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Open Cambridge set to host virtual tours and tales of the city

King's College meadow, photo by Sir Cam

The hugely popular Open Cambridge heritage weekend is set to go ahead this year on 11th – 13th September with a series of free online events, from podcasts and films to virtual tours, walks and talks.

The hugely popular Open Cambridge heritage weekend is set to go ahead this year on 11th – 13th September with a series of free online events, from podcasts and films to virtual tours, walks and talks, all offering a unique insight into this fascinating city.

Now in its 13th year, the annual three-day event celebrates the heritage and history of Cambridge, offering curious visitors a rare opportunity to see some hidden gems and to learn more about the city’s extraordinary past. The free event is part of the national Heritage Open Days scheme, which is designed to offer special access to places that are normally closed to the public or charge admission, with local stories at its heart.

Open Cambridge, run by the Public Engagement team at the University of Cambridge, is currently in its planning phase. This year, the team behind the event are inviting the community and beyond to suggest engaging and creative ideas that showcase people and places during the virtual Open Cambridge. Alternatively, they can submit photographs of Cambridge for an online gallery or write a short article about an interesting or little-known feature of Cambridge.

The invitation is open to anyone keen to share their knowledge of wildlife, sites and places that are not always accessible to the public or rarely visited, and stories and people that traditional history has overlooked or forgotten.

Given that this year’s Open Cambridge is digital, these new and exciting opportunities are boundless as accessibility, location or venue should not be an issue for audience size, and geographical reach is, in theory, limitless. Additionally, an online event could reach a more diverse audience as well as having the usual enthusiastic supporters. 

The most important point is that digital offerings are kept simple, short and eye catching for an online audience. Anyone suggesting an idea must be able to facilitate, record and film the suggested story or tour, bringing it to life for an online audience. Examples of events:

  • Building tours – Churches, Mosques, pubs, shops, colleges, faculties
  • Museum tours
  • Video chats with gardeners, conservators, historians
  • Cemetery tours
  • Librarians and their favourite book in their library
  • Archivists and the most fascinating/funny/historical object in their collections
  • Most important discovery that has taken place in a college/building/pub
  • City and College roles – who keeps the place going, ie gardeners, porters, butlers, bursar, proctors, the Mayor and City Council Leaders
  • Virtual walks
  • Self-guided walks/tours/scavenger hunts
  • Sports videos (workouts/walks/classes)

Those submitting a proposal may like to use the Heritage Open Days 2020 theme, 'Hidden Nature' for inspiration. The Open Cambridge team are also keen to include events around the theme of sport and leisure, with a working title ‘Open Sport!’. All suggestions for this theme are very welcome. Events submitted and accepted will appear on the Open Cambridge website for the event weekend only. 

In the past, events have included a wide range of walks, talks, tours and exhibitions at numerous locations, including a peek behind the scenes at the Cambridge Mosque on Mawson Road and the ADC Theatre, a rare tour of the Marshalls’ hangars, and fun and games at the Cambridge fire station. Specialist guides have offered tours of Cambridge University Colleges’ exquisite gardens, museums, galleries, and libraries. In addition, The Society of Cambridge Tourist Guides have led walking tours, bringing the rich history of the city to life by introducing visitors to some of the people and places that have made the city the powerhouse it is today. These tours included descriptions of the women that influenced Cambridge; Cambridge’s contribution to the world of espionage; the Vikings’ influence on the city; the city’s rich literary history from John Milton to Joanne Harris; the Tudor dynasty’s lasting impact on the town and University; and a special cycle tour that explored Cambridge commons through the ages.

Further examples from previous years include tours of Murray Edwards College’s internationally acclaimed art collection; exhibitions at The Heong Gallery; and ancient libraries, including Queens’ College Old Library and the St John’s College Old Library opening their doors to reveal numerous treasures.

Open Cambridge is also inviting people to submit either their favourite lockdown photo of Cambridge or simply their most creative or unusual photograph of the city. The best photographs will be uploaded to the Open Cambridge website and social media as an online gallery during the weekend of the Festival. Those submitting photos may like to write a short story relating to the photograph, particularly if it relates to the past.

Speaking ahead of this year’s Open Cambridge, Coordinator Sue Long said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity for the whole community to come together and put on a fantastic online festival that presents Cambridge in a new way. We want people to get involved in this celebration of our beautiful city, the stunning architecture, exquisite gardens, and its rich past.

“We’re keen to showcase all the city has to offer, its big and little wonders and we are very much looking forward to people’s suggestions.”  

The closing date for event proposals is Monday 20th July. Once the proposal is accepted, the digital content will need to be delivered to the Open Cambridge team by Monday 17th August.

Photographs of Cambridge and related short articles (500 words or less) can be submitted from now until 28th August.

To submit an event proposal or Cambridge photograph, please email:  

For more information about Open Cambridge visit the website here.

Keep up to date with the Festival on social media via Twitter.


King's College meadow