Woman and young girl sit on the grass reading Oxford Open Doors brochure
The event returns with a new theme and a new format for 2020. Image: Oxford Preservation Trust

Oxford Open Doors goes outside for 2020

When COVID-19 put holding Oxford Open Doors under threat this year, organisers decided to get creative.

Oxford Open Doors returns this weekend, celebrating the city’s places and its people, but with a new format for 2020.

When COVID-19 put holding Oxford Open Doors under threat this year, organisers took the decision to adapt rather than cancel and got creative with their planning.

Oxford Open Doors launched in 2007 as a small project, created by Oxford Preservation Trust’s director Debbie Dance, and has gone on to become incredibly successful, now welcoming more than 35,000 visitors annually.

Event organiser Stephen Dawson, Operation and Development Manager at the Oxford Preservation Trust, says: ‘Oxford Open Doors feels like the “people’s weekend” when a local audience can experience their city and see all these wonderful places.

‘It is an event we organise each year in partnership with the University of Oxford as part of the national Heritage Open Days where we can share the city’s heritage and culture.

‘It really is an absolutely amazing project. We all love organising it.’

Finding a way to make it happen

But there was a real risk that Oxford Open Doors would have to be cancelled this year because of social distancing and lockdown, so the team decided to get creative.

Stephen continues: ‘We wanted to find a way to make Oxford Open Doors happen even if it wasn’t in the same format as normal.

‘Throughout this crisis, our attitude has very much been that we needed to adapt to the current situation and try and think around it.

‘So we decided to host ‘Oxford Open Doors goes outside’.’

There will be three elements to the weekend:

  • A full virtual programme going live at 10am Saturday 12 September until 6pm Sunday 13 September.
  • A range of free self-guided walks exploring the city's green spaces and hidden heritage as well as a range of walks provided by Sustainable Healthcare and Oxford Archaeology.
  • A programme of free but mainly pre-booked outdoor activities as visitor numbers will be limited. Register to take part in events here A few venues will not require you to pre-book but organisers are asking that you check the programme first to avoid any disappointment.

Stephen adds: ‘One of our aims is to give the city as a whole more confidence as it starts to get busier again.

‘We are in extensive talks with each individual venue that is hosting an event about how best to open their outdoor space safely. We are designing everything so people can keep at a social distance and nowhere gets a bottleneck of visitors.

‘We have also decided not to produce brochures this year to give us the option to be even more flexible. By keeping everything on the website we can update the programme quickly.’

Because of this, everyone planning to attend is advised to check their event is still taking place before travelling. Everyone heading along is also asked to follow COVID-19 guidance.

Oxford Open Doors 2020 takes place on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 September. Find out more at