THE FUTURE of a festival celebrating Winchester’s heritage hangs in the balance as dedicated volunteers scale back their commitment.

Winchester Heritage Open Days (HODs) has been unlocking buildings usually closed to the public, offering talks and walking tours, for 25 years and the programme has been ever-expanding.

But now organisers behind the annual festival have announced that they will be taking a step back to take a different approach meaning that the face of the event will change this year.

Lead volunteers Nicky Gottlieb and Becky Brown have revealed that after dedicating much of their time to the event a new solution was being sought to organise things, but after eighteen months of work a resolution has not been found in time for this year’s festival.

The pair have said: “Running the hub and providing a central booking service, marketing and registration support, is resource and time intensive. On average, in 2019, we worked 100 hours per week unpaid.

“Long term, this is not sustainable, and so throughout 2018/19 we have, alongside running the 2019 festival, been reviewing the organisational arrangements, researching other HODs hub models and discussing options with key partners such as Winchester City Council.”

And after talks with partner organisations funding has not been found for a festival manager in time for this year’s affair.

“We have identified a potential long term and sustainable framework but unfortunately we have not been able to secure funding/resources for a robust solution in time for 2020. Therefore, during this interim year, we shall be turning our attention to fundraising for a much-needed festival manager and will be seeking widespread support and help with sponsorship, venues, gala dinners and more.”

The lack of a solution has meant that this year’s festival has been scaled back, with speculation that there could be around 50 events instead of the 100 plus usually held.

Unlike in previous years venues will now have to register their own events on the national website, organise their own volunteers, arrange insurance and take a leading role in promotion.

Nicky and Becky said they “love what they have built up over the past few years and are keen to ensure Heritage Open Days remains an integral part of Winchester’s cultural programme”.

But they are now calling on members of the public to help them find a way forward and employ a festival manager.

They said: “We are reasonably confident with the support of your readers, sponsors and key partners we will be successful in our fundraising events. We have lots of exciting ideas and plans for this year and beyond! However if we are not successful then what happens in 2021 will be dependent on how this year goes, and so is very difficult for us to say at this early stage.”

With over 140 events last year Winchester Heritage Open Days was the largest heritage festival in the country.