Days (EHOD) on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September.

History and culture will be brought to life with over 300 property openings and events.

A host of historic buildings will open their doors to the public, many for 10 and 11 September only. This year’s programme features a wide variety of special events such as walking tours, history re-enactments and even an opportunity to bring the golden age of steam vividly to life with a visit to to Headhunters Railway Museum in Enniskillen. With all events free of charge and many family friendly, everyone can take the opportunity to step back in time.

The Minister launched this year’s programme of events at one of the properties not normally open to the public, Hillsborough Fort, which will be opened on the weekend by the Hillsborough Old Guard. A collection of photographs and artefacts from the area will be on display.

Minister Givan said: “Organised by my Department, it is very apt that this year’s theme across Europe is ‘Heritage Communities’. Nurturing such communities is vital if we are to ensure that our heritage is well protected into the future and able to support community cohesion and a strong economy.

“This year’s offering is more varied than ever reflecting the depth and diversity of our built heritage. From older buildings such as St. Nicholas Parish Church in Carrickfergus, dating back to 1180 to the new Strule Arts Centre in Omagh there is something for everyone, young and old, on your doorstep and further afield.

New events for 2016 include a Children’s Puzzle Challenge at Belfast City Hall where you can also experience a stunning static display of vintage motorcycles, and a guided tour of Magherafelt’s Bridewell where you can discover what life was like for the prisoners held there.

The Northern Ireland War Memorial, an accredited museum in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, is a ‘must see’ for those with an interest in Northern Ireland’s role in the Second World War. You can discover how local communities rescued, nursed and gave shelter to 100,000 families made homeless by the Belfast Blitz, 75 years ago, and try on uniforms to step into the shoes of an Air Raid Warden, a Home Guard Soldier or a Red Cross Nurse. You can also sample foods made with recipes by the Women’s Voluntary Service as they served 70,000 meals in the aftermath of the Blitz.

Londonderry offers you the opportunity to visit the Community of the Dead in a tour of Derry City Cemetery. Opening in 1853 the City Cemetery became the main burial place for both Protestants and Catholics; the wealthy and the poor; industrialists, merchants, city mayors, architects, surgeons and artists as well as tradesmen, labourers and paupers. Three historical periods – Victorian, Edwardian and late-20th century – are reflected in the funerary architecture and design. The tours of the City Cemetery, led by Genealogist Brian Mitchell at a gentle pace in a spectacular setting with magnificent views over the Foyle and the city, will take in many stories.

The Minister concluded: “The weekend is going from strength to strength each year with over 52,000 people turning out last year. Whilst all events are free some require pre-booking. To avoid disappointment check out http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/ehod and @ehodni on Twitter now.”