Celebrating the best of Hampshire

The article below was written by Damian and published in the Herald group of papers on the 23rd July:

"Last week the Hampshire flag was raised outside the county council offices in Winchester to mark this year’s Hampshire Day, an annual opportunity to celebrate all that is great about the county, including its rich history, traditions, diverse culture and of course the people who live here.

Home to the ancient capital of England and the favoured hunting grounds of kings, important Roman and bronze age sites, beautiful waterways and coastline, a national park and stunning walks and cycle routes, a sparkling literary heritage, unique museums and attractions, and so much more besides.

And here in East Hampshire we have some of the very best on offer, many of which are now beginning to open up once again, reliant as many are on income from visitors. And just as the lockdown didn’t stop the task of looking after these wonderful places, it also brought fresh ideas on how to keep people in touch and still able to visit, albeit virtually.

This weekend saw Gilbert White’s House host a day-long online festival to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Gilbert White’s birth, with a whole range of events, including virtual tours of the house and gardens, talks on his works as well as the history of Selborne. A feast of material to enjoy.

Chawton House has found online success with their Lockdown Literary and Garden Festivals and is now launching their digital Summer Series – a set of fortnightly evening talks about Jane Austen throughout July and August. And unable this year to guide people in person, the organisers of the Alton Walking and Cycling Festival provided an online library of routes for people to discover on their own, gave free access to routes

Guests who would normally be enjoying a picnic while watching the performances of the annual Petersfield Shakespeare Festival, have this month been able to enjoy a ten-day festival of mainly original works, free to their living rooms. And the Petersfield Museum has also moved online, launching their first digital programme, History from Home, with downloadable activities and talks for all the family. 

And with Hampshire Libraries running an extensive online programme during the lockdown, and local choirs and music groups mastering online editing to perform virtually, it really has been inspiring to see how individuals and organisations have adapted to the digital world. 

But of course it is visitors and audiences that local venues need to see now, all of which will have been working hard to ensure they are Covid-19 Secure. “We’re Good To Go” is the official UK mark from VisitBritain to signal that a tourism and hospitality business has followed the necessary guidelines and has a process in place to maintain cleanliness and support social distancing.

The Government’s £10 million Kick-starting Tourism Package will also help small businesses in tourist destinations adapt to the new conditions, with individual grants of £5,000 which can be used to pay for professional advice, new technology or indeed any necessary equipment.

And with many people opting to stay in the UK this summer, this could be a great opportunity to visit places closer to home, or indeed take advantage of the new Eat Out to Help Out Scheme that funds discounts on mid-week meals at registered pubs, restaurants and cafes during August.

Life is certainly starting to seem a little more normal, but the risk of transmission remains. The best way we can help local businesses and organisations recover - and stay open - is to remain vigilant and stick to the guidelines."