Ahoy there! Guest post: Laura Crossley presents Sheringham’s Museums at Night pirate extravaganza

I’ve known today’s guest post writer, the dynamic Laura Crossley, for over two years and am always blown away by her enthusiasm and the wonderful things she manages to do on small budgets. Here she tells us how she’s galvanised the North Norfolk coastal town of Sheringham to participate in a day and night of Museums at Night piratical excitement!

(The following article should be read in a pirate accent, for reasons which will become clear later on….)

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Ahoy me hearties!  How be you on this glorious day?

In late 2009, as a lily-livered young lass beginning a career in museums and heritage at Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART), I be forwarded an article about Museums at Night.  “By the Powers!”, exclaimed I (for I be a passionate advocate of museums as providers of stimulatin’, immersive experiences), “I must be part o’ this wonderful campaign!”

Thanks to me super colleagues at a number of the Norwich 12 buildings, who created lots o’ brill events, and the team at Culture24 who provided bountiful support, Norwich hosted its first collaborative Museums at Night weekend in May 2010.  Events included a sleepover at Norwich Guildhall (which I organised with a HEART colleague), spooky tales, a labyrinth walk, a ghost walk, an immersive art installation an’ buildin’ tours.  All great, grand events, which were loved by locals and tourists alike!

After a wonderful time at HEART, I packed me bags, set sail and joined a new crew at The Mo: Sheringham Museum.  The Mo is a small, independent museum, which tells the story of Sheringham’s fascinatin’ history and its brave, independent people.  The museum is just enterin’ its second year and is eager to grow an’ develop its audience.

Small children gazing at a boat inside a museum

Junior pirates at Sheringham Museum dream of setting sail across the Spanish Main

The first thing be doin’ after droppin’ the anchor was developin’ an event for Museums at Night 2011.  Why, you might ask?  Well, me Board be setting me the challenge of developin’ an events programme which will inspire visitors and allow people to engage with us in all sorts of interestin’ ways.  I be thinking that Museums at Night is the perfect springboard from which to do this, allowin’ museums an’ cultural venues to create entertain’ events which make the most of our collections an’ the atmospheric night-time settin’.  With the backin’ of them thar’ mighty swashbucklers Culture24, venues can also rest assured that they’ll be supported with advice and marketin’ via the Culture24 website.

So, how did I decide upon an event that would be more Fiddler’s Green than Davy Jones’ Locker?

1) Audience – We be wanting to develop our offer for families, so creating an event for the whole family, from young Sprogs to mighty Privateers, be an easy decision to make!

2) Collections and Location – As The Mo is home to a grand collection of boats and maritime objects and is anchored right on Sheringham’s seafront, a sea-related event was a must.  A pirate theme be chosen to capture people’s imaginations, and because of the ne’er-do-wells who be roaming the Norfolk coast in the not-too-distant past.

3) Night-time Settin’ – I wanted to make this a key part of the experience, as visitors rarely get to experience the museum after-hours.  A spooky event, in which visitors can interact with the museum’s collections under the cover of darkness, immediately sprang to mind.

4) Budget – Museums at Night events needn’t mean partin’ with too many o’ your precious doubloons and pieces o’ eight.  As a very young, independent museum we don’t have scores of booty to spend, but we don’t want this to prevent us from givin’ visitors immersive experiences.  Families participatin’ in the event – ‘On A Dark and Stormy Night: Spooky Pirate Treasure Trail‘ – will be given handmade treasure maps and be challenged to solve clues and complete activities to find treasure that will be hidden in the museum.  The trail will take visitors all around The Mo and will encourage them to engage with the collection in a new way.  I’ve been lucky enough to hire costumes very cheaply from the great Sheringham Community Wardrobe.

I be as lucky as a pirate who’s found a gallon of grog to be part of a brilliant crew of staff and volunteers, lots of whom be workin’ their swords off to make this event happen.  The volunteers be enjoyin’ bein’ involved in a special event and some have already offered to help on the night.  Yo ho ho! I’m also workin’ with Voluntary Norfolk to recruit young people who, experience has shown, sometimes prefer volunteerin’ at one-off events rather joinin’ a crew permanently.  I be recruitin’ for volunteer pirates too, an initiative I’m hopin’ will get coverage in the local press – Pirate X Factor, I can see it now!

The Mo’s enthusiasm for Museums at Night has spread throughout Sheringham and I’m delighted that two of me hearties in the town will also be taking part in the initiative this year.  May 14th is goin’ to be Pirate Day in Sheringham!  Sheringham Library be hostin’ pirate storytelling an’ activities from 10.30 – 11.30am, Sheringham Little Theatre in partnership with The Mo, be runnin’ a pirate drama workshop from 3.30 – 5pm, then there’s time for Landlubbers to have a bite to eat before The Mo’s event from 6.30 – 8pm and 8.30 – 10pm (two sessions).  Everyone who goes to all three events will be entered into a prize draw to win a whole load of smashin’ booty.

At a time when there’s lots of doom and gloom surroundin’ our sector, Museums at Night is a great way to bring us together in the name of innovation, increased access and, most importantly, fun.

A poster advertising Pirate Day in Sheringham for Museums at Night 2011

Pirate Day poster, designed by Vicky Carlin (www.vickycarlin.net)

I’m pleased to say this is the first event in a timber-shiverin’, excitin’ new events and learnin’ programme that is about to set sail at The Mo.  I’m proud The Mo’s right at the centre of Sheringham’s community and our new programmes will allow us to reach, and engage with, more n’ more people (or should that be shipmates?!) in a fun and innovative way.  We’ll definitely be takin’ part in Museums at Night 2012 too.  I’m lookin’ forward to hoisting the Jolly Roger and settin’ sail on a new, swashbucklin’ Museums at Night adventure for Landlubbers and Sprogs in Sheringham and beyond.

(With thanks to ‘Talk Like A Pirate Day: Official British HQ’ for the pointers on speakin’ like a pirate.  Apologies to pirates everywhere for the poor impression!)

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A smiling woman standing calmly in front of battling statues

Laura Crossley taking a break from battling pirates

Laura Crossley is the Manager of The Mo: Sheringham Museum.  The Mo is an independent museum located on Sheringham’s seafront, which tells the story of the town’s history and its brave and independent people.  You can find The Mo on the web, Twitter and Facebook.

Laura can be contacted via her LinkedIn or Twitter accounts.

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