FOR the first time since it began in 2016 a festival celebrating Winchester’s history will go online due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Many events in the city have been forced to cancel, but Winchester Heritage Open Days has bucked the trend and will be staged virtually in September.

Since its inception the festival has grown to become an important event in the local calendar, with thousands of visitors attending the programme of events.

This year, with the uncertainty surrounding when cultural events will be able to run once more following the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisers say, it has become clear that the traditional format of the festival will not be possible and instead events will be held online.

Commenting on the decision to focus on digital events this year, festival director Nicky Gottlieb, said: “We are enormously grateful to all our sponsors, supporters, volunteers and event organisers who have helped the festival grow to become the success that it is. I am sure that there will be people who look forward to the events every year and will be disappointed by our decision not to hold events in the usual way this year.

“However, it is important the festival is safe, is inclusive and does not add further cost or burden to businesses and organisations who at this time are getting back on their feet. “Whilst we hope one or two organisations may be able to hold some in-person events (in line with government guidance at the time of the festival), our focus will be on encouraging digital events. We do this with the expectation that this year’s festival will be smaller.”

The organisers say that they are working hard to plan for a digital festival this September, including a podcast channel.

Nicky added: “We very much hope to welcome all our events and visitors back in the usual way in September 2021.”