Doors Open London

For its 20th year, Doors Open London is opening doors across the city. But this year, it’s in your very own home. 

Doors Open London is a free weekend celebration of everything that makes London, ON an amazing place to live. ​​

Organized annually by the London Heritage Council, Doors Open London is the Forest City’s largest collective celebration of history, heritage, and culture. Dozens of organizations participate each year. Beginning in 2002, London’s Doors Open event is one of the longest-running community celebrations in Ontario.

Behind the Scenes

The 2021 edition of Doors Open London will be held on September 18 and 19, 2021. And it promises to be a fun-filled weekend.

A family looks up at the sky and through a telescope during Doors Open London
Doors Open London is an event for the whole family. Image courtesy of the London Heritage Council.

The premise behind the Doors Open program, which began in France in the 1980s, is to​​ provide access to buildings not normally open to the public. In other words, Doors Open gives residents an inside look at some of the buildings they pass by every day.

London’s event is part of the larger Doors Open Ontario program, coordinated annually by the Ontario Heritage Trust. 

Something for Everyone 

For Dhira Ghosh, Operations Manager with the London Heritage Council, Doors Open London is such a special event for the city because of its broad appeal.

“It’s an event that reaches almost every part of London. So many different demographics, neighbourhoods, and organizations participate. I can’t think of another London event that has this kind of a cross-sectional reach, whether you think about it in terms of geography, demographics, culture, or sectors. It’s truly an inclusive London event,” says Ghosh.

A purple Doors Open London sign sits in front of a building with a large arched doorway and clock.
Doors Open London is one of the only opportunities most people get to see inside the iconic London Life, now Canada Life, building. This year, curious Londoners will ​​get to experience a virtual tour showcasing a few special places and objects along the way. Canada Life is also a Founding Corporate Sponsor of Doors Open London. Photo courtesy of the London Heritage Council.

This year, Londoners can get an inside look at 29 of the city’s museums, heritage sites, businesses, and community organizations. And with the event hosted digitally, there are even more exclusive, behind-the-scenes opportunities to enjoy.

Moving Online

Thanks to the unpredictability of COVID-19, the 2021 event features digital-only programming, with hopes of returning in person in 2022. Ghosh recognizes the work that has gone into preparing Doors Open-specific digital content, especially after 18 months of pivoting back and forth between online and in-person programming. 

“The sites have all put in a lot of the effort to create the digital programming this year. With the pandemic, people have had to really pivot very quickly to the digital world. And for some of our smaller organizations, that was a very steep learning curve,” says Ghosh.

Just a taste of the 29 sites participating in digital Doors Open London. Image courtesy of Doors Open Ontario.

“And yet they’ve come together to celebrate 20 years with lots of programming that we’re excited about. I’m very thankful for all the hard work that these organizations have done to bring this digital version to London and beyond.”

Despite the move to digital, the heart of Doors Open London remains the same, says Ghosh, “People come to get to know hidden gems in their backyard.”

Explore your Neighbourhoods

But it’s not all just online! There are also driving and walking tours you can enjoy on your own or in your bubble. 

For example, the Hamilton Road Business Improvement Association has created a self-guided tour of their beloved Tree Trunk Tour. You can follow along by car or foot to see them for yourself. Learn the meaning behind each trunk, what kind of trees were used, and which sculptors created each one.

Or head to the neighbourhoods of SoHo, Great Talbot, and Richmond Village. Once there, you’ll enjoy diverse stories and voices of Londoners with Hear, Here London’s oral histories. Download the Driftscape app or follow the instructions on the orange signs to interact with the tour.

An Orange sign that says hear here with a phone number on it stands against a blue sky.
Hear, Here London is located in three neighbourhoods throughout the city. Doors Open London participants can use their phone to call the numbers on the orange signs to hear the stories behind the sites. Photo courtesy of Hear, Here London.

Or stroll through Woodfield, Midtown, Old East Village, Hamilton Road, and Old North while listening to LondonFuse’s London Neighbourhood Histories audio tours. Download them to your phone and follow along to learn about some of the rich, layered heritage of these five London neighbourhoods.

A Year of Anniversaries

In addition to 2021 being the 20th Doors Open London, several participating sites are celebrating significant milestones themselves.

2021 is the 50th anniversary of the official opening of London’s current City Hall. In commemoration of this momentous occasion, attendees will be able to enjoy a virtual guided tour of the downtown landmark. 

A glowing gallery sits at dusk, blurred traffic lights go by.
Museum London celebrates two significant milestones this year, including 40 years in their eye-catching home. Photo by Scott Webb, courtesy of Museum London.

Meanwhile, Museum London is marking two meaningful anniversaries in 2021 — 40 years in their landmark Raymond Moriyama building and 80 years of art and history collecting. To celebrate, Doors Open London attendees will have a behind-the-scenes look at their collections, enjoy virtual tours of their exhibits with knowledgeable curators, and participate in online tutorials.

No matter the year or the medium, Doors Open London beautifully mixes heritage, art, culture, technology, and industry into one awe-inspiring weekend. 

Find more information about the 20th annual Doors Open London weekend on the London Heritage Council’s website.

This post has been powered by the London Heritage Council. The London Heritage Council gives a voice to London’s past, promoting heritage projects and advocating for London, Ontario’s cultural sector.

Feature photo courtesy of the London Heritage Council.


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