The North Laine area of Brighton (above) is the focus of a major community history project launched in time for Heritage Open Days 2009. © Culture24
Heritage Open Days 2009, Britain's biggest and most diverse annual celebration of architecture, history and culture was officially launched this week in Brighton and Hove with the help of an innovative local history project.
The national celebration of our often hidden heritage takes place between September 10 and 13 2009, with more than 4,000 historic sites across the country open their doors for free.
Acting as a focus for this year's launch is Brighton's My House My Street project, which has seen homeowners from the vibrant North Laine area of the seaside city researching and sharing the history of their street.
Many of the residents who took part in the project will be opening their homes during the Heritage Open Days weekend, revealing details spanning back across 100 years of the properties' past occupants, their ages and occupations.
"Preparing for our My House My Street events involved dozens of volunteers working for hundreds of days and making a wonderful commitment to revealing local history," said Nick Tyson, Brighton and Hove Open Door Co-ordinator.
"To share their findings with the largest possible audience and to encourage others to undertake similar events, we are developing www.MyHouseMyStreet.org.uk, a website which will officially launch at the end of September."
Clavell Tower, in Dorset. A literary landmark open for Heritage Open Days. © English Heritage
Elsewhere throughout the UK the annual event will offer the public a chance to explore everything from Stockport's fascinating labyrinth of tunnels, built for shelter during the air raids of World War Two, to a glimpse inside the legendary Morecambe Winter Gardens, closed since 1977.
"Heritage Open Days are thrilling," said Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, which organises the weekend. "This is a community celebration of curiosity to find out what's going on behind the facades of all these buildings."
Describing it as the "biggest community participation event in the country," Baroness Andrews went on to highlight the 41,000 volunteers who will be working nationwide, putting in around 205,000 working hours to make Heritage Open Days happen.
Culture Minister Barbara Follet was also on hand to welcome the 15th year of the Heritage Open Days Programme. "Heritage was something only the elite few got involved in when I was younger," she said.
"What I am so pleased about is the democratisation of almost everything nowadays in our society and opening buildings up allows us to have a glimpse behind the scenes at real life."
Barbara Follett praised the "democratisation" of Heritage Open Days © Culture24
The Minister also thanked English Heritage for taking up the work of the Civic Trust, the now defunct organisation that previously organised the event, and expanding on it.
"They have expanded on the number of places open and by working closely with the Churches Conservation Trust they have involved various religious organisations that haven't been involved before," she said.
To celebrate the city's central role in this year's Heritage Open Days, an impressive range of more than 150 events has been scheduled in Brighton and Hove.
The programme directory, listing all the events taking place in England can be seen at Heritage Open Days online.