By Debbie Dance, director of the Oxford Preservation Trust

It’s August and with schools out, the meeting schedule and email inbox slows down, a chance to enjoy Oxford in the sunshine. But wait, no time, for Oxford Open Doors is just a month away!

For weeks the everyday work of OPT, managing Oxford’s heritage, buildings and green spaces, has had to be put on hold as we work on finalising the programme for this special weekend in September which we bring to you, opening up the city and inviting you to be a tourist in your own place. And 11 years on, I hope you are mighty proud of this wonderful place of ours which keeps on sharing its great heritage old and new, across town and gown, and with something new each year, making it consistently top of the list in the UK wide Heritage Open Days, which happens across the country on the same weekend.

And so here we are again, our first wave of fundraising secured, thanks to the University as our main partner, this year joined by Oxford Brookes, alongside some of the Colleges and other great supporters. We have freshened up the design, put up the lamppost banners, updated the website ready to go live, and await the imminent arrival of the 50,000 brochures which will find their way across the city and the county to our libraries and community centres and into your homes.

People sometimes ask ‘Is it a lot of work?’ Yep it is. The great programme does not just happen and a huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure everyone knows they are valued, thanked and that when you arrive on the day there will be a warm welcome awaiting you. Keeping it free is a feat of endurance as each year we need to raise the funds, and we hope that those who enjoy the weekend will become members, as many of you do, which does help to keep it free whilst you can enjoy events throughout the year too. There are plenty of special offers around until the end of September, so check out our website. We can’t afford dedicated Oxford Open Doors staff, so it is the Oxford Preservation Trust team who do the work for you, engaging our wonderful volunteers, and with everyone pitching in, from our trustees to the amazing OPT team who keep smiling through, writing copy, stuffing envelopes and making sure the weekend runs as smoothly as possible.

So what’s in this year’s programme? We have over 150 places and events including our wonderful college and university heritage that no one can fail but to wonder at. We try to cluster geographically where we can, and to spread evenly across university, college and town, with everything in between. Head to Broad Street and you’ll find the Bodleian and University Libraries, stalwart supporters, who have arranged lots of activities around their current Tolkien exhibition and are also opening the Divinity School, as well as the Taylor Institution and Law Library. Close by, the Museum of Science has an exhibition of remarkable women scientists picking up on this year’s theme of extraordinary people. This theme is giving plenty of scope to the Colleges to say more about their students, many of whom have gone on to great things. And with mention of extraordinary people and achievements don’t miss the various laboratories in the Science Area who are opening their doors.

Christ Church and New College, who open for the first time this year, bring with them the Harry Potter factor, which will surely encourage you and your families to enjoy Oxford’s heritage in a different way; and look out for the family trail in the brochure with its prize draw. Boat rides at the Oxford Canal Festival and historic characters coming to life at Oxford Castle & Prison, who are open free throughout the weekend, will all be great fun. Look out for the exhibition of old cars, the vintage bus rides, soldiers and silver bands and the fire engines at Rewley Road, of course.

The OPT team will be out and about over the weekend at our hub in Cornmarket outside the Painted Room and if you can’t make it up the stairs, we are trying some live-streaming this year, linked to our website, which will include the Sheldonian concert which ends the weekend. Please come and find us at the Swingbridge to learn about the latest OPT project and to hear stories of Oxford’s past railway heritage.

I can’t end without saying thank you to all the places and people who take part and make the weekend such a success, and to our host of volunteers who help in the run up and over the weekend, with special mention Cyclox and OxPa who are delivering all the venue packs by pedal power this year. And my personal thank you to the OPT team, and to Stephen Dawson who heads the team. You are all fantastic, showing your commitment to this great city of ours in such a tangible way by arranging this wonderful weekend for everyone. And so, finally, to you our Oxford/shire residents, I hope come rain or shine, I’ll see you there.