Michael Imison speech of thanks

Good evening everyone. On behalf of the Halesworth Heritage Open Day committee I’d like to welcome you to this reception, which is a small thank you for all that all of you did to make last weekend the success that it was.

I should not be doing this. The man who had the idea of entering Halesworth into the Heritage Open Day scheme and who led our entries in 2015 and 2017 was, of course, Ezra Leverett. It is he who should, had he lived, be addressing you now. However during his final illness he told Simon Raven that he hoped the Open days would continue and he made one very positive contribution to this years event by getting Hugh and David to agree to open Bank House with all its many attractions. 2017 was impossible for them but it became the centrepiece for 2019. Thank you Ezra, we miss you.

I worked closely with Ezra in 2015 and 2017 and am registered with Ezra as joint organizer so I felt I had to take over.

It is common practice for authors to say, when they list all the people who have assisted with the composition of a book, that all that is good about the book is due to the help the author received but the mistakes are the author’s own.

I very much find myself in that same position. Luckily despite some mistakes, for which I absolutely take responsibility, all the emails that I have received in the last couple of days either express the pleasure the senders have had in experiencing our offerings or, in some cases, in being part of it.

This is a thankyou reception so you are now going to hear about as many as possible of the people to whom the success is due.
First of all it could not have happened without our sponsors. The rules of the Heritage scheme prohibit us from charging for entry so we have to look elsewhere for our money. Our most generous sponsor was the Halesworth Town Council, and I hope they feel rewarded not only be the increased footfall reported by our traders over the weekend but by the increased publicity given to the town by our biggest advertising campaign yet which resulted in virtually a total sellout at our Box Office. Halesworth and Blyth Valley Partnership provided financial support as well as essential banking facilities. Suffolk County Council has offered support. But we also owe a great deal to the businesses in the town. Twenty six of them supported us for the first time. I am not going to name them all. They are listed in the brochure.
Life is not easy for small independent businesses so their contributions are very much worthy of our thanks. Hopefully they too will be rewarded by our putting Halesworth on the map.

Next I think you will want to thank our hard working committee.
They too are included in the brochure but there are a few I would like to name because of their particular contribution. Ann Wilkinson ensured that this year the Church made a major contribution and even got some of their members to make publicity appearances for us in costume. Vic Gray took the major responsibility for press publicity both paid and editorial as well as contributing an interview on Radio Suffolk. Rosemary Lewis took charge of our accounting and Janet Huckle provided invaluable assistance in many ways, especially in taking charge of distributing our brochure. Brochure layout and many contributions to social media came from Rachel Kellett and Brian Howard set up our own website. Simon Raven masterminded the Cut’s contributions and arranged tonight’s event. Lastly Jo Leverett despite being professionally involved in Lowestoft’s Heritage Openings, ensured that volunteers were found to assist at all our openings..

A huge thank you is due to the Cut Box Office. They had the difficult task of distributing tickets for which the demand was always going to exceed the supply and were not helped on the first day by some very regrettable confusion over when the tickets should go on sale, which was not their fault. They also coped with the last minute addition of extra tours. We are in your debt, Peter and Sam.

So much for the back office. The real triumphs of the weekend were the openings themselves. These were made possible by alarge number of volunteers who gave generously of their time to fill these anonymous roles. In some cases like those of Hooker House and Black Eagle they were given the task of introducing the buildings in the absence of the owners. Overall they are too many to name but enormous thanks. We could not have managed without you.

However the true essentials for Heritage Days are buildings and activities. Activities included four guided walks, a play, a concert and some workshops. Sadly Craftivism which was promoted as an activity for this year by the national organization proved too difficult a concept for Halesworth. I hope Gabrielle Maughan has forgiven me for involving her in a hopeless attempt. All the other activities were well supported and much appreciated thanks to their dedicated promoters.

Hopefully most of those who opened buildings are here and we want to hear from you later how you felt about the experience. Allowing people to explore your home is not lightly undertaken. For all that your generosity in undertaking it, you have earned the thanks of all Halesworth.

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Traveller, writer, bad yoga student, dog walker. East Anglian. Woodland owner

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