Heritage Open Days, England’s largest cultural festival, takes place in September. The programme of events for Mole Valley has been published online and in booklet form with over 70 events organised throughout the district, all of them free to visitors. There is a special emphasis on telling the stories of extraordinary women with connections to Mole Valley.
Heritage Open Days is now England’s largest cultural festival supported by the National Trust and players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. Events in Mole Valley, taking place on 8th and 9th and 13th-16th September, are organised by the local museums, local businesses, volunteer groups, societies and individual property owners. Music, drama, talks, guided walks, demonstrations and open buildings are use to tell the stories of people and places that are special to the towns and villages of the area.
Two events that took place 100 years ago have helped to mould the Mole Valley programme: the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the vote for the first time, and the ending of the First World War.
Visitors to Heritage Open Days events in and around Dorking and Leatherhead will discover the significant role local people played in the Suffragette Movement, but they will also be able to celebrate the influence of a range of extraordinary women with links to Mole Valley from the 16th century to the present day. Our extraordinary women range from the internationally famous to the more obscure, but all with life histories that can be bizarre, fantastic, poignant, moving and inspirational. Our women include geologists, social hostesses, actresses and novelists, social campaigners and political activists. Marie Stokes and Jane Austen are two of our well-known ‘extraordinary women’, but who was Mary Yeo and the Baroness de T’Serclaes?
To launch our ‘extraordinary women’ Heritage Open Days theme, Sian Evans, author of the definitive biography of Mrs Margaret Greville of Polesden Lacey, will give an illustrated talk on the life of this remarkable lady. The event will take place in the Leatherhead Theatre on Friday 14 September at 7.30pm. Tickets can be obtained from the theatre’s box office and, as with all Heritage Open Days events, admission is free.
The ending of the First World War is another theme explored in a number of events. There is a chance to understand the impact that the war had on local communities and get a taste of what life was like 100 years ago.
The full list of events is contained in the Heritage Open Days booklet available from the Council offices in Dorking, the Leatherhead Institute, local libraries, National Trust properties and a number of other outlets. Alternatively you can visit heritageopendays.org.uk and access online the complete listings of Heritage Open Days events for the whole of England.