Monthly Archives: April 2011

Guest post: Elaine Lees presents Night Sites across Pennine Lancashire

Using a video camera and computer together

Creating stop frame animation with Creativity Works

In Pennine Lancashire (the east bit of Lancashire) we have something called Creativity Works. Creativity Works is a cultural consortium – working collaboratively across local authorities, funders, arts organisations and venues. Its aim is to raise the profile of and engagement with the arts in our region. Two strands of our work are a visual arts network called POPL (Perspectives of Pennine Lancashire) and Arts Engagement and Heritage, which works with 5 key heritage venues.

For Museums at Night 2011 the POPL network is organising activities at a number of venues with support from Arts Engagement and Heritage. We ran activities at three venues last year with good results, but felt we could do more and better. This time we’ve partnered and gained funding from Modern History which promotes the industrial heritage of the North West, we’ve registered our events in Culture24’s database so they feature on the site and in the national PR campaign, we are working with five rather than three venues and we’ve created a strong visual identity for our campaign entitled Night Sites. We are promoting this through postcards, leaflets,  posters,  PR campaign and digital presence including features on our website, social networking sites and partner sites.

So what’s on in Pennine Lancashire for Night Sites? On Fri 13 May, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery offer printmaking for all the family with artist Sarah Lawton. Haworth Art Gallery asks for help making a sculptural installation with artist Becky Waite; and Helmshore Mills Textile Museum are running a Lucky 13’s Twilight Mill Tour and textile weaving activity.

A taxidermy tiger being attacked by a stuffed snake

One of the dramatic taxidermy dioramas inspiring creative writing at Rossendale Museum. Image courtesy Ben Pearson.

On Saturday 14 May, Rossendale Museum offers Dead Good Stuffed Stuff, an evening of story making. Finally, on Sunday 15 May Queen Street Mill Textile Museum is running ‘The Calico People’ art installation and textile printing night.

A snarling stuffed polar bear

More dead good stuffed stuff: Rossendale Museum's snarling polar bear. Photo courtesy Ben Pearson.

By combining visual art with the industrial heritage story behind each venue, we hope to create interesting events that give audiences another reason to visit. We’ve made all of our events free and suitable for all the family to encourage as many visitors as possible.

Lots of people are helping make our Night Sites campaign happen! We’ve got a core team of four part-time people plus assistance from the county museums service and local authorities. We also have an enthusiastic representative from each venue to help us organise the activities, not to mention the artists who will inspire the public on the night and the researchers who will ask everyone what they thought. Now there’s only the press release to draft, poster to get printed, websites to update…….and only 3 weeks to go!

For more info see:
Twitter – @poplnetwork #nightsites

A smiling woman with glasses

Elaine Lees

Elaine Lees is Communications Officer for Creativity Works, and can be contacted at

Sky Arts’ Museums at Night trailer is here!

We are so delighted with this fantastic video – it’s the trailer for the documentary Sky Arts are shooting about Museums at Night! Talented producer Mike Wiseman and his crew shot, chopped and scored this atmospheric video in just one day. Of all the lovely things to receive before going home for the Easter holidays, this has to be one of the best.

Feast your eyes! We recommend turning the volume up loud and expanding the video to fill your screen.

We’d like to thank the Old Operating Theatre Museum for showing the crew their amputating table, which will be in action during their Surgery by Gaslight Museums at Night event, and the National Gallery for introducing their Museums at Night Renaissance evening.

Happy Easter, everybody – with only 3 weeks to go until Museums at Night weekend (Friday 13th – Sunday 15th May) we’ll be in touch again very soon!

Guest post: Chris Wakeman presents Late Night Scribble at Derby QUAD

I hope everyone’s enjoying the beautiful weather today, and that you all get a moment to bask in the sun! Gardens are lovely places to relax in these longer evenings, which brings me neatly, in an almost seamless segue, to an upcoming feature about Museums at Night events for garden-lovers in the beautifully designed Gardens Illustrated magazine. There will be hundreds of articles about the campaign appearing in newspapers and magazines over the next few weeks: it’s not too late to send your press releases and publicity photos to PR coordinator Pandora (!

Today’s guest post comes from Chris Wakeman, Engagement Officer at Derby arts venue QUAD.


Exterior of a modern city centre building lit up at night

QUAD at night, by photographer Graham Lucas

The idea of Museums at Night 2011 was put in front of me on my first day in a new job, so in some ways I‘ve been treating it as if it were my first child. That’s not to say I’m coming at it blind and naive; I’ve worked at QUAD for a while now but finally got a chance to prove myself when I was made Engagement Officer in January 2011.

My job’s about strengthening the relationship QUAD has with its existing audience, whilst building new and exciting relationships with groups and people we don’t already reach – and Museums at Night 2011 serves as a fantastic opportunity to do just that.

Working closely with our participation team of artists, we have devised The Late Night Scribble, a low-cost (very important – what with ‘the climate’ and all) high-fun project that sees us converting our multi-purpose space The Box into a blank canvas. For one night only, visitors will be encouraged to create their own works of art on it!

The idea of The Late Night Scribble, something that captures the creativity and imagination of QUAD and our customers, allows people to use our spaces in a way they haven’t been able to before, and more importantly is free to attend – well, that just feels right up our street!

A group of people drink beer and draw on white wall panels

Scribbling in the Box at QUAD

When I trawled our image bank I learnt that we have run events like this before and they’ve been moderately successful. I think that this time around, though, there are three reasons that the Late Night Scribble is really going to make headlines;

1.       On the same night as the Late Night Scribble the Box is also standing in as our Cafe Bar whilst we have a refit downstairs. That means budding artists can eat, relax, draw, craft, drink… everything…all in one place!

2.       Our artist facilitators are fantastic at whipping up enthusiasm and participation, and simply won’t take no for an answer if patrons are reluctant to try their hand!

3.       I won’t actually be at the Late Night Scribble as I’m getting married the day after; as such I’m planning on handing this baby over so that I can start thinking about real ones! Either way I’m certain it will be a weekend to remember.

A man in a hat and coat

Chris Wakeman

Chris Wakeman is QUAD’s Engagement Officer, the voice of QUAD’s QUADcast, introducer of QUAD’s weekly Midweek Treat, the host of QUAD’s Sunday Cinema film club (so much QUAD!) and an avid blogger in his spare time. Visit, and follow @Castapher_W on Twitter.


Thanks Chris – and we wish you all the best on your wedding day!

Museums at Night Guides – and a lovely flyer from Norwich!

We hope that every venue staging a Museums at Night event has now received copies of BBC History Magazine’s Guide to Museums at Night 2011 – they’re beautiful creations as always, and Nick and I were delighted when our box arrived at Culture24 last week!

A man and woman clutching Guides to Museums at Night and beaming with joy

This year's BBC History Magazine Guide to Museums at Night is a thing of beauty

We recommend that you distribute the Guides not only to your visitors, but also through any local spots where people are used to picking up brochures and flyers, such as libraries and cafes – you may find this brings in new visitors who haven’t thought of exploring your venue before.

Culture24 does a lot to publicise the Museums at Night campaign on a national scale, encouraging people to search our listings to find events near them to go to. However, there’s no substitute for local promotion, so we strongly encourage you to let people in your town know that you’re running a Museums at Night event through local media, posters, flyers, your website and your own social media channels. You’ll find all kinds of helpful tips on marketing and promotion in our free-to-download PR Toolkit – do take a look, and if you have any questions please give me a call.

If you’re putting together publicity materials such as brochures or mailouts which will include your Museums at Night events, please feel free to download and use our campaign logos! They’re available both in compact jpeg format, ideal for using online, and high-resolution PSD format, suitable for use in print, and you can access them here.

Here’s a fine example of a flyer making use of Museums at Night official photos and logos, sent to us by Sally Goldsmith from the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts – their Dungeons to Battlements joint event with Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is just one part of a busy weekend of Museums at Night events across Norwich.

The front page of a flyer promoting Museums at Night events in Norwich, with a picture of a boy holding a mask

The front page of Norwich's flyer, which uses Museums at Night photos and logos

If you’ve come up with gorgeous posters or fabulous flyers promoting your Museums at Night event, please share them with us by emailing – we’re happy to showcase them!

Question for historic venues: do you have bats?

With one month to go before Museums at Night weekend, I’m delighted to see that we’ve now got well over 200 events registered in the database – 232 as of this afternoon! This, coupled with the sudden promotion of the Seagulls (Brighton & Hove Albion) to the Championship, is cause for much joy in the Culture24 office – we’re feasting on chocolate in celebration.

We’ve had an interesting question from Kate James from Durham County Council. I’ve agreed to share it through this blog, as I know many of you are from heritage sites and historic structures and some of you may have experience of dealing with bats! Can anyone help Kate, as she tries to coordinate a city-centre event without disturbing these protected nocturnal creatures?

They're cute, but they can also affect your plans for night-time activities! Photo courtesy of Flickr user chimothy27, under a Creative Commons licence

My name is Kate James and I’m the creative planner for the festival programme in Durham, which amongst other events includes ‘Lumiere’, a biennial four day light festival which takes place across the city.

Since the 2009 festival there has been a major bat survey undertaken in Durham, which has confirmed a significant presence in the city, particularly in and around the Cathedral.  This could have a major impact on many cultural and day-to-day activities, as disturbing bats is a criminal offence which carries heavy fines.

I’m looking for any case studies of similar activities in venues/areas with bat colonies which may help us to find a workable solution: to both protect the bats and ensure that the cultural programme can continue in its full glory!

I’d be most grateful if anyone has come up against a similar issue and can offer any advice.

Kate James, Creative Planner Festival Durham

You can contact Kate on 0191 370 8667, email, or find out more about their work at

Guest post: Jennifer Richardson presents the spectres of Castle Ward

We’re delighted to have the National Trust on board as a partner in the Museums at Night campaign this year! Thanks very much to Sarah Staniforth, who invited Nick and I to run a Museums at Night information stand at the Bringing Properties to Life conference a few months ago. We had a great time talking to representatives from all kinds of historic properties – some had run Museums at Night events in the past, others wanted to have a go for the first time, while many more were already familiar with showing off their houses and grounds in a different light.

It was good to meet Jennifer Richardson, the House Steward at Castle Ward, a National Trust property in County Down, Northern Ireland. She has a fascinating story to tell about the spectres from the past who appeared at their Pumpkinfest event.


This is my fifth year at NT Castle Ward where I manage the house and the collection. I have always been interested in built heritage (architectural background) and I consider myself fortunate to live on this beautiful Irish estate. I love my role and the house I help care for, and I want house visitor numbers to grow so that this heritage can be shared with everyone. Offering fun ways of visiting the house seems a great way to attract new audiences.

Without holding a candle to any of the other Museums at Night events I can see on Culture24’s website, here is an outline of the spooky event that Castle Ward presented in October last year.

I saw the opportunity to attract visitors to the house when families attended the popular annual seasonal event Pumpkinfest. This is held a little before Halloween as a neutral event to fit in with local religious sensitivities: it’s about the pumpkins and the carving. However, many costumed little witches and wizards are coming along now and that gave me the idea to create something in the basement for the children to visit. One idea led to another and with only a week to go, we hit on the idea of Spectres in the House as an adult attraction.

While Castle Ward house is not usually considered to be haunted, the idea to have four of its former inhabitants appear as ghosts seemed appropriate enough. The showrooms were darkened with all the shutters tightly closed, and the effective lighting was simply table lamps strategically placed at low level – all enhancing the spooky scene.

A photo of a ghostly woman in historical costume

One of Castle Ward's ghosts. Image courtesy of Peter Muhly.

Castle Ward Opera Company donated the costumes, and theatrical face paint ensured the performers had suitably ghostly complexions. The guides excelled themselves in their roles, while staff and volunteers dressed in black to usher the groups quietly around the four rooms.

We did not deviate too much from the stories we know from the lives of four members of the Ward family – we merely made the most of these stories to suit the event. It was so popular that visitors were queuing up for “seconds” – and the spectres will be returning for our Museums at Night event on Friday 13th May!

A smiling womanJennifer Richardson is House Steward at Castle Ward (, which you can follow on Twitter here @NTCastleWard and become a fan of on Facebook here:!/nationaltrust1

Try something different for Museums at Night: be part of a Facebook competition offer!

The Museums at Night campaign is a great opportunity to build capacity within the arts and heritage sector: every year our feedback shows that being part of this UK-wide promotional campaign galvanises hundreds of venues to try new kinds of marketing and promotion.

This year, we’re trying something new for the first time: running a Facebook competition in conjunction with Love Art London (, with prizes of tickets to meet artist Michael Landy at the National Portrait Gallery.

While it might have been simpler to buy Facebook ads to promote Museums at Night, we’re trying this new kind of awareness-raising online offer a) because it’s a good example of the partnership work that’s always been key to the campaign’s success, and b) because it gives all venues with a Facebook page the chance to try doing something extra with it over the next three weeks.

I’ve just successfully followed the steps below to place the competition details onto the Culture24 Facebook page – and if (as a not particularly technical person) I can do this, so can you! Also, once you know how this particular app works – and if you already run your institution’s Facebook page, this needn’t be daunting – you’ll be able to use it throughout the year to promote your own offers.

As always, we welcome your feedback on this!


If you don’t already have a FBML tab on your venue’s Facebook page, here’s a step by step guide to adding this application and uploading the Museums at Night competition banner onto it. This shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes to do.

1) Log in to Facebook.

2) Copy this link into your browser:

3) The screen will invite you to Add Static FBML to your applications. Select the page you want to add it to.

4) Go to your Facebook page, and click Edit Page

5) Go to the Apps tab on the left

6) You should see FBML in your list of apps. Click ‘Go To App’.

7) You should see a blank form. In the Box Title bar, enter: Museums at Night competition to meet Michael Landy – enter now!

8) Copy and paste the following code into the FBML box exactly as it appears here:

<div style=″margin-top:5px;margin-left5px;width:190px;″><a href=″″target=″_blank″><img src=″″></a>


9) Save changes. The banner below should now appear in the newly added FBML tab on your Facebook page.

A bright pink competition flyer with a photo of a man in an anorak

The Museums at Night / Love Art London competition flyer: follow the instructions above and this is what will appear on your Facebook page!

You can connect with Love Art London here on Twitter and here on Facebook.

We’d love to know what you think of this kind of cross-promotion opportunity – if you have any questions, please email Enjoy the sunshine this weekend, everybody!

Guest post: Keith Dunmall introduces Victorian explorer Percy Powell-Cotton

ANNOUNCEMENT: Only 24 hours left to order your FREE copies of BBC History Magazine’s Guide to Museums at Night – please click here to request a box of brochures now!

Our latest guest blog post comes from Keith Dunmall, Audience Development and Learning Manager at the Powell-Cotton Museum – for their Museums at Night event, his team are presenting dramatised excerpts from the letters of their museum’s controversial founder, Major Percy Powell-Cotton.

A modern museum gallery containing dioramas of stuffed animals

Dioramas showing animals from Major Powell-Cotton's taxidermy collection

Our first Museums at Night event last year was a performance by local acoustic band, Demolition Sky.    The assistant curator knew the band who had offered to perform a free concert – and never one to miss an opportunity, she booked them to play for the night event.  They played in the main gallery surrounded by displays of exotic and rare animals, including an appreciative audience.

Following the success of an event for a new audience, this year we decided on another collaboration this time more focussed on the museum itself.

When you walk into our Museum you see an incredible display of animals and African Cultural Artefacts, yet are still left wondering about the man who collected them.

A bearded Victorian man wearing a hat and a look of determination

Major Percy Powell-Cotton

Was he simply a rich boy with a gun taking pot-shots at trophies, or was there a greater purpose?

Recently improved interpretation in the museum tells the story of Percy Powell-Cotton’s scientific work, but far greater insight has recently been derived through the archive of over 2,000 of Percy’s personal letters to close family, which he sent from his travels around the world.

A group of people crossing a wooden bridge

A scene from Major Powell-Cotton's travels: Kikuyu bridge over the River Tana, Kenya

A selection of these letters now form the script for a performance in the museum by Birchington Guild of Players, the local drama group, giving a glimpse of the man behind the museum by having him speak to the audience of his eclectic collection.

Five Victorians lying down on a grass lawn

The Powell-Cotton family

The script has been produced by Tessa Sherriff  and Keith Dunmall.

Tessa has worked as an archive volunteer at Quex for three years, during which time she has read and archived every letter that Percy wrote to his family.  “It has been a real eye-opener and I wanted to share the discoveries I have made about Percy, his attitudes, his character and adventures and the political map he crossed.”

When Tessa brought the idea to me, I knew we would have an interesting time creating this exciting event within the constraints of displays that in some areas are unchanged since they were put in place by Percy himself. We are looking at relighting the animal displays and punctuating the performance with a soundtrack of animal calls. Find out more about our Museums at Night ticketed event here – we hope to see you there, and look forward to building on this again next year!


Keith Dunmall is the Powell-Cotton Museum Audience Development and Learning Manager. You can visit their website,, connect with their community on Facebook, and follow the @PowellCotton museum on Twitter for live updates.

Get the free Museums at Night 2011 PR Toolkit here!

ANNOUNCEMENT: You have until 11am on Friday to order your FREE copies of BBC History Magazine’s Guide to Museums at Night – please click here to request a box of brochures now!

A massive cannon dwarfing two Napoleonic soldiers

Our promotional tools and resources are like mighty weapons for your marketing armoury.

I’ve just compiled an exhaustive list of all the tools and resources that can help you plan and publicise Museums at Night events: click here to take a look and make sure you’re not missing out on any nuggets of promotional genius!

One resource I’ve been working on for a while is this year’s PR Toolkit: we’ve already had some very kind feedback on this 7 page downloadable PDF, which I’ve put together with help from PR and marketing experts Pandora George and Ruth Cobb.

If you’re responsible for marketing your venue, you may already be familiar with all the suggestions we make, but if you’re not certain how to set up a media photocall, or would like to check what essential things should be included in every press release, please click here to download the PR Toolkit! It’s completely free, and although it’s mainly focused on promoting your Museums at Night events, the good ideas it contains (e.g. what makes a good publicity photo?) should be handy all year round.

Finally, thanks to Seaford Museum for sending me the stonking photo of the cannon atop their Martello Tower which illustrates this post! If you’re interested in exploring the diverse collections of the “Tardis of East Sussex,” which their friendly volunteers will be opening up with atmospheric lighting, their special Museums at Night event takes place on  Friday 13th May.

Guest post: Sally Lewis on Music, Movement and Machinery at the Museum of Bath at Work

ANNOUNCEMENT: There are only 4 days left to order your FREE copies of BBC History Magazine’s Guide to Museums at Night – please click here to request a box of brochures now!

Our latest guest post comes from Sally Lewis, a volunteer at the Museum of Bath at Work, who explains how a group of dancers are taking inspiration from the museum’s moving machinery to create a fascinating Museums at Night performance.


‘Music, Movement, Machinery!’ The title sums up the contemporary dance event I am helping organise at the Museum of Bath at Work for Museums at Night 2011.  I was involved in Museums at Night 2010 at another Bath venue so appreciate its popularity and potential for engaging new audiences. The yearly theme night is a highlight for the Bath and North East Somerset Museums group who work together to ensure a variety of events. In the past, this has included successful collaborations with performance groups in the centre of Bath.

A black and white photo of factory machinery

The general engineering machine shop as it was in 1969. Image (c) Museum of Bath at Work

During the holiday I was looking round the museum with my son Julian who is a dance student at Trinity Laban in London. We were struck by the atmosphere of the place which includes hundreds of original artefacts and set pieces, consisting of reconstructed workshops and offices where every day work went on, year in, year out.  As the museum also has a large(ish!) open space used for meetings, schools’ workshops and events, we thought it would be fun to stage a contemporary dance there. We suggested this idea to the Director of the museum who was enthusiastic and suggested that organising it for Museums at Night would be a good opportunity.

At a further visit Julian checked out the space available and took photos as rehearsals will need to be in London. He also took a close look at the working machinery at the museum which is periodically run for the benefit of visitors and will help provide an inspirational rhythm for the piece. These machines have a variety of repetitive movements in different directions which can be used as inspiration for dance motifs.

Julian says, ‘Myself and seven other students from college have now started to generate movement ideas based on the various images, descriptions and sounds of the machinery and in the coming weeks our dance piece will develop. Staging a dance outside London at an unusual venue is a challenge for us but we are confident it will be a valuable experience and an opportunity to perform in front of an unpredictable audience!’

Two girls dancing outdoors

Two BA dance theatre students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Picture courtesy of Julian David Lewis.

We think this event will attract new visitors to the museum and provide its current audience with a new perspective on its role as part of the local cultural community.  We have a section on our Facebook page where we can update our fans as plans progress. The comment already on the wall of the event page says it all:- ‘cool!!! sounds amazing – am so there!’


Sally Lewis is a heritage professional and technical communicator currently volunteering at the Museum of Bath at Work, assisting the museum’s Director with marketing and development. Connect with her on LinkedIn here

Julian Lewis is an undergraduate student at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London.

Find out more about the Museum of Bath at Work at and find them on Facebook at