On behalf of Knutsford Promenades, I would like to say a huge thank you to the visitors, sponsors, venues, community groups, experts, volunteers and everyone who helped to make this year’s Knutsford Heritage Open Days another wonderful success.

In particular, I’d like to thank the cast, crew and musicians who were involved with ‘From Station to Station’, our specially-commissioned original piece of community theatre which brought Knutsford’s Elizabeth Gaskell and Alison Uttley to life. It was brilliantly researched and performed: a fitting flagship for our Extraordinary Women-themed programme!

Heritage and culture are vital elements of Knutsford’s visitor economy. Attracting local visitors to events is important, but raising Knutsford’s cultural reputation beyond the town is also essential for sustainability. Having a multi-site, multi-event programme closely connected with England’s largest heritage festival has meant that, in the past three years alone, Knutsford Promenades has encouraged 1,000 people to cross the Lily for Canute’s Crossing; make Alan Turing’s trial in Knutsford the lead story on BBC Northwest Tonight; and bring Elizabeth Gaskell and Alison Uttley to a cross-county audience – with every event being free to explore and many getting national exposure. We know from our surveys that roughly half of our visitors come from outside Knutsford. Local residents get the chance to be tourists on their own doorstep, and everyone discovers well-known and hidden histories.

Our programme of events takes months to research and curate, and we would like to thank Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, The Alison Uttley Society, The Charles Tunnicliffe Society, The Gaskell Society and Brook Street Chapel for their help.

Our collaboration with the Mid-Cheshire Community Rail Partnership’s ‘Amazing Women by Rail’ project and partnerships with key towns along the Mid-Cheshire Line including Northwich, Altrincham, Knutsford and Stockport, gave Knutsford an opportunity to play the key role in showcasing our cultural powerhouse of women in a unique and innovative way. It provided great publicity for the town and we’d like to thank the Knutsford and Northwich Guardian series for their fantastic help. We even got messages of support from Dame Jenni Murray DBE, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Maxine Peake, Lucy Pankhurst and the Lord Mayor of Manchester!

At a time when there is a lot of discussion around the pros and cons of commercial events such as Pub in the Park and the Makers Market,  it’s the town’s heritage, culture and year-round assets that provide long-term value for businesses and residents alike.

Next year’s festival will run for 10 consecutive days (13 September to 22 September) for the first time since Heritage Open Days was set up. The theme is ‘People Power’.  Now that’s what I’d call an opportunity for Knutsford!

Sarah Flannery

Knutsford Promenades