We’re moving to a new website!

Thank you for reading the Museums at Night blog since I started it back in 2009. Six years on, the festival has grown far bigger than I ever imagined, and it’s time for a new, more visually exciting website which is easy to read on all devices, and which has all the information about the festival in one place.

This blog will stay here as an archive of the festival’s history, but we are now moving to an exciting new festival website at www.museumsatnight.org.uk. Come over and take a look!

A screenshot showing event listings

You can find all the Museums at Night event listings beautifully displayed here – adding an image really does make a big difference to how they look: http://museumsatnight.org.uk/events-page/

I’ll also continue to publish blog posts with new case studies, partnership opportunities and calls to action categorised here: http://museumsatnight.org.uk/run-an-event/

Please update your links! We look forward to working with you in future.

Museums at Night collaborates with Adult Learners Week

Once again, the Museums at Night May festival (13-16 May 2015) overlaps with the Adult Learners’ Week Festival of Learning, which runs throughout May and June 2015, and we’ll be cross-promoting each other’s events as usual. So why not consider including an educational element when planning your Museums at Night event?

Adult Learners Week logo

The Adult Learners’ Week Campaigns Team explains more:

When we’re young, learning is everywhere. From schools and colleges to after school-clubs and the home, it’s obvious where we can improve our skills and abilities. As we get older, many of us want to continue this journey but we’re often unaware of the variety of learning opportunities that are available to us.

Lots of museums and galleries are already engaging thousands of adults in learning and developing their skills. For those who have not yet jumped on the bandwagon, there’s never been a better time to come aboard.

A drawing class

Drawing at Barking and Dagenham College (c) Caters Photography

Museums at Night is partnering with the Festival of Learning, led by the National Institute for Continuing Adult Education (NIACE), which brings together a range of events and activities taking place throughout May and June 2015.

The Festival of Learning is a prime opportunity for museums, galleries and heritage sites to run events which can educate, inform and raise awareness in the adult learning community.

There are many ways in which the cultural sector can engage adult learners this spring: here are some ideas!

1) Invite expert speakers

Adults are often keen to hear from experts in a particular field. Utilise the breadth of contacts at your fingertips, such as local artists, academics and curators, to provide adults with an intricate background to exhibits and engagement with the wider community.

Two women folding origami

Origami workshop at City Link (c) Caters Photography

2) Link exhibitions to building new, transferable skills

Whether it’s photography classes in a local gallery, or a sewing school in a textile exhibition, museums provide an engaging backdrop to learning new skills that help participants progress both personally and professionally. This kind of initiative is also a simple way to engage and form partnerships with local educators, further widening the reach of your institution and opening the doors to new audiences.

3) Facilitate interaction and creativity

Often with full-time jobs and families, adult learners’ time is precious so it’s important that classes are stimulating without being too heavy-going. Avoid long lectures and opt for more group discussions, practical tasks and problem-solving games.

People making millinery trimmings out of feathers

Learning millinery, the art of trimming hats, at the National Portrait Gallery (c) Positive Negatives Photography

Adult learning is an opportunity for museums to engage anyone and everyone, from learners to schools and beyond. The Festival of Learning showcases just how many organisations are joining the adult learning mission and is a fantastic opportunity to have a go, even if it’s just an evening class or a late night tour.

Next steps

You can upload your May and June Festival of Learning events to the free online events diary at http://www.alw.org.uk/events.

For more information, you can connect with Adult Learners Week on Facebook (www.facebook.com/niaceadultlearnersweek), follow @NIACEhq on Twitter and look out for the hashtag #ALW.

Guest post: Autumn Neagle describes a glimmering light installation at Cogges Manor Farm

Our latest guest post comes from Autumn Neagle, Marketing and Events Manager at Cogges Manor Farm, who helped attract visitors with a Museums at Night evening of music and an outdoor glowing light installation.

A panoramic photo of a country house in beautiful grounds at dusk

The grounds of Cogges Manor Farm

The history of our venue

Cogges Manor Farm is a historic farmstead just 5 minutes walk from the centre of Witney, a town once known for its thriving wool trade.

Cogges has a fascinating history going back 1000 years. It is listed in the Domesday Book and the first owner Wadard appears as a Norman knight on the Bayeux tapestry! The manor is one of the oldest remaining houses in Oxfordshire with 15 acres of grounds, 17th century farm buildings, a walled garden and Victorian apple orchard.

Popular with locals and tourists with over 40,000 visitors this season, Cogges is now attracting visitors from all over the world due to appearing as ‘Yew Tree Farm’ on ITV’s Downton Abbey.

Using the orchard

The beautiful outside space gave me the idea to hold the main attraction for our first Museums at Night event in the orchard. We aim to present the site in a unique and inspiring light to visitors, so focusing the event in the orchard after hours was a great way of creating a new experience.

An orchard at dusk full of people and tiny glowing LED lights

The lights of Field Test glimmering in the orchard. Image courtesy OCM

Creative collaborations

I got in touch with Oxford Contemporary Music and they suggested an installation by Alex Bradley, a Bristol-based artist they had been working with. We were delighted to be able to host Alex’s outdoor installation Field Test.

Alex has a family history of cataracts, and this installation is inspired by the Visual Field Test used to examine peripheral vision. Mixing audio, technology and instruments with birdbox speakers and 800 solar LED light units, ethereal harmonies came from all around as people wandered through the trees.

green glowing LEDs around a stone wall outdoors

Glimmering LEDs as part of Alex Bradley’s Field Test. Image courtesy OCM

I programmed harpist Steph West, and singer Jess Hall with cellist Barney Morse Brown in the barn, and we served soup and a drinks bar. We had artwork and demonstrations, storytelling and kids activities led by volunteers.

The visitor experience

We welcomed over 300 regulars and new visitors. People meandered around the farm while it was still light and gathered in the orchard as the skies darkened.

The evening was unique for Witney, and we were lucky with the weather, as it was a beautiful summer evening and people stayed outside till 10pm. It was wonderful to see families picnicking and children playing and many commented how special it felt.

People loved the event and enjoyed spending relaxed time in beautiful surroundings after hours at Cogges, a place at the heart of the community and special to many generations.

A woman playing a harp in a barn for three children

Harpist Steph West performing watched by young visitors. Image courtesy Verity Hoper

Financing the event

Alex’s installation was produced by OCM and was funded, which is why we were lucky enough to be able to host an artistic piece of this calibre at no cost to the charity. We charged just £2 entry to encourage as many people as possible to come along and see it. On this special occasion, none of the performers charged a fee, and we broke even.

What we learned

Lessons learned included providing more food stalls in future, and lighting dark areas, as we had to keep the orchard and surrounding area unlit for the installation.

Communicating the artistic nature of the event was challenging: from descriptions of the lights, some visitors said they had expected a laser show. Providing suggested tweets in the press release might have helped to describe the event more clearly, and several visitors asked us for more information about the artist.

Overall, though, the event was very well received with lots of 10 out of 10s on the visitor survey.

OCM gratefully acknowledges the support of Arts Council England, PRSF, Oxford City Council and Oxford Brookes University.

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A woman with dark hairAutumn Neagle is Marketing and Events Manager at Cogges. She has worked as a PR and Programming producer for music and arts organizations and projects in Oxfordshire and London at live music venues, community arts organizations, festivals, carnivals, museums and galleries.

Find out more about Cogges on Facebook or follow @CoggesWitney on Twitter.

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Thanks, Autumn!

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.

Partnership opportunity: work with a voluntary arts group!

We’re delighted to announce our latest partnership for Museums at Night 2015: we’re working together with Voluntary Arts, organisers of the annual Voluntary Arts Week!

In previous years, we’ve connected artists and authors with museums, and we’ve been delighted to see some terrific event partnerships springing up between local voluntary arts groups and cultural and heritage organisations.

A group of musicians in a historic house

A jazz band prepare to play in a historic house. Picture courtesy Voluntary Arts

However, we really wanted to widen the opportunity to all arts and heritage organisations who’d like the chance to link up with a local creative or performing group to collaborate on interesting joint events as part of the festival. Voluntary Arts Week is all about giving these groups the opportunity to showcase their practice to new audiences, so this is an ideal partnership.

I was interviewed by Cassandra from Voluntary Arts Scotland about our hopes for this partnership: read on to find out the cinematic guilty pleasure which I’d love to recreate in a gallery! http://voluntaryartsweek.org/creative-collaborations/

Why not take advantage of this opportunity to discover which voluntary arts organisations exist in your local area, reach out to them, and find a way of collaborating on a Museums at Night event?

Kelly Donaldson from Voluntary Arts Scotland explains more:

Voluntary arts groups, like museums, come in many shapes, sizes and genres. From amateur dramatics companies to knitting circles, choirs to embroidery groups. The one thing they all have in common, is passion. Nobody pays them to do it, they meet, share and create purely ‘for the love of it’ (which, in case you didn’t know, is the original definition of ‘amateur’).

By connecting with a local voluntary arts group, and working with them on a Museums at Night event, museums and galleries can come to life in a whole new way. Imagine a dance group drawing a crowd outside your venue, a choir singing in your foyer, a drama club creating a short scene inspired by your exhibits, or a painting group displaying their creations in your café.

A Sikh children's choir in a gallery

Gurdwara youth choir performing at GoMA, Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art

Imagine that and a myriad of other ways your spaces could be enriched by a voluntary arts group, because the possibilities are indeed endless.

Not only could it attract new audiences to your venue, but the groups themselves (and their families and friends) are potential new visitors. Events such as a flashmob bursting unexpectedly into song inside a museum are also a great way to engage your local media.

The May Museums at Night festival happens during Voluntary Arts Week, an annual celebration of cultural participation run by Voluntary Arts. Throughout the week, local cultural groups will be showcasing their wares and encouraging new people to discover the joy of taking part.

Museums at Night is the perfect vehicle to help make that happen – whilst boosting your venue’s profile at the same time. Any events taking place that week will also benefit from double publicity, through the Voluntary Arts Week website and a range of social media.

To find out how your venue could hook up with a local voluntary arts group, contact your closest Voluntary Arts representative and get ready to make magic.

Who is your Voluntary Arts representative? 

England

Laraine Winning – Development Officer Coordinator (England)
Email:  Laraine@vaengland.org.uk 

Ireland (North and Republic)

Emma Whitehead – Development Officer (Northern Ireland & Republic of Ireland)
Email: emma@vaireland.org / Phone: 07818 032 718

Scotland

Cassandra Barron – Development Officer (Scotland)
Email: cass@vascotland.org.uk  /  Phone: 0131 561 7333

Wales

Gwenan Davies – Information Officer (Wales)
Email: gwenan@vaw.org.uk / Phone: 07825 109594

What would a voluntary arts Museums at Night event be like?

It may mean giving a community choir space to perform, or inviting a group of guerrilla knitters to “yarnbomb” your gardens, or collaborating with artists or creative writers to offer a hands-on workshop inspired by your venue or collections … or something else we haven’t thought of before!

This could also lead to longer-term collaborations and partnership working within communities, helping your organisation to broaden your offer, discover new ideas and ways of presenting your spaces and collections, and connect with new audiences through creative art forms.

Free information packs

We also collaborated on these handy information packs full of case studies about successful creative collaborations to inspire you!

Museums at Night venues: For more information and guidance on how to involve voluntary arts groups in your Museums at Night event, including tips on how to find groups near you and inspiring case studies, download the Museums at Night information pack here.

Scottish Festival of Museums venues: For Scotland-specific information and guidance about working with voluntary arts groups, download the Festival of Museums information pack here.

Voluntary Arts groups: Curious about collaborating with cultural and heritage organisations? Download our top tips on working with cultural venues here.

Interview with Rosie

I spoke to Cassandra from Voluntary Arts Scotland about our hopes for this partnership: read on to find out the cinematic guilty pleasure which I’d love to recreate in a gallery! http://voluntaryartsweek.org/creative-collaborations/

Museums at Night 2015 PR deadlines

Throughout the campaign leading up to the Museums at Night festival in May, we issue several publicity deadlines for you to register your event listing in our database and send us your publicity photos.

Here are all the publicity deadlines for the May festival:

PR-deadlines-2015

If you can register your event listing by Friday 13 February, it will be included in all of our PR pushes.

The second deadline is Friday 20th March: if you register your event listing by this date, it will appear in our March outreach.

The final deadline to take advantage of Culture24’s PR for the festival is Friday 24th April.

Our system allows you to register events right up until the festival itself, but we strongly recommend that you aim to meet one of these deadlines so your venue and event can be part of the festival publicity campaign.

Here’s how to register your Museums at Night event.

An old library lit up at night

Gladstone’s Library at night: PR helps attract visitors to fill up your venue after hours!

Finally, we’re working on a new Museums at Night website for this year which will have much more of a focus on pictures. When you register your event in the database, do upload an image to help it stand out.

We’re already getting approached by media outlets wanting to feature the festival, who are looking for attractive photos of people in museum and galleries after hours. So please email us your high-res publicity photos, along with the copyright info and photographer’s credit!

Museums at Night to become a biannual festival; Connect! competition announced

Culture24 is pleased to announce that Museums at Night, the UK’s annual after-hours festival of arts, culture and heritage, will now be taking place twice a year – in May and October.

The May festival will now run over four days, from Wednesday May 13 until Saturday May 16, while a second festival, lasting two days, will take place on Friday and Saturday, October 30 and 31.

Now in its seventh year, Museums at Night offers the chance to experience culture and heritage in a totally unexpected way. The festival sees hundreds of museums, galleries and historic spaces all over the UK opening their doors  late  for an array of special events. The festival has experienced phenomenal growth during the past few years,  attracting 180,000 visits to 700 events in more than 500 venues across the country in 2014.

Visitors looking into small coloured plastic scopes

Visitors discovering Connect10 artist Spencer Tunick’s scopes installation at George’s House Gallery, Folkestone during Museums at Night 2014

The annual Connect10 competition – which gives people the chance to ‘win’ a leading contemporary artist to create a unique event at their local cultural venue during Museums at Night – is to be rebranded Connect! for 2015. This year it will feature six artists, with each event taking place during the  October festival.

Voting for Connect! 2015 will open on May 1 and winning venues will be announced during Museums at Night in May. The public can vote at www.museumsatnight.org.uk.  The artists  taking part in Connect! 2015 will be announced shortly.

Previous participating artists have included Bob & Roberta Smith, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Gavin Turk, Jessica Voorsanger and photographer Rankin. Previous events have included a Grayson Perry teddy bear hunt around York Museum, New York artist Spencer Tunick photographing 100 individual nudes on Folkestone beach and Bompas & Parr floating the Bristol’s ss Great Britain on a sea of lime green jelly. In 2014, the Connect! competition attracted more than 62,000 public votes.

Connect! is funded by Arts Council England to support venues  trying something different to attract new audiences to their Museums at Night event.

Nick Stockman, Campaigns Manager, Museums at Night said:

“After record numbers of visitors in 2014, the Museums at Night festival will take another giant leap forward in 2015, doubling the number of event nights to six and extending to October as well as an extra day in May. We are really excited about the opportunity this gives venues to offer visitors something new and exciting, particularly for those people who don’t usually visit museums and galleries.“

John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Museums at Arts Council England said:

“I sometimes think museums are at their best out of hours. Museums at Night brings the opportunity for people everywhere to engage with brilliant objects and museums close to their home in fun, quirky and stimulating ways. If you thought museums are boring, think again! I’m looking forward to seeing what the artists involved in Connect! 2015 have in store for us: we had incredible feedback following last year’s unique artist-led events.”

Tying in with the European initiative La Nuit des Musées, Museums at Night is run by Culture24 and designed to attract new audiences into museums and galleries via a  range of exciting events.

For further information and images please contact Pandora George, Bullet PR, pandora@bulletpr.co.uk or tel: 07729 469220

Notes to Editors:

1. Museums at Night is the annual after-hours festival of arts, culture and heritage when hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites open their doors for special evening ev It takes place from Wednesday May 13th – Saturday May 16th. www.museumsatnight.org.uk

2. Culture24 is an independent non-profit company which exists to support the cultural sector to reach and connect with audiences. It is best known for publishing great websites about culture; producing the successful Museums at Night festival of after-hours openings and leading Let’s Get Real, the collaborative action research project involving cultural organisations across the UK and Europe. www.WeAreCulture24.org.uk

 3. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk

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New opportunity: Host a Museum Town Square!

Culture24 seek expressions of interest in Museum Town Square, an expansion on Market Hall Museum Warwick’s ‘Great Warwickshire Show And Tell’ event for Connect10 in 2014. We are looking at the idea of rolling out these open-air museum events around the country, either in 2015 or 2016.

A group of people visiting market stalls

Visitors flock to the market stall in Warwick. Picture courtesy Rebecca Hone

What’s the big idea?

The philosophy behind Museum Town Square is simple – give people a forum to present and talk about their passion, without hierarchy or the need for prices or literature – and they will make a deeper connection with the people they meet.

The huge breadth of collections and displays, from beekeepers to bread-makers, cheese-rollers and barrel burners will tap into the hidden resource and passionate expertise of Britain’s collectors. In contrast to the homogenous nature of the modern town centre, for three days in May streets and squares will showcase the diversity of the country’s enthusiasms.

Museum Town Square will be artist-led, empowering people to be at the heart of the art, with activities and things to do animating the spaces throughout the day. It will attract enormous media coverage; from local TV, radio and press, supplemented with national BBC programming, creating a unifying national experience.

The Warwick story

This idea was piloted in Warwick for Museums at Night 2014 by Alex Hartley in partnership with Market Hall Museum, attracting over 4,000 people to the market square and the museum. The town’s market stalls were used to unify the exhibits into a single celebratory event. Basic rules prevented direct selling and commercial signage. Each stall was manned by an expert, creating a hosted cabinet of curiosities.

Watch the short film about the Warwick event: http://youtu.be/bWj8-hR2khs.

A dancing bin man

A dancing ban man welcomes visitors to Warwick’s Museum Town Square

What will Museum Town Square mean for your community?

Museum Town Square will turn town squares nationwide into outdoor museums, creating a national mass participation event and art happening on a grand scale. Centrally curated by artist Alex Hartley, with input on a local level from local artists, the stalls will feature community and hobbyist organisations and individuals – turning each town centre into a giant outdoor show-and-tell, for one late afternoon/evening only.

Each event would be run with a very simple set of ground rules (including no selling or print material allowed) with the aim of facilitating a dialogue and conversation between enthusiasts and visitors, which worked so well in Warwick last year.

The fluorescent outfits of the breakdancing binmen shine brightly as evening falls

The fluorescent outfits of the breakdancing binmen shine brightly as evening falls

Event co-ordination 

Each event will be run by a local museum or gallery, with central support and guidance from Culture24 in every aspect of the project. The lead organisation in each town will be responsible for coordinating the invited local community groups and running the logistics of the event, which presents an opportunity for that organisation to raise their profile both within the community and directly to audiences.

Next steps 

This project will go ahead subject to a successful application to one or more public funding organisations, and would be managed on a full cost-recovery basis for all participating venues.

If you are interested in being part of this project please fill in this very short Expression of Interest form: https://culture24.wufoo.com/forms/museum-town-square-expression-of-interest-form/