Tag Archives: Guest post

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.

Guest post: Ella Lewis-Collins on a night of drama at the Jerwood Gallery

Our latest guest post comes from Ella Lewis-Collins, and looks at how a change of plans meant the Jerwood Gallery had to rethink their Museums at Night event idea … and what they’ll be offering visitors instead.

—————————————————————————————————-

Last year, the Jerwood Gallery won the Chapman Brothers in the Connect10 competition for an event during the Museums at Night festival. Our evening with the Chapmans consisted of a party with a giant game of consequences.

Adults drawing on a large piece of paper on the ground

Jake Chapman leading Exquisite Corpse drawing session at the Jerwood Gallery (c) Pete Jones

Participants made hideous, amusing and often obscene ‘exquisite corpses’ on 6 foot pieces of paper, passing them around to strangers to complete, with Jake Chapman jumping in and helping people add weird and wonderful details to their creations.

A group of people in an art gallery looking at a large drawing

Visitors looking at an Exquisite Corpse artwork with Jake Chapman (c) Pete Jones

This was so much fun that we decided we had to go for another artist in the competition this year. We picked the photographer Spencer Tunick with the hope of bringing him to Hastings for a mass participation nude shoot on Hastings fishing beach.

Our campaign to win Spencer was one that got lots of support – the wonderful people of Hastings and beyond got behind the ‘Vote Jerwood, Vote Hastings’ campaign and we even had a flash mob strip completely naked on Hastings beach to help promote the vote, which made international news!

Nude flashmob on Hastings Beach, image courtesy Ciaran McCrickard / Connors

Nude flashmob on Hastings Beach, image courtesy Ciaran McCrickard / Connors

Despite almost doubling the number of votes that we got last year, it sadly wasn’t to be and George House Gallery, Folkestone won Spencer. After we found out that we hadn’t won Spencer, we didn’t want the opportunity of doing something for Museums at Night to pass us by. The tricky thing was working out to do instead.

Devising a new event idea

A few members of the team got together and we decided what we wanted was to create a gallery experience which allowed visitors to explore the gallery in a completely new way. We wanted it to have a distinctive evening atmosphere and we wanted people to remember ‘that time we went to the Jerwood Gallery’. Essentially something atmospheric, unique and creative. So then we thought of the Baron…

A man in a hat with his shadow silhouetted

Baron Gilvan (c) Kipperklock Photography

The Baron is a wonderful, slightly dark and magical character who we had the pleasure of working with when we celebrated the gallery’s first birthday in March last year. He transformed the gallery’s studio into ‘The Baron’s Art School’ for the weekend and took families on a magical journey – following the character of ‘Christina the Astonishing’ in a performance workshop incorporating painting, puppetry and animation. The event sold out and was hugely popular with both children and adults.

We approached the Baron’s creator, Chris Gilvan-Carwright, to see if he would like to work for us on a special commission for Museums at Night this year. We met with Chris and Isobel Smith of Grist to the Mill, a puppeteer who often collaborates with the Baron on his performance projects, at the gallery.

Tips on working with performance artists

It’s hugely important when planning these sort of performative events that those who are delivering the performance can get a sense of the space. This is not only for practical reasons but because so often the space and the art on the walls provides new inspiration.

Chris came up with the idea of running a Baron’s Art School in which participants journey into the paintings, transporting the audience into another world. This provides the audience with a completely new way of looking at and experiencing art in the gallery; the activities will also make them active participants rather than passive observers to the works on the walls.

A character with a funnel on his head performing with small objects

The Baron’s Art School (c) Kipperklock Photography

I really believe if you find the right performer, then the best thing to do is trust them with the development of the performance or the event. Whilst practicalities need to be considered by the venue, it’s usually best to allow the artists to work and get their creative juices flowing – the event will be all the better as a result.

Marketing the mysterious 

In terms of marketing the event, I wanted to convey a sense of excitement and anticipation. I did this through providing snippets of enticing information without giving too much away. There’s more excitement if there’s a bit of mystery!

I always try to listen to the words that the artist or performer uses to describe their work in order to help me develop the marketing copy. Sometimes even writing down verbatim (or recording – with their permission) what they say in planning meetings can be incredibly useful, as their passion and enthusiasm for what they do really comes across and helps to enthuse the audience too.

Images are also hugely important. People find it a lot easier to imagine themselves at an event if they have a visual sense of what it will be like. This can be tricky if a similar event hasn’t taken place before, however some sort of image conveying the atmosphere of the event is essential. Fortunately Chris had a number of great shots from previous events with the Baron, which we were able to use.

I think this year’s Museums at Night with the Baron will be a magical one. Our event – The Baron’s Art School presents Bringing Painting to Life – will take place on Friday 16 May. Tickets cost £15, and you can find out more about the event here: http://www.jerwoodgallery.org/whatson/events/79/the-barons-art-school

—————————————————————————————————-

A girl wearing a hatElla Lewis-Collins is the Communications and Marketing Manager at Jerwood Gallery. She joined the gallery in January 2012, prior to the gallery opening in March 2012. Before this Ella worked at FEI, an arts consultancy company. She has an MA in the Reception of the Classical World from UCL. You can follow Ella on Twitter @ellalc, and the Jerwood Gallery @jerwoodgallery.

 

—————————————————————————————————-

Thanks, Ella!

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.

Guest post: Kerry Whitehouse from The Infirmary, Worcester on dramatising medicine for Museums at Night

In our latest guest post, graduate trainee Kerry Whitehouse talks about how The Infirmary, Worcester is engaging university students with the dramatic element of Medicine, as they rehearse for their Museums at Night performances.

Tables with cabinets displaying an assortment of artifacts. Information on the walls to read and a set of headphones resting on a table.

The Infirmary’s interactive exhibition at the University of Worcester’s City Campus combining history, science, art and technology

We’re a medical museum in the heart of Worcester, housed in the former Worcester Royal Infirmary, and now owned by the University. How can we engage their students with our collections and stories?

One way is to include them.

How we involve drama students

The Infirmary is very pleased to be working with the drama department from the university to deliver one of their course modules. ‘Theatre, Real Lives  and History’ is a module that enables the students to develop their skills within the context of The Infirmary and accompanying historic rooms, such as the hospital’s former Board Room and Chapel.

Objects and information from the gallery inspire the students’ creative processes as they immerse themselves into characters from the hospital’s past.

The groups will then pitch their proposals in a ‘Dragons Den’ style presentation to determine which group will be involved in the Infirmary at Night Museums at Night performance.

This week, the students are working on First Person Interpretation, so they have cast themselves back into the characters displayed in the museum. I ventured out of the office today and spoke to the groups to get their ideas and thoughts on how it was all going.

A group of students working around a table

Drama students Isaac Alcock, Beth Crump, Jade Senior-Moulavi, Hannah Dhimaan and Kelsea Braddish researching for their performance

Group work

Each group was working in different ways. One group in the chapel had decided to sit around the table first to discuss how they were going to work and were assigning characters. The other two groups were engaged in acting and were busy rehearsing some of their scenes.

One group I spoke to were rehearsing in the museum, which is based in a former hospital ward. They used some of the museum’s dressing up costumes to help get them into character.

This group had already decided which characters to portray and when asked why, one of the students who was portraying Charles Hastings (Founder of the British Medical Association) said that he felt he had an empathy to the man, as it was thought that he had become a doctor because his father had been injured in an accident and had become disabled.

This group had opted for a ‘time-travel’ theme, with the past meeting the present. I watched as Matron Mary Herbert interacted with a present-day tour guide taking them around what was once her ward.

A collection of drama students. A woman dressed as a nurse talking to another in a white doctors coat. A woman with a bloodied apron stands behind them between two men.

Drama group getting into costumes: note the bloodied apron (L-R) Nurse Lucy Towns, Jeremy Weighill, Hannah Ives, Christopher Lopez, Doctor Kate Adams

The goals of the performance

When I asked this group on what their goals were for the performance for Museums at Night, they told me that their main aim was to engage a younger audience, by educating and entertaining them.

While I was observing the class, one group offered to show what they had been working on with the rest of the class. When asked at the end of the piece “How did it make you feel as an audience?” the replies were: ‘It was fun’, ‘It made me feel a little tense’ and ‘I loved how it was interactive’.

The performance itself is in its infancy, but after watching what the groups were working on and how they were working together, I’m really excited to see the end result!

—————————————————————————————————-

Kerry Whitehouse is a graduate trainee working with both the George Marshall Medical Museum and The Infirmary in publicity and marketing.

Follow the Infirmary on Facebook for more updates ahead of their Museums at Night performances.

—————————————————————————————————-

Thanks, Kerry!

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.

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.

—————————————————————————————————-

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!

—————————————————————————————————-

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

—————————————————————————————————-

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.

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.  

—————————————————————————————————-

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.

—————————————————————————————————-

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!

—————————————————————————————————-

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.

—————————————————————————————————-

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.

Guest post: Confessions of Old Police Cells tour guide Holly Parsons

Our latest guest post features confessions of former Culture24 intern Holly Parsons, a tour guide at one of Brighton’s hidden gems: the little-known Old Police Cells Museum underneath Brighton Town Hall.

——————————————————————————————–

After returning from University in September 2011, I wanted volunteer work in local museums while I looked for a paid job. Although I had experience of working in museums already, I wanted to gain a greater understanding of the diverse types of roles available in the sector, and the best way to do that was to work in as many museums as possible. I contacted the museums that were local to me in Brighton and got the opportunity to volunteer at the Old Police Cells under Brighton Town Hall as a tour guide.

Woman in front of a glass cabinet.

Beginning a tour in the Town Hall above the Old Police Cells (c) Jack Shoulder

The prospect of being a tour guide unnerved me to begin with, but I’ve always been an outgoing person and part of me became excited about the opportunity. Having no experience of the police force and a limited knowledge of the local history, getting up to speed was a daunting prospect. My guide training commenced: I toured the museum several times with experienced guides to see how they did it, and was given a six page document with the key information I needed to know.

Observing different people lead tours was fascinating: every tour guide has their own angle and areas of interest. When it came to creating my own tour, I was able to choose the best bits of what I’d seen. Equally, the printed notes were helpful as I could read these the night before a tour and practice at home in my bedroom. Over the summer of 2012, I found my stride, became better at tour guiding and began to enjoy the experience.

Then disaster struck: winter came and the museum only opened on Saturdays, when I wasn’t available to do tours. I started again in April 2013 with my first tour since the previous September. I felt nervous and out of practice: I read through my notes the night before but didn’t get the chance to do much more. Although I was a bit rusty, once I started I remembered everything that I needed too, and I’ve continued to grow in confidence.

The Old Police Cells tends to attract two types of visitors. Some have limited knowledge of the Police and/or the local area, meaning that giving the tour can easy as there is little chance of being told I am incorrect.

“I wondered where that had got to!”

The other type of visitor are former or serving police officers, who know more about the history of the Police and the museum’s objects than I do! On a tour I gave last summer, one of the visitors was a police officer who recognized many of our objects, including the otter statue used as the mascot for Project Otter, the police’s investigation into the Brighton bombing.

A statue of an otter.

The Otter with its police ID badge (c) Holly Parsons.

Since becoming a part-time tour guide, I’ve found it fascinating to go on other historic tours. If it’s a good experience I enjoy myself, while noting any particularly successful communication techniques the  guide uses that I could put into practice myself. Conversely, a disappointing tour distracts me as I can’t help thinking about what I’d do differently.

What are my top tips for budding tour guides?

  • Practice beforehand, in front of the mirror or friends and family. It may feel stupid, but it’ll help stop you forgetting key information midway through your tour.
  • Learn your tour via visual cues round the museum. As I walk round and see certain pictures or objects, they remind me what I have to talk about next.
  • Watch tours from as many other people as possible: this is a great way to learn information and pick up tips from others.
  • Don’t worry if you can’t answer every question you’re asked (I was once asked when the Town Hall’s ghost was last seen!) There’s nothing wrong with saying that you don’t know and referring the enquirer to another source. Also, over time you’ll learn the most frequently asked questions and their answers.
  • Lastly, try to relax and enjoy the tour. Your attitude and style of delivery really make a difference: the more at ease you are, the better the experience of your tour will become for visitors.

Curious to find out more about the Old Police Cells Museum? In addition to leading tours, I also run our Facebook and Twitter pages, where you can find out more details, interesting facts, the Object of the Week and of course, tour dates and times!

—————————————————————————————————-

A girl in blue smiling

Holly Parsons studied History and Politics followed by Heritage and Museum Studies at the University of Portsmouth. Since completing her studies and returning to Brighton she has pursued her keen interest in museums, volunteering and visiting museums whenever she can.

—————————————————————————————————-

Thanks, Holly!

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.

Guest post: Holly Hyams and Jade Montserrat create a Museum of the Night at Scarborough Museums Trust

Today’s guest post comes from Holly Hyams and Jade Montserrat from Scarborough Museums Trust, who explain how they created a ‘museum of the night’ experience in two venues – including an art boxing match!

———————————————————————————————–

Scarborough Museums Trust comprises two very different cultural venues in Scarborough: the Rotunda Museum – the William Smith Museum of Geology, and Scarborough Art Gallery, both housed in impressive 19th century buildings. Inspired by the desire to forge links between the worlds of geology and art, we applied for Museums at Night’s Connect10 competition, hoping to win artist Julia Vogl to create a large scale geological map at the Rotunda Museum.

a moon rising at dusk above a museum roof

Moonrise above Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

Though we narrowly lost out to Newcastle’s mighty Discovery Museum, taking part in the competition was a fantastically rewarding experience. With the votes pouring in, it was incredibly encouraging to perceive the public’s support for our idea, whilst the competitive element helped create a real buzz amongst our staff. Having come second in the voting, we were determined not to let our supporters down and decided to stage alternative events both at the Rotunda Museum and Scarborough Art Gallery.

Exterior photo of an art gallery at night

Scarborough Art Gallery after dark (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

At the Rotunda, we took Museums at Night back to basics by creating a museum ‘of the night’. Museums have a unique atmosphere after hours, and we capitalised on this by displaying a selection of unexpected objects from our collections which wouldn’t usually be exhibited at the Rotunda. For one night only, taxidermy creatures of the night – owls, foxes, badgers, and hedgehogs – jostled with Victorian night-dresses, whale-oil lamps and candle-snuffers.

A taxidermy hedgehog

Hedgehog on display (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

The mood was enhanced through low-level lighting and the use of battery-operated candles which flickered eerily amongst the displays. The concept was simple but effective: visitors enjoyed the thrill of the strange atmosphere and having access to the Scarborough Collections – the name given to all the objects acquired by the Borough over the years and cared for by the Trust on behalf of the town.

taxidermy stuffed owl

Close encounter with an owl from the Scarborough Collections (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

At the Art Gallery, we again took advantage of the late night opening in order to offer visitors something different. Collaborating with Crescent Arts, a visual arts collective which supports emerging contemporary artists, we decided to host an evening of poetry and performance featuring local poet Jo Reed, Future Shorts films and an art book exchange, with events happening simultaneously at both venues (Crescent Arts being located conveniently within the basement area of Scarborough Art Gallery).

A group of smiling people in costumes

Art KO boxing match competitors (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

Thanks to the creative genius of Stuart Cameron, Director of Crescent Arts, the concept of the Big Art KO Boxing Match was born. A tongue-in-cheek performance, the boxing match involved staff members from the two organisations donning costumes and metaphorically ‘slugging it out’ in a makeshift boxing ring, whilst answering questions on art trivia. Light-heartedly embodying the age-old dispute between realist and conceptualist art, a pretend tryst between Scarborough Art Gallery and Crescent Arts was a novel way of celebrating our collaboration on the night, and one which certainly got the public talking!

—————————————————————————————————

Two smiling women in a galleryJade Montserrat is currently a resident artist at Crescent Arts, Scarborough and works as Learning Assistant for Scarborough Museums Trust. She read for a History of Art BA at the Courtauld Institute of Art, followed by an MA in Drawing at Norwich University College of Arts.

Holly Hyams has worked and volunteered at a number of museums in London and Yorkshire, including the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby Museum and York Castle Museum. She loves living on the North Yorkshire Coast and is currently Learning Manager at Scarborough Museums Trust.

—————————————————————————————————

Thanks, Holly and Jade!

If you’re reading this and would like to write a guest post for the arts and heritage sector about any aspect of event programming, audience development or marketing, please email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

Guest post: Sue Grayson Ford explains how to take part in The Big Draw

If you enjoyed running an event for the Museums at Night festival, your organisation may like to be part of another national festival as well! Today’s guest post comes from Sue Grayson Ford, Director of the Campaign for Drawing, who explains what The Big Draw is all about and how you can get involved.

—————————————————————————————————-

The Big Draw: the largest drawing festival anywhere!

Starting life as a one-day event, The Big Draw is now in its 14th year and lasts throughout the month of October. It involves all of the UK and 15 other countries so far, and every year some 200,000 people of all ages participate. This makes it the largest drawing festival anywhere, yet it is run by just three people – who reach exhaustion every 31 October!

A blurred image of a group of people drawing on walls covered with white paper

Why we do it

The Campaign for Drawing is fuelled by the belief that everyone can draw, and that drawing helps us think, invent and communicate.  It is the most effective and economical interactive tool for learning in galleries, museums, heritage sites and elsewhere.  Drawing animates museums, opens gallery doors, reaches out to new audiences and changes lives.

The best drawing activities are simple, relevant to their environment, connect to artefacts or current displays, and offer new ways to see and interpret.

How we help Big Draw event organisers

Our new mini-magazines are packed with event-planning and marketing suggestions, and help you find ideas for pushing boundaries, family friendly activities, working with young organisers and keeping it simple and easy.

young men holding up drawings

We offer CPD, free resources, publications and case studies of successful events to make drawing accessible.  And this works – I am constantly amazed by the imagination Big Draw organisers use to overcome all barriers, and to engage the least likely suspects.

We also promote The Big Draw through press, digital marketing, FacebookTwitterPinterest and The Big Draw Blog.

Creative event ideas

As a lifelong football fan, I was excited when the Colchester gallery Firstsite partnered with Colchester United for The Big Draw, to show supporters how drawing is used to plan and analyse the game. The junior squad demonstrated the artistry of passing the ball with tape glued to their footballs, while match programmes were printed with a blank page for spectators to sketch impressions. 

At London’s Zabludowicz Collection, workshop participants were inspired by flamboyant dancers and improvised music.  By focusing on rhythm, movement, enjoyment and experiment – rather than finished artwork – drawing came easily.

A hula-hoop dancer performing in a gallery

A hula-hoop dancer inspiring artists at a drawing workshop (c) Campaign for Drawing

At the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, one million colour-selected adhesive spots were laid on transparent plastic on the gallery windows, creating 3-D illusions of atoms forming functionalised molecules, such as crystalline structures and graphene.  Nobel Prize-winner Kostya Novoselov, who actually discovered grapheme, brought his young family to join in the fun!

Two toddlers covering a window with colourful spotty stickers

Children joining the dots at Manchester Art Gallery (c) Campaign for Drawing

Science and technology can also connect people with their hidden creativity: at Tate Liverpool, artist Tony Hall encouraged families to construct ‘brush bots’ – tiny robots which drew as they moved.

Rewarding organisers

All these events received Drawing Inspiration Awards, which reward twelve organisers of each year’s most innovative Big Draws with up to £1000 each.

Draw Tomorrow in 2013

Who knows what our suggested 2013 theme Draw Tomorrow will bring?  The Elgar Birthplace Museum will invite visitors to draw musical instruments for 3013; Manchester Museum will create a rainforest of the future, and young visitors at the V&A Museum of Childhood will art-direct top Central Illustration Agency artists.

A father and daughter drawing on the floor of a gallery

Sign up NOW!

Register your event  here by 1 September for inclusion in our press campaign, and help us demonstrate the power of drawing to connect and engage audiences.

If you’d like more information we’re here to help: please contact admin@campaignfordrawing.org, or call 020 8351 1719.

—————————————————————————————————-

A woman in the sunshineSue Grayson Ford is Director of the Campaign for Drawing. She says:

My proudest previous achievements were founding the Serpentine Gallery (aged 22), running the Wakefield Centenary Festival, putting sculpture into the first International Liverpool Garden Festival and public art into Cardiff Bay, directing the Photographers’ Gallery, and chairing engage.

Adam Clarke on bringing history to life with Minecraft for Museums at Night

Our latest guest post comes from Adam Clarke, freelance artist, film maker and games-for-learning consultant. Adam describes how he got involved in the Tullie House Art Gallery Takeover, and the part Minecraft has to play in engaging new audiences with heritage and history.

————————————————————————————————–

I had the opportunity to get involved in the Tullie House Art Gallery Takeover/Museums At Night project after I talked with the team about Minecraft and how it can be used to create engaging heritage and historical narratives. Excited by the possibilities this opened up, I was invited to work with the project team to create the event. Together, we set about filling the gallery space in a way that had never happened before.

Minecraft at Tully House

Visitors playing with paper craft and Minecraft at Tullie House. Photo (c) Gavin Wilson /  bangyourdrum

Using six massive interactive projections from the video game Minecraft featuring my topographical Cumbrian landscape, including a partially constructed Hadrian’s Wall, we gave people the opportunity to visit an online Minecraft world and play live with other people from around the world.

The museum archaeologist showed Roman artifacts not usually on display, giving people a chance to discover them in a new and intimate way. He also took time during the evening to build a Roman Fort and parts of Hadrian’s Wall in Minecraft with guests.

people at a screen

Minecraft in the Museum. Photo (c) Gavin Wilson / bangyourdrum

We had exclusive access to the Voxelbox server, possibly the best Minecraft creators on the planet. We were joined in person by Stephen Reid from A Higher Place, who talked about games-based learning.

We placed large glass bowls of Lego on plinths to play with, there were tables with paper-craft activities to engage in and even historical costumes for participants to get creative with dressing up and drawing. To set the ambience, there was a DJ filling the space with live mixing, and a bar.

Big screens, paper-craft, glitter, Lego, colourful lights, music, artifacts, archaeology and amazing creators all got to work to turn the museum into something truly magical, but perhaps the most magical element of all were the people who came along and completed that transformation.

People from all walks of life came together – all different ages, with different backgrounds and involvement with museums, technology, games and creative arts, including the curious few who wanted to find out what on earth it was all about – and everyone got involved. I saw people making, engaging, discovering, playing, sharing ideas and conversations, hatching plans, re-imagining familiar landscapes and finding their way around completely new spaces. Everyone was having a go, and having fun.

Artists at work

The Art Gallery Takeover. Photo (c) Gavin Wilson / bangyourdrum

I am currently developing projects using 3D printed artworks in public spaces, with a special interest in museums. Museums are traditionally about housing the intimate objects of the past. When we visit a museum, we engage in a dialogue with these objects and the people who once made them, used them or collected them. By making 3D printing accessible, museums can open up that dialogue in ways that empower the individual and community to create their own objects, their own living history and dialogues with the present, the past and the future.

 ————————————————————————————————

portrait-Adam Clarke

Adam Clarke is a freelance artist, film-maker and games-for-learning consultant and instructor. He has many years experience in running creative workshops for schools, museums, hospitals and within community settings, often pulling together his skills from traditional arts, digital animation/film and virtual simulations/games to deliver fun and participant led work. His is passionate about the environment, history, community participation, video games and new technology.

Thanks Adam! If you’d like to write a guest post or case study for this blog about any aspect of event planning or marketing in arts or heritage venues, please drop me a line at rosie@culture24.org.uk or call me on 01273 623336.