Tag Archives: attracting visitors

Guest Post: Phillippa Heath on the student panel running a 1951 Vintage Night at MERL

In todays guest post, Phillippa Heath, Public Programmes Manager at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), talks about how their Museums at Night event this year has been handed over to the students to run.


For Museums at Night the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) is going back to its roots by celebrating the Museum’s foundation and running a 1951 Vintage Night. The event which will be held on Saturday, 17th May will include live music, dancing, stalls, craft & vintage cocktails.

The difference this year is that we have handed over the reins to a group of students!

Developing a Student Steering Panel

Our Museums at Night events have always embraced the ethos which underpins the festival - to encourage new audiences into museums and galleries – and this year we wanted to run an event which would focus on one particular group of visitors we are keen to encourage to visit more: University students. As a University Museum we work with students in many ways academically, but they are very much underrepresented in our audience profile for events.

This was confirmed by visitor research carried out whilst preparing the Activity Plan for our recently submitted ‘Our Country Lives’ Heritage Lottery project bid. As a result, we have identified students as one of key target audiences for future activity.

Looking down at a group of feet in 1950s shoes

Modelling vintage style shoes at MERL Reading. Photo courtesy Museum of English Rural Life.

In order to test the water and see what it takes to create successful student event, we have recruited the help of a Student Steering Panel for our Museums at Night event. They are a group of incredibly passionate and enthusiastic individuals who have been involved at every stage of the organisation and planning of the event.

History student Lucy Reddy (@indianacroft) who is leading on our social media said “I’m excited about reviving the fun spirit of the 1950′s for one night and giving students the chance to have an alternative evening in a setting that will definitely be a talking point! We’re still offering those timeless essentials that we all love – food, drinks and dancing – but finally there’s an acceptable reason pull out those petticoats or polka dots and Jive all night!”

A group of people standing in a museum looking at the camera

The student panel in the Museum, photo courtesy Museum of English Rural Life.

Developing event planning and management skills

Since January the panel has met every two weeks and we have been joined by guest speakers from the Museum and the local community who have shared their expertise of events management and planning, from marketing to the specifics of running Vintage events.

The meetings have been facilitated by myself and Rob Davies, our Volunteer Coordinator, but as far as possible we have left the decisions up to the students. In order to run the event effectively, the students divided themselves into different groups with different areas of responsibility including marketing, entertainment, catering, decorations and props, research and operations.

Two women sitting at a table with a red and white spotty table cloth, writing on paper

Two members of the panel at a meeting, photo courtesy Museum of English Rural Life

Juliet Wilson, who has been researching the first objects the museum acquired in 1951, says: “I’m really looking forward to showing off MERL in a different light, using the first acquisitions to tell the story of the development of such an amazing museum…alongside drinks and dancing!”

To share ideas and to keep in touch in between meetings, the panel members have set up a Facebook group which has proved to be a great method of communication. This is particularly important as the students are continuing to work on the event despite having dispersed across the country for the Easter vacation.

We have had a lot of fun along the way. Our most recent venture was recording a promotional video for the event.

Members of the Student Panel came clad in their 1950s frocks and, thanks to donated props from local businesses Alexandra Vintage and Frock’n’Roll, they worked with Rob Davies to use the Museum spaces and props to develop a storyline for the trailer. We even managed to rope our Assistant Curator and Operations Manager into learning to dance!

Men and women dancing together

Dr Ollie Douglas, Assistant Curator and Mat Binks, Operations Manager getting a dance lesson. Photo courtesy Museum of English Rural Life

We hope that this event will be the first of many that we work on with the student panel. We have learnt a lot about what students want out of an event and how they choose which events to go to and we hope that the experience has been useful for the students too.

The collaboration has been great so far and we are now very much looking forward to the event itself!

Further details are available on our website at http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/whatson/merl-specialevents.aspx


Woman smiling with dark hairPhillippa Heath is the Public Programmes Manager at the Museum of Rural Life.

 

 


Thank you, Phillippa!

If you’d like to write a guest post or share a case study about any aspect of audience development, event planning or marketing in the arts and heritage sector, please email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

Do something different screencast: event marketing on a shoestring

I recorded this screencast for the Arts Marketing Association’s Culturehive website, which aims to collate and share best practice in cultural marketing.

The 40 minute video shares some of my top tips for planning and marketing events, and includes examples from lots of Museums at Night events.

It covers idea generation; ways of involving staff and volunteers; how to add value while keeping costs low; pricing; hyper-local marketing on a shoestring; working in partnership; what makes a successful event; and how to convert visitors into fans.

Thanks to the lovely team at the AMA, I’m able to share it with you all – but only until Museums at Night! Take a look now, as the videos will disappear at the end of May!

Order your Museums at Night 2014 brochures by Monday 31 March

Thanks to everyone who’s registered Museums at Night events in the database: BBC History Magazine are now compiling our major piece of print publicity, the official Guide to Museums at Night.

This A5-sized colourful 16-page brochure goes out to all BBC History magazine readers, and selected Tourist Information Centres across the UK. It contains short interviews and features about some of the exciting festival events, along with list of participating venues arranged by region.

The goal of the brochure is to send people who pick it up to the Museums at Night public-facing website to find events they’d like to visit in their area.

artwork showing a girl shining a torch around museum objects

The front over of BBC History Magazine’s Guide to Museums at Night 2014, designed by Stuart Kolakovic

All venues running a Museums at Night event will receive a small box of 100 brochures – unless you tell us otherwise! These come to you totally free, and you have 10 days to let us know how many you’d like.

Please fill in this simple form to let us know how many boxes you’d like: you can order small boxes containing 100 brochures, or large boxes containing 500 brochures – or if you don’t want any brochures at all, please use the form to tell us this. We can’t send out fewer than 100 brochures at a time.

You can help raise awareness about the Museums at Night festival by placing the brochures in foyers and cafes, local libraries, bookshops, theatres, cafes, bars, and supermarkets: you know better than we do the places that people are likely to pick up brochures in your town. 

If you’re not running a Museums at Night event this year but would still like to take a box of brochures and distribute them in your area to help raise awareness of the festival, please do order a box! To our delight, this happens every year, and it’s really encouraging for Nick and I to see the sector come together to encourage more visits to arts and heritage venues.

Please order your brochures here by 11am on Monday 31 March 2014.

Attract new visitors and generate income with Culture24′s Activity Superstore partnership

I’m cross-posting this information here because if you’re reading the Museums at Night blog, you’re probably interested in attracting new audiences and generating income for your museum, gallery or heritage site – and Culture24′s new partnership may well be relevant to you!

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Culture24 is collaborating with the UK’s leading gift experience company, Activity Superstore, to create an innovative and unique range of science, arts and history-themed experience gifts for Christmas 2014.

This is a fantastic opportunity for museums, galleries, historic houses, science centres and any other venues within the Culture24 network to access new markets and promote their offer to a wider audience.

The new range of experience gift packages will be sold in major high street retailers as well as online. Each gift will be packaged in a box and include a voucher to be used in the next year (i.e. 2015) and be priced between £20-£100 dependent upon the experience.

Two colourful printed cardboard boxes

Activity Superstore gift experience boxes

The new range will be aimed at families, adults and young adults and feature cultural experiences such as curator tours, behind the scenes access, talks, workshops and other activities that offer added value. They will cover subject areas such as science, history, archaeology, art and literature and natural history.

The proposed new gift experience packages:

Museums at Night
After-hours in the nation’s museums, galleries and historic houses can be the most magical of all – when the lights are dimmed, the crowds are gone and the venue does something different. Choose from an eclectic mix of evening openings featuring music, art, science, drama, poetry and more, with a glass of fizz or a cocktail to add sparkle to your evening. Over-18s only.

Family Night in the Museum
Ever wondered what really happens when they lock museum and gallery doors at night? Pack those torches, sleeping bags and pyjamas and choose one of our amazing venues for a night you won’t forget in a hurry. Whether the sleepover companions are dinosaurs or suits of armour, Egyptian mummies or priceless works of art, there will be special family activities to keep everyone busy until lights out.

Live Science
Watch a live science demo, meet a scientist, get stuck in to hands-on science activities or take a peek behind-the-scenes in a range of amazing science-focussed venues, from historic science heritage sites and museums to cutting edge technology centres. This gift will delight science-lovers of all ages.

The Night Sky
Turn your gaze to the heavens and discover the secrets of the stars with this astronomy-themed family gift. Settle down to an awe-inspiring planetarium show or wrap up warm and head for the great outdoors to scan the night skies with an astronomy expert.

Lost Traditions
Traditional arts and crafts are thriving, if only you know where to look. This gift gives two people the chance to try out one of a wonderful mixture of workshops or taster sessions from weaving, quilting, or crochet to milling, calligraphy, pottery and more, all taking place in museums, galleries and historic houses.

Inside Design
Packed with expert tours of museum collections featuring design and fashion classics, or of buildings that are architectural gems, this gift is perfect for anyone with an eye for style. Curators, artists and designers lead special tours of some of the country’s most stylish collections, interiors and buildings, sharing their expert knowledge and love of their subjects.

Family Fun: Hands on Discovery
Know any youngsters who love discovering and finding out new things? Whether they’re into dinosaurs, dragons or the natural world; knights, princesses or castles; painting or making; stories or dressing-up, these hands-on family activities in museums, galleries, heritage sites and science centres will delight and inspire the under-12s.

Tales of the Horrible
Blood and guts abound in the true-life tales of derring-do, murder and mayhem through history that our nation’s museums, galleries and historic houses tell. Curator’s tours and storytelling sessions will bring our often grisly, gruesome history to life. Not for the faint-hearted or under-5s.

Inside Art
Discover art alongside the expert eye of an artist or curator. From old masters to the latest contemporary installations these special art-themed tours will bring collections to life. The perfect gift for art-lovers or for anyone keen to find out more about the amazing artworks in one of a range of galleries and museums.

Wheels, wings and water (working title!)
If you love planes, trains and automobiles, engines and industrial heritage, then this is the gift for you. Join a curator or expert for a behind-the-scenes or hands-on tour of some of the UK’s most fascinating museums and heritage sites and to take a close-up look at some marvels of engineering.

Want to find out more or talk to someone?

If you have any questions about the partnership, what’s involved, or want to discuss  taking part, please email Culture24 Listings Co-ordinator Richard Austin: richardaustin@culture24.org.uk or phone him on 01273 623357.

You can also download the Activity Superstore application form to register your interest now in this exciting new partnership opportunity.

Guest post: Science Communication Officer Nicola Frost on creating an interactive family lecture

Ever considered how your organisation could bring science concepts to life for young audiences? Our latest guest post is a case study about doing exactly that, by Nicola Frost, Science Communication Officer at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health.

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Rudolph the Sneezing Reindeer

Early last year I was chatting to a scientist from our Institute who told me about an idea that had been bouncing around his head for a while, but he’d never yet made happen. The idea was simple; an interactive Christmas lecture aimed at young children to engage them in the science of germs and infectious disease. Over a coffee, we threw around some ideas and a plan was formed!

Children and a person in a reindeer suit playing with playdough

Rudolph helps demonstrate how quickly bacteria can reproduce using play dough. (c) Tom Solomon / IGH

Finding a venue

I decided to approach the Education Officer at the University’s Victoria Gallery and Museum (VG&M) as a potential venue. We had never worked with the VG&M before, however as a cultural asset of the University, with an established family-friendly public programme, it made perfect sense to see if there was any synergy in what we were both trying to achieve.

Thankfully there was, and the VG&M was happy to provide us with a venue and include us as part of their festive programme.

Children gathered around tables doing craft activities

Science craft session in full swing (c) Nicola Frost / IGH

Building the team

With a venue and date confirmed, I pulled together a team of volunteers from the Institute, including PhD students and researchers interested in developing their public engagement skills, to help Dr Alan Radford turn his idea into reality.

We helped input ideas for the lecture, provided critique, developed a craft session to run before the lecture, and provided people power on the day.

A group of people wearing reindeer antlers around Santa

Team photo (c) Kate Hall / Victoria Gallery & Museum

Stretching the budget

Ensuring that our programme of outreach events is properly funded is an important part of my job, and I work with scientists to help them secure public engagement grants from various societies and organisations. Even so, a small amount of money usually needs go a long way so you need to be a bit creative with your ideas.

In this case we actually managed to borrow a few key items, including a microscope that could be hooked up to a projection screen, and a life-sized anatomical model of a torso!

We had a small budget to cover material costs and marketing. From this we had some design done for promotional materials, including a flyer, poster and webpage.

Reaching our target audience

A key target market for us was primary school pupils, so I worked with the University’s Educational Opportunities Department and MerseySTEM who helped promote the event to local schools. The VG&M also advertised the event as part of their ‘What’s On’ guide which was a huge help.

We also used social media, and the local radio station, which are both really useful (and free!) tools.

A successful event

After a lot of hard work from everyone involved, the event went really well, with highlights including children from the audience unravelling 40 toilet rolls at once to help them visualise the size of viruses (messy but fun!) and appearances from Santa Claus and Rudolph.

A group of children attempting to pull of one of Father Christmas' boots.

Dr Alan Radford and helpers from the audience try to remove Santa’s boots to investigate the bacteria that make smell (c) Tom Solomon / IGH

We had a turn-out of over 75 people for the lecture, which both we and the VG&M were really pleased with. The formal feedback we received has also been really positive and we will use this to evaluate the success of the event and to decide whether we will something similar again next year!

Top tips for public engagement events:

  1. Be clear on your aims and objectives – what exactly to you want to achieve and why? How will you measure whether you’ve been successful?
  2. Know your audience – be clear who you are aiming your event at and ensure the content is targeted appropriately.
  3. Work in partnership – this would have been a lot harder to do without support from the VG&M and others.
  4. Make your budget work as hard as possible for you – try and borrow items that you are unlikely to use again in the future, and shop around for good deals on consumable items!

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A woman in a black t shirt smilingNicola Frost is the science communication and public engagement officer for the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health. She has a degree in biological sciences from the University of Oxford and previously worked for the Museum of Science and Industry and the Manchester Science Festival.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/IGHLiverpool
Twitter: @IGHLiverpool

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Thanks, Nicola!

If you’d like to write a guest post or share a case study about any aspect of audience development, event planning or marketing in the arts and heritage sector, please email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

First marketing and PR deadline is 31 January

It’s an exciting time here at C24 Towers now that the Connect10 voting period has opened – the amazing outreach that participating venues are doing to reach new audiences is really paying off.

  • In 2012, over 20,000 votes were cast during 3 weeks.
  • In 2013, over 30,000 public votes were cast during 2 weeks.
  • So far this year, over 40,000 public votes have been cast – and the polls have only been open for 10 days!

If you want your voice to be heard in deciding where our ten artists will go to lead Museums at Night events, voting is open here until 5pm on Tuesday 28 January.

A crowd of women gather together

PR makes a massive difference in attracting audiences: a large crowd gathers for a Janette Parris performance (c) Janette Parris

Publicity for your venue

If you’re looking at the publicity and media coverage that the Connect10 venues are receiving, you may be wondering how you can maximise the amount of PR that you’ll get if you run a Museums at Night event.

Our first PR deadline to register your events by is Friday 31 January.

Not sure how to register? Here’s a step-by-step guide explaining how to check whether your venue is listed on Culture24′s database, and how to upload your Museums at Night event listing.

We’re planning our event, but we’re not ready to register final details yet!

Pandora George and the team at Bullet PR are keen to hear from museums and galleries about their plans for Museums at Night 2014. They’re sending out a press release to monthly media in early February, so are very keen to hear what you’re planning – even it it is just an outline – by 31st January for inclusion in the first general release.

Pandora says:

We are particularly interested in events that are quirky, fun and unexpected – the kind of things that don’t normally go on at your venue.

We also compile press releases according to themes, for example –  “the best Museums at Night events for music/garden/art lovers” – so again, if you have any suggestions, let us know.

Finally, are also always looking for really strong press images to accompany your event. The best images will be included in our image library.  Please email any suggestions or images to pandora@bulletpr.co.uk.

We look forward to working with you all and making Museums at Night 2014 the best festival yet!

Guest post: Liha Okunniwa on The Wilson’s outreach to young people

Ever thought about setting up a Young People Group at your museum or gallery to help you diversify your audiences? Today’s guest blog post comes from Liha Okunniwa, who did just that at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s Art Gallery & Museum.  

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Museums often find working with young people challenging and see them as a ‘hard to reach audience.’ The idea of setting up a young persons group is something that is seen by many as a daunting prospect. However, once you take the leap, the benefits in terms of audience development and young people acting as ambassadors are myriad.

Here are three simple tips if your institution is thinking about setting up a Young Persons Group:

1. Realise that you are hard to reach for them and not the other way round. Once you start seeing things from a different perspective you may find that there are things you have missed.

What can you do to make them young people feel more comfortable and reassure them that they are welcome? How can you make them realise they don’t need to know lots about art to enjoy your building?

2. Go where they are: When I was recruiting members for The Wilson Collective, I found events where young people were, and planned tailor-made activities for those events rather than waiting for them to come to me. I designed a “design a deck skate” activity / contest for the local skate park and a sleeve-face activity for a local music festival.

3. Diversify: Think of other events that you could hold in your Museum spaces.

Are there local groups of young people who need to rehearse for drama, music or a play? Do you have a space they could use? If so, somewhere_to from the Arts council is a great initiative. All you have to do is sign up at http://somewhereto.com/ and wait for the enquiries to come in. Once the young people have had fun and discovered your building, get them to sign up!

Two teenagers playing a guitar

Musicians Shaquille Douglas, aka @Alluzeion, and
Shawn Wheatley aka Chiggy, at the Wilson
(c) Simon de Knock

For Museums at Night, our young people’s group the Wilson Collective are planning an open mic evening that will fill a gap in Gloucestershire’s arts provision for young upcoming musicians.

This event will give them a platform and a chance to meet other local musicians to jam with. It will also be recorded and broadcast on YouTube, providing a vital resource for the young musicians to further their careers. The event will be marketed by The Wilson Collective ambassadors, word of mouth and social media.

We’re also part of the Museums at Night Connect10 competition: we’re hoping to win Fred Deakin from Lemon Jelly to bring in a wider audience and kickstart what we hope will be the first of many music events at The Wilson.

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A woman in a denim jacket smilingLiha Okunniwa has been Outreach Officer at The Wilson for four years. She is focusing on Audience Development and programming for The Wilson’s dedicated young person’s space, 51. Follow them on Twitter: @thewilsonchelt

Liha is also Creative Director of Bookish Design, an art publishing business that promotes classic literature.

Guest post: Bill Griffiths on creating Newcastle-Gateshead’s Late Shows

Happy New Year! Our latest guest post comes from Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and creator of The Late Shows.

5 young people on a night out with glow sticks

A group of after-hours visitors showing off their glowsticks (c) The Late Shows

The Late Shows was developed as Newcastle Gateshead’s response to the Museums at Night festival. In our first year, 2007, we opened on the Saturday night only having begged and bullied 14 venues into taking part. We had 4,500 visits. Last year (2013) we had 60 venues and 33,000 visits.

We restrict participation to venues that are not normally open at night, but now the evening venues want to be part of it as well so we have our own ‘fringe’, The Late Lates, with evening venues staying up past their bedtime too.

The weekend starts with our ‘Friday night warm up’ where we open venues in the Ouseburn quarter of the city, where a number of arts organisations are based – then on Saturday night we open the lot!

We were very fortunate in hitting a distinctive brand and title for it in our first year. It’s designed to appeal to the Arts Council’s ‘Fun Fashion Friends’ audience segment, that is, 16-34 year olds who intend to engage with culture but maybe don’t get around to it.

We have had steady audience growth each year with existing audiences coming back and bringing their friends. It’s fair to say the Late Shows is an eagerly anticipated event in the calendar.

We manage it via a steering group made up of experts from different organisations, and we have a volunteer crew for the event who give out glowsticks and brochures, make visitors feel welcome and signpost them on to other venues.

people in an open top bus

An open-top bus full of cheerful Late Shows visitors travelling to their next venue (c) The Late Shows

Key tips from the Late Shows’ success:

  • Don’t have a theme beyond daytime venues being open at night. This allows the maximum number of venues to take part and showcase their work.
  • Do encourage people to move round. We call the Late Shows experience a ‘cultural tapas’. We put on a free bus to move people around between multiple venues, and encourage venues to put on programming that will keep people for no more than 20 minutes. Many people like to try and see as many different places as possible.
  • Mix it up – some arts, some heritage, some arts in heritage sites. The broad mix of programming will attract a broad audience. Although young people are our core audience we see a lot of families coming in as its something they can do together on a Saturday evening, and we also get a lot of older people who say they feel safer being in town during the event.
  • Give all the venues equal billing in the brochure – it creates more of a spirit of being part of a family of venues. Equally, get all venues to market the Late Shows brand in their own promotional material.
  • Have glowsticks! This is more important than you would believe. Firstly it creates a festival atmosphere; secondly it make the event stand out in people’s minds; but thirdly and most importantly, as people are walking about the city they see that other people are on the same night out as them – and as a result feel more secure.
  • Ensure venues provide opportunities for people to participate, not just passively view.
  • Use social media to build your audience.

For more information, come to www.thelateshows.org.uk!

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A man in a jacket wearing a poppyBill Griffiths’ day job is Head of Programmes at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. He started his working life as a field archaeologist before becoming involved with the development of Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum on Hadrian’s Wall. From there he became the Museum Hub Manager for the North East and set up The Late Shows in 2007.

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Thanks, Bill! If you’re reading this and you have an interesting story to tell or case study to share about planning or marketing after-hours events in arts or heritage venues, I’d love to publish your guest posts as well. Please get in touch with rosie@culture24.org.uk.

Children’s authors for your Museums at Night 2014 event

Every year we collaborate with the Reading Agency to connect Museums at Night venues with authors to be part of their festival events, without charging an appearance fee.

This year we have an exciting list of 21 writers whose books are targeted at children and young adults for you to pick from, including How to Train your Dragon author Cressida Cowell and Bartimaeus author and ghost specialist Jonathan Stroud.

How to Train your Dragon

Download the spreadsheet list of children’s authors here – would any of these be appropriate for your venue’s Museums at Night event?

How author events work: case study

Last year, Northampton Museum & Art Gallery brought in author and historian Lucy Moore, who had recently published her biography of famous ballet dancer Nijinsky. This was relevant because the museum holds a world-renowned shoe collection, including the ballet slippers of prima ballerinas Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn and Moira Shearer – which they highlighted in a display.

A male ballet dancer performing

Vaslav Nijinsky in Scheherazade (c. 1912), shared under a Wikimedia Commons licence

In addition to the author talk, which was chaired by the Senior Lecturer in Dance from the University of Northampton, the museum also invited a ballet dancer along to demonstrate some aspects of the dance form and discuss how she worked.

This successful event was specifically targeted at dance students and ballet fans, many of whom had not previously visited the museum but were pleased to have the opportunity to engage with specific objects in the collection. The extra programming inspired by the author created an enjoyable and rewarding evening experience for visitors.

How to promote an author talk

Once we connect your museum, gallery, library or heritage site with a particular author, it will be down to you to liaise directly with the publisher, coordinate and cover the expenses for the author’s travel and accommodation as necessary, take delivery of books for the book sale, and promote the event to your local audiences.

The publishers may have publicity material and images they can share with you to help attract attention, as well as copies of books that can be used as competition prizes – do ask them what they expect and how they may be able to help you!

Don’t forget that you can charge for admission to your Museums at Night events – but as these authors will appeal to families, you may want to widen access to more people by pricing tickets on a cost-recovery basis.

Your next step

Download the spreadsheet of available authors and share the list with your team. Do any of these writers, or the subjects they write about, have a connection with your venue, collections or location?

If you are interested in a particular author, double check their restrictions – some are only able to go to venues within a certain geographical area, most have specified the age groups their books are intended for, and many have set the minimum or maximum number of people they prefer to come and perform for.

In addition, there is extra information about the type of skills and props the authors bring along to their talks, which may be inspiring: for example, Holly Webb‘s events usually involve puzzles and hands-on craft-making activity sessions; Ten Little Pirates author Mike Brownlow would like to hold a piratical party; and Osbert the Avenger author Christopher William Hill brings boxes full of smells which he uses to inspire kids to create their own characters and stories.

Be aware that all events featuring these authors will usually end with a sale of their books, and in many cases a book signing session for visitors – do you have the space and staffing capacity to deliver this successfully?

If you’d like to invite one of these authors to your venue for Museums at Night, please call Nick or Rosie on 01273 623336.

How to work together and form a Museums at Night cluster

As part of our Museums at Night briefing sessions, which Nick and I held in London, Birmingham and Bradford (and will also be bringing to Wrexham and Cardiff next week), we invited experts who had run Museums at Night clusters to share their experiences and recommendations.

A family group writing at a table, guided by an explorer

Egyptian Explorers at Blackburn Museum, part of the Pennine Lancashire cluster of Museums at Night activity (c) Bob Singleton, Pixel

Heritage and Audience Development Consultant Laura Crossley shared her recommendations for getting local heritage organisations to work together to plan and market a joint programme of Museums at Night events, using three contrasting case studies from the Norfolk area.

Why does Laura value clusters so much? In her own words,

Clusters are a fantastic way to:

  • Create something that’s more than the sum of its parts. Even very small events become something big when combined with other events and marketed as a complete visitor offer.
  • Attract lots of visitors. People are much more likely to come out if they can attend more than one event in an evening.
  • Get great media coverage.
  • Garner local long-term support by bringing new visitors to your venue who’ll want to come back again and again.
  • Improve partnership working between venues in the same location.

Sounds too good to be true? Here’s the evidence… I managed the Victorian Nights Festival, which saw 12 Museums at Night events across 9 venues in North Norfolk in 2012.

  • 3,252 people attended the festival.
  • 60% of visitors were first time visitors to venues. 
  • 91% of visitors said they would definitely return to participating venues in the future.
  • £50,000 was spent in the local economy over the festival weekend.
  • 32 print and web articles with an AVE of £28,651 were produced about the festival.
  • 138 volunteers supported the festival.

Read more of Laura’s key recommendations for organising a cluster over on her blog.

Lindsey Braidley, Learning & Programmes Co-ordinator for Heritage Services at Bath & North East Somerset Council spoke at Culture24′s Museums at Night briefing session in Birmingham.

Using these slides, Lindsey shared how the Bath cluster of Museums at Night festival activity grew to encompass more venues and different themes over the last few years, and how they’ve overcome funding challenges and collaborated with different local initiatives to keep their activities fresh and interesting.

Her top tips include involving local tourism organisations in planning and promoting your joint offer, and (if you’re organising a succession of events on the same evening) attracting a large group of people to your first event by making it a dinner or a food-related experience, before setting them off across town to explore your other events.

Elaine Lees from Creativity Works in Pennine Lancashire explained how she successfully bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create a new Museums at Night cluster of activity in her area, the Festival of Wonders. She covered how she got multiple museums and libraries on board, how they promoted their events, the challenges that they overcame and their plans for the future.

Christina Grogan from Open Culture in Liverpool shared the story of the phenomenal success of Liverpool’s Museums at Night strand of programming, Light Night. She suggested tips on bringing together a range of partner organisations, joint marketing and promotion, and the value of bringing the city centre to life with animation, performances, and hundreds of late openings and special events.

If you’re interested in forming a cluster to work together on planning and promoting Museums at Night events in your area, do get in touch with us: we’re happy to help in talking through plans, and can connect you with people who have made clusters work successfully before.