Monthly Archives: March 2011

Lauren Laverne launches Museums at Night at the Enchanted Palace

There are a few sore throats (from lots of talking) and sore feet (from our immensely glamorous shoes) at Culture24 Towers today … for last night our campaign ambassador, the fabulous Lauren Laverne, launched this year’s campaign at Kensington Palace! You can read Culture24’s official story, with excerpts from Lauren’s speech, here.

But this is our story I’m telling here. We travelled up from Brighton to London in the afternoon, and as we were pulling in to Victoria saw a fantastic good omen a couple of tracks away – a steam train!

Three excited people in a train carriage

Nick, Anra and Jane on the train

Arriving at the Palace, our advance party had the chance to explore the Enchanted Palace exhibition: the idea is that you go on a quest to find out stories from the lives of seven princesses who once lived at Kensington. You’re encouraged to investigate the artworks, installations and designer dresses, ask questions of the explainers and interact with performers from WILDWORKS Theatre Company – a really innovative and unexpected experience.

A woman seated upon a knitted throne playing with her mobile phone

Culture24 director Jane Finnis in her natural habitat: seated upon a magnificent knitted throne

Of course, I’m sure you’ll want to see our fabulous frocks: here are the Culture24 crew posing outside the Orangery before the evening kicked off. Don’t we look lovely?

A photo of a line of people in a formal garden

The Culture24 team - we do scrub up nicely

From left to right: writer Ben Miller; writer Laura Burgess; activities editor Conrad Westmaas; network and marketing coordinator Ruth Harper; PR coordinator Pandora George; chair of Culture24’s Board of Trustees John Newbigin; head of programmes Anra Kennedy; editor Richard Moss; finance coordinator Tessa Watson; director Jane Finnis; Museums at Night project manager Nick Stockman; Museums at Night project coordinator Rosie Clarke; arts writer Mark Sheerin; technical producer Larna Pantrey-Mayer; Museums at Night intern Signe Troost. Phew!

A photo of a woman in a gold jacket on a podium

Lauren Laverne speaks at the Museums at Night launch

And now, the question everybody’s been asking us: what was it like meeting Lauren Laverne in real life? Well, she was ravishingly gorgeous in a golden jacket and vertiginous high heels, yet very down-to-earth. Within minutes of stepping through the door she complimented me on my dress and Larna on her hair, before floating upstairs in a golden aura of charisma and loveliness. We are all slightly smitten. She gave an enthusiastic speech explaining why she supports the campaign, then chatted with guests from the arts and heritage world, and happily posed for photos among the exhibitions.

A photos of a woman in a bedroom with enormous puppets

Lauren Laverne in Queen Victoria's bedroom - the Room of Imaginary Friends

Thanks to photographer Charlotte Macpherson for taking photos on the night, and to everyone from Blue Strawberry Catering for the drinks and canapes. We’re also incredibly grateful to Tim Powell, Charlotte Winship and the entire efficient, good-humoured team at Historic Royal Palaces for all their help in facilitating the event. I hope everyone who came had a great time, and that we’re all inspired for Museums at Night weekend (Friday 13th – Sunday 15th May!)

A glamorous couple descending a wood-panelled staircase

Nick and I ready to welcome visitors to our lovely Palace. Sorry, THE lovely Palace.

All the photos in this post are courtesy of Charlotte Macpherson, who can be contacted on

Guest post: Chantal Condron of the Government Art Collection asks, “Are you sitting comfortably?”

Our latest guest post comes from Chantal Condron, curator of the Government Art Collection in London – their unusual Museums at Night event is themed around bedtime stories!


Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

‘Tantalising’, ‘enlightening’ and ‘unexpected’ – asked to sum up in one word their experience of moonlight-themed tours at the Government Art Collection (GAC) last year, these were just some of comments left by visitors who came to our Museums at Night evening talks. We were pleased to elicit such a warm response for our first year of participation in the event, so much so that we’re joining in again this year.

People looking at video art on screens

Visitors to the Government Art Collection's Museums at Night event last year

I hope that we can unexpectedly surprise visitors once again when we open our doors for ‘Bedtime Stories’, three talks based upon a display of works from the Collection that take place on each evening of Friday 13 and Saturday 14 May. The display, ‘The Devil’s Acre’, has been selected by Will Cooper, an MA student on London Metropolitan University’s Curating the Contemporary course. Will has collaborated with Sally O’Reilly, writer, critic and currently writer-in-residence at the Whitechapel Gallery, to weave together engaging (and amusing) fictional narratives based upon the characters and landscapes depicted in a selection of historical works spanning 1750–1900.

Will is one of five MA students based at London Metropolitan University who, since September last year, have been working alongside specialist staff at the GAC, investigating the Collection and observing at first-hand the range of curatorial to technical skills used on a day-to-day basis at the GAC.

For each ‘Bedtime Stories’ event, visitors can follow Will through the display, listening to him spinning stories on the way. Afterwards there will be a chance to see behind the scenes in the GAC’s technical workshop and racking area, led by one of the GAC staff.

A man bursting through a door in a blur of excitement

MA student Will Cooper is ready to spin stories for visitors

Booking is essential for our Bedtime Stories events. There will be three talks per evening, starting at 6.30, 8.00 and 9.30pm. Each will last approximately 80 minutes, and is suitable for children 12 years and over. To book or for more information, call 020 7580 9120 or email I look forward to seeing some of you there!


A woman in a painting storeroom

Chantal Condron

Chantal Condron is Curator, Information and Research for Modern and Contemporary Art at the Government Art Collection, London. You can find out more about the Collection at or on our Facebook page,

New helpful video: Make the most of your event listing!

Going through all the Museums at Night events in our database, there are a few opportunities to really market your events that you may not be making the most of. I’ve made a video explaining how even the simplest of events can be described in ways that get readers’ attention.

There are also some exciting benefits to our new DDE system you may not be aware of: for example, you can now add a picture into every event and exhibition listing! Watch the video and learn more:

Whatever event listing you register in Culture24’s database is exactly what we share with all our partners online, and any journalists who ask for listings related to their area of interest, so it’s worth taking the time to make it sound compelling – and, of course, to spell check your words!

Event title: Please don’t just call your event Museums at Night – that’s the name of the campaign. Use the title to give a flavour of the event which will make viewers want to click on it and find out more! For example, can visitors explore or discover something? Are you offering sunset views or talks at twilight?

Excellent event descriptions: The examples I quote from are Topsham Museum with their lovely Railway Celebration; Mill Meece Pumping Station and their poetic Night Shift; and Darkness Falling mysteriously at Coughton Court.

Essential information: Please take a moment to fill in details of the start and end times of your event, whether you’re charging for admission, if visitors need to book in advance – and if so, the phone number or email address they need to contact! If you’re targeting a particular audience, whether family or adult, you can also make a note of this. And don’t forget to tick the Programmes box marked Museums at Night 2011!

You can see all the Museums at Night events at

Find out about becoming a BBC Things to Do partner at

Do you have any other questions about Museums at Night? Drop me an email!

Guest post: Natalie Wallace on the ghosts and bats of Knebworth House

The latst in our series of guest posts comes from Natalie Wallace, Education Officer at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, who explains the secrets behind the success of their Museums at Night event last year.


14th May 2010 was the first time that the public could make an evening visit to Knebworth House, home of the Lytton family for over 500 years and one of Hertfordshire’s most famous haunted historic houses.  We decided to embrace the night-time setting!

A stately home dramatically lit up at night

Knebworth House is a striking sight at night

Our evening drew on a ghost tour we already offered, which gives our visitors the chance to hear the stories of unexplained events that are found throughout Knebworth’s history while visiting the scene.  Grisly tales, such as that of Jenny Spinner, who is said to have been incarcerated behind a wall in a wing of the house, are always popular.  But this time, we were able to add to the atmosphere by dimming the lights for an extra spooky effect!

We highlighted how this affected the literary offerings of Knebworth, with our Victorian novelist Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton’s supernatural story ‘The Haunted and the Haunters’ offered at a special discounted price in our gift shop.

A historic house lit up at night

A bat walk enabled vistors to appreciate the wildlife in Knebworth's grounds in a different light

We also used the context of night as an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the species of bats found around our estate.  This part of our evening was supported by the Herts & Middlesex Bat Society, who led our bat walk and demonstrated some of the furry creatures.

Our Ghost Tour and Bat Walk evening also included a tasty supper and was a sell-out, with 75 adults attending.  Part of our success, we believe, was adapting an event we already felt confident about, and using experts (our friends at the Bat Society) for an area that was more specialised.  Although the late hour and scary content meant that our event wouldn’t have suited everyone, the chance to see the spooky side of a historic house appealed to lots of people.  We’ve been able to increase our marketing this year with a listing in our Special Events brochure – so we’re hoping for another great turn-out!


A smiling woman in a purple top

Natalie Wallace


Natalie Wallace is the Education Officer at Knebworth House (, and is looking forward to running their Ghost Tour and Bat Walk again on Friday 13th May.

Unleash the flames of publicity: Register your Museums at Night events by Wednesday 30th March!

Welcome back everyone – I hope you had a lovely weekend! I wanted to quickly write about publicity opportunities you can take advantage of – by simply investing a few minutes of time now. This may not be relevant to you, gentle reader who has already registered your Museums at Night event – but if you know anyone at a nearby arts or heritage venue this applies to, please forward this post on to them!

Here in the Culture24 office, Museums at Night HQ, we’re already getting a lot of media enquiries about the Museums at Night campaign. Newspapers, magazines and websites from across the world (I’m not kidding – a publication from Hong Kong just contacted us this morning) are all asking for press releases, images and event listings connected to their particular area of interest, whether it’s events happening in art galleries, performance events, events in Yorkshire, or simply everything family-friendly.

A photo of an over-excited person about to unleash fire

Something potentially awesome about to happen, both literally and metaphorically

Of course, we reply straight away with our latest press releases and the link to our media image library (got some good high-res pictures of people enjoying themselves at your venue, ideally at night or at least in atmospheric lighting? They could be reprinted around the world: please send them to PR coordinator Pandora by emailing

Then we interrogate the Culture24 database to find a list of all the events that meet their criteria – and send them through. Now, if you’re planning an event in Yorkshire, or London, or Southend, or wherever you are, and you’ve started your local marketing by publicising it on your website and in your local paper, that’s a great start! Now, I may have discovered your event listing through Google Alerts, cross-checked that it’s not listed in the Culture24 database, and found the time to phone you to ask you to register it with us. Or I may not have done this yet. Either way, you could have been part of Culture24’s wider Museums at Night PR campaign, and reached completely new audiences – you could have been a contender – but you missed out, because you haven’t registered the event in our central database!

It’s completely free to register an event listing, and takes less than five minutes. There are step-by-step instructions here: How to register your Museums at Night event.

A moment of win, unleashing flames in a hot air balloon

Unleashing the awesome power of fire - a metaphorical representation of what happens when you register your Museums at Night events

Once you’re logged in, if you haven’t updated your venue record for a while, please take the time to double check your details and make sure that your venue looks as rich and inviting as possible. Have you uploaded an image? Are your opening hours, ticket prices and contact details correct? Have you described the collections you hold? You don’t only have to use your Culture24 entry to promote your Museums at Night events: you can list all your upcoming events and exhibitions, and even list any educational resources you offer (which can also be tagged to the National Curriculum).

Our next deadline is Wednesday 30th March. If you haven’t yet registered your event, please do so by next Wednesday – that’s 9 days away – to ensure that it’ll be included in our next series of press releases. Every year, our evaluation survey shows venues saying “We should have started our planning and marketing earlier…” so register now. You know it makes sense!

If you have any questions, please get in touch sooner rather than later, ideally by Friday – as next week I’ll be busily preparing for our campaign launch on Wednesday night! Email or call 01273 623336.

Guest post: Oliver Briscoe from the National Waterways Museum presents site-specific theatre from their youth drama group

Our latest guest post comes from Oliver Briscoe, Marketing & Events Manager of the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port.


This is the first year that we at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port will be taking part in the Museums At Night programme and we can’t wait!

Our site, which has 14 buildings and seven and a half acres of land, is a magical place at twilight, but it’s not a view of it which the public generally get to see. We have held concerts and canal cruises at night before, but this will be the first time that all the parts of the museum will be open so late.

A watering can decorated in traditional canal painting style

Traditionally decorated watering can

And to make the event more special we’ll be showcasing our new youth drama group – who will be presenting a range of stories from the characters who make up the rich canal culture. This is a really exciting new group which has been brought together by our new Youth Activities Co-Ordinator, Gaynor La Rocca. We’re a very successful museum at getting volunteers involved with the day to day running and the hard work of looking after the boats in the collection – but like a lot of other museums we do have challenges in getting younger people enthused about our work.

Gaynor has been working at the museum for a few months now and she’s been great at getting several programmes off the ground – in addition to the youth drama group there is a regular stand up comedy course and the budding comedians will be performing on our trip boat at the Easter Boat Gathering. Young comedians performing on canal boat cruises is certainly not something which the usual image of a canal museum conjures up!

A barge moored by an old industrial building

A canal boat moored at the museum

So this group of talented youngsters is a great resource for the museum and one which we’ll be making good use of in the future to make the museum really come alive. They are working hard on preparing a piece of site specific theatre which they have devised themselves and will perform on May 28 – 30.

We’re looking forward to our Museums at Night event – it will be the first time for a while that the museum has been able to take part in such a high profile event and it’s a real milestone in our renaissance – and our youth drama group telling tales of generations past will be the icing on the cake.

A photo of two old boats

Scorpio, peacefully moored at the National Waterways Museum


A photo of a man in a coatOliver Briscoe is Marketing and Events Manager at the National Waterways Museum , a role he has held since June 2010. He has also worked at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse in his native Norfolk and worked as a journalist, magazine editor and press officer before making the move into museums. He has not yet been let loose at the tiller of a historic boat, but hopefully he’ll get to have a go this summer.

Promotional opportunity: Conrad Westmaas explains how your activities can feature on the BBC’s Things To Do website

The new BBC Things To Do website is launching in early April. Whether or not you’re taking part in Museums at Night, you may be interested in the opportunity for your venue’s activities to feature on it – so I’m turning the blog over to my colleague Conrad to explain a bit more!


With Museums at Night back and bigger than ever (I’m blocking out that weekend and choosing a new sleeping bag as we speak) Culture24 is launching another way for cultural organisations to promote their events and activities.
Culture24 is now the official cultural data provider to the BBC. This three-year partnership gives museums, galleries, libraries and heritage sites the chance to feature activities on a new BBC Things To Do website.

A colourful website

Turn on BBC One, Two or Four on any evening and you won’t have to wait long to find a history programme. From Ancient Britain to 20th century cinema, Normans and Romans to high street history, the BBC has a massive commitment to history broadcasting over the next few years and have launched the Hands on History campaign to encourage BBC viewers to get closer to history events in their area via Things To Do. There are more project themes on the way, but when the site launches at the start of April, the spotlight is very much on history.

The beauty of this partnership is its simplicity. Publicly-funded or not-for-profit cultural organisations that run history-themed, free, hands-on activities can register through this online form. Once approved, you can tag which activities you’d like to feature on Things To Do. After a history programme airs, BBC audiences are encouraged to head to the Things To Do site to find activities in their area. Last year’s Turn Back Time series averaged 5.3 million viewers per episode.

An image showing different activities

My role as Activities Editor is to register partners and channel activities to the BBC site. Since the partnership was announced last year, more than 300 organisations have registered and I’m really looking forward to seeing all their activities get the attention they deserve via Things To Do.

If you would like to feature your activities on the BBC Things To Do website, simply fill out the online form here:

A photo of a magnetically attractive gentleman

Conrad Westmaas. Image courtesy Magnus Hastings

For more details, or if you need any help to register or upload your BBC activities, please contact Conrad by emailing