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Open Heritage 2022 – ‘Doorways Tell Stories’

Open Heritage 2022 - 'Doorways Tell Stories,' kindly supported by Belfast City Council

Posted on: 13th October 2022

This year’s Open Heritage events, originally scheduled for 7th-11th September were mostly held across the weekend of 1st-2nd October. This year’s theme, ‘Doorways Tell Stories,’ allowed UAH and participants to explore how doorways are a gateway to understanding the architecture of a building and its history, through the mediums of photography, walking tours and oral history workshops,

Walking tours led by UAH Chief Executive Dr Paul Harron and Heritage at Risk Officer Sebastian Graham highlighted how the architecture of the city reflects its varied past, from Georgian fanlight doors around College Square, to the Victorian grandeur of Belfast’s economic heart. As part of the ‘Doorways Tell Stories’ booklet, we have highlighted Belfast Homeless Services, a local charity that works with the homeless community to give support and campaign for more resources and a better understanding of the issues facing marginalised communities in the city centre.

South African photographer Dillon Osborne led a very wet dusk photographic tour around the city. The original plan of using the golden twilight to play with light and shade in photography became a masterclass in utilising gloomy skies, wet roads and puddles to play with reflection and create unique and artistic photographs even in the lashing rain! David Bunting then led our Sunday photography workshop, again dodging rain showers, but this time focusing on looking up at our buildings from a fresh perspective and finding the small details. Our participants took some fantastic photos, some of which are displayed below, hopefully they have been inspired to continue to develop their skills.

PhD student Philip Rivers led two Oral History Workshops in OMB, exploring the importance of document the intangible heritage of our architectural history. Philip led the two groups in discovering skills and methods required to accurately record oral histories, whilst using his own extensive research acquired whilst completing his research. The practical uses of oral histories were also discussed, and how the recording of a building’s history in this way can benefit listing submissions and planning applications.

Our ever popular walking tours booked up within days. Our Chief Executive Dr Paul Harron and our Heritage at Risk Officer Sebastian Graham led tours across the weekend, visiting a selection of the 30 doors featured in our accompanying booklet. The tours visited the Linen Conservation Area, the Cathedral Quarter, Donegal Square and Royal Avenue and took in the doors of St Patrick’s Presbytery, City Hall and the Old Museum Building among others. The tours showed our participants how a doorway can be used to discern the era, age and history of a buildings, and there was discussion around how buildings were originally and the significance of their choice of materials. Our guides encouraged our participants to delve into the architectural importance of our buildings and how they fit into the history of Belfast. The walking tours were a great success, with many of our participants declaring they have lived in the city all their lives and discovered doors they had never seen before!

An accompanying booklet documenting 30 architecturally important doors across the city is available to view online. Thank you to Belfast City Council for their kind support on this project.

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