Monthly Archives: April 2012

Competition: Win an exclusive tour of the Faber Archive for Museums at Night 2012!

Enter our exclusive Museums at Night 2012 competition for the chance to win an expert guided tour inside the incredible literary archive of Faber & Faber!

A hand holding a book in front of a bookshelf

Lovers of literary history can discover stories from 80 years of publishing in our exclusive competition. Photo courtesy of Faber.

Archivist Robert Brown will take five lucky winners on a journey through 80 years of treasures held in the publishing giant’s London office at Bloomsbury House, which is not normally open to the public.

Faber & Faber’s unique publishing archive ranges from its famous early twentieth century poetry collection – including manuscripts of TS Eliot and WH Auden – to books on farming, gardening, art and architecture.

The night will end with a special reading from prize-winning poet Lavinia Greenlaw, author of The Casual Perfect and recent recipient of the Ted Hughes award for new work in poetry.

A woman in a turquoise top

Lavinia Greenlaw, who will be reading from her poetry at the Faber Archive event (c) Faber & Faber

The event will take place between 6.30pm and 8.00 pm on Friday May 18 at the Faber Archive in London.

Enter the Faber Archive competition here.

The competition closes at 5pm on Wednesday May 9 2012.

Terms and conditions:

• This competition is not open to employees of Culture24 or Faber & Faber, or their families.

• Entrants must be over 16 years of age and resident in the UK.

• All entrants must include contact details or their entry will be discarded. All contact details will be deleted after the competition.

• Winners will be informed on Thursday May 10 2012. If Culture24 staff are not able to make contact with winners by 5pm on Thursday May 10 to confirm their attendance, that entry will be discarded and a reserve drawn instead.

• Winners will be drawn at random, decisions are final and correspondence will not be entered into.

• Culture24 and Faber & Faber regret that travel expenses to and from the archive will not be covered.

• Culture24 and Faber & Faber do not take responsibility for any lost or late entries.

• This competition is free to enter, no purchase is necessary.

• The prize must be taken as stated, cannot be deferred, and there is no cash alternative.

Get the Museums at Night 2012 PR Toolkit!

An impressive stone castle at night

Get new visitors in through your doors for Museums at Night with our PR Toolkit. Dover Castle photo (c) English Heritage

Every year I rewrite our PR toolkit to help venues promote their Museums at Night events, and I’m delighted to share the latest version with you!

Museums at Night 2012 PR Toolkit (Word document)

Museums at Night 2012 PR Toolkit (PDF)

This document is 10 pages long and includes tips on:

Crafting a compelling event listing
Planning your press campaign
Writing a successful press release (complete with Notes to Editors)
Making the most of pictures
Broadcasting opportunities
Using your own website / blog
Email newsletters
Print publicity
Social media

Every year the Toolkit gets longer as I learn more both about publicity and about the needs of participating venues – I hope it’ll be a useful resource for your teams.

In Oscar-acceptance-speech style, I’d like to thank campaign manager Nick Stockman and PR guru Pandora George for their input, the volunteers of North Norfolk’s Victorian Nights festival for asking such great questions during our recent marketing training session, and the tutors at my CIM Professional Diploma in Marketing evening classes.

Finally, do you have any top tips for raising awareness of your events to share?

For example, I recently visited a hard-to find historic property. They recommended that, if you’re not allowed to stand an A-board sign on the pavement directing passers-by to your event, then why not simply chalk a few words and arrows on the pavement to lead potential visitors towards your doors?

A cheeky guerrilla marketing idea, but it worked for them … what’s worked for you?

Museums at Night’s Rosie Clarke at Museums Showoff

As we count down to Museums at Night – there’s less than a month to go now! – Campaigns Manager Nick and myself are doing all we can to spread the word about all the excitement in store over the big weekend, 18 – 20 May.

Nick’s been interviewed by the Independent, while I’ve spoken to Scout London and TNT, and will soon be blogging about our plans for the Huffington Post.

However, when the opportunity came up to speak at an event in Camden called Museums Showoff, the stars aligned!

A magenta poster advertising the first ever Museums Showoff

It’s this Wednesday, April 25th at 7pm, at the Camden Head pub on Camden High Street.

Entrance is free, but the organisers suggest making a donation of around £5 to their charity of the month, Arts Emergency, who campaign to make arts and humanities degrees accessible to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The evening will involve 10 people from the world of museums enthusing about their latest projects / discoveries … including me!

Meet the speakers and their passions:

Terence Eden – is a brilliantly simple way to link museum exhibits to Wikipedia. It’s cheap, easy to use, and works on any camera phone.

Brian Macken – Called the ‘Dead Zoo’ by generation of Dubliners, the Irish Natural History Museum is a unique place. It has benefited from a kind of benign neglect, where for a very long time it ran on an annual operating budget of two ham sandwiches and a packet of stamps; but this has left it as a wonderful ‘museum of a museum’ which has stood basically unchanged since the late 1800s. Brian is going to tell the story of the Dead Zoo, covering the Irish war of independence, incorrect monkeys, an expedition to rescue a drunk, choking eels, collapsing stairs, Stanley, Dr Livingstone, Fitzroy and the biggest antlers you’ve ever seen in your life.

Dinosaur Planet – MJ Hibbett (and Steve) present extracts from their rock opera about space dinosaurs, giant robots and the value of effective literature reviews. WARNING: features The Hornpipe

Gordon Cummings – I’ll tell how a small group of enthusiasts brought an abandoned Victorian gallery back to life, and created the North West Essex Collection, now acknowledged to be of national importance. From opening with a few loaned pictures in 1987, we now have over 900 works by north west Essex artists, including, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, John Bellany and Keith Vaughan, and 900 members of the Fry Art Gallery Society: this has been achieved with no core funding and no paid staff.

Subhadra Das – An Introduction to UCL’s Pathology Collections. Or, Why Russell Brand Should Never Be Let Near Any Museum Collection; Ever.

Gemma Angel – 19th century French criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne once described tattoos as ‘speaking scars’. Working with the Wellcome’s collection of 300 preserved tattooed human skins, Gemma Angel will be talking about what these objects may say to us today, as she explores the photographic archives of Paris and Lyon for clues in the search for their origins.

Rosie Clarke – 100,000 happy visitors can’t be wrong! It’s less than a month till the Museums at Night festival explodes into life at museums, galleries and heritage sites across the UK – but what’s it all about, and how does it come together? Discover quirky event highlights (and stories of behind-the-scenes hijinks) from Culture24′s marketing coordinator Rosie Clarke.

Ayla Lepine – A few days ago, 16 teenagers were unleashed in the Victoria and Albert Museum armed with nothing but a pencil and a burning ambition to become the next Norman Foster. This is the (precisely 9 minutes long) tale of how an eccentric architect/writer/sculptor from Texas with incredible taste in shoes and an academic/curator/experienced standup comedian (no, seriously) from Vancouver corralled these feisty youths and and transformed them from hopefuls into pros in a single Saturday.

Catherine Walker – Come and see a selection of handling objects from Wellcome Collection’s permanent galleries, such as a shrunken head, a strand of DNA and a model of a human brain!

Steve Lloyd – Bringing digital content into physical spaces. Steve Lloyd from ico design will show and tell how they put responsive signage in The Science Museum & an internet enabled industrial robot in the Houses of Parliament.

We did have reanimated museum philanthropist Henry Wellcome booked in to perform, but he has sadly fallen in love and is too busy “pining, sighing and swooning” to join us. Go see @Henry_Wellcome on Twitter for details.

I’d love to see any Museums at Night blog readers there – if you come along, please do say hello to me!

Number 11 Downing Street comes alive at night!

On Tuesday night the Culture24 team travelled up to London for a celebration of the Museums at Night festival at Number 11 Downing Street.

A group of people go through the front door of Number 11 Downing Street

Number 11 at Night - the Culture24 team go through the famous front door

We didn’t want this to be a traditional reception, but an example of how a Museums at Night event can show a space differently and bring a venue to life in a new light.

Our idea for ‘Number 11 at Night’ was inspired by the fact that Downing Street was built in the 1680s – so we put together a music playlist from the era, and suggested to caterers Mesdames Green and Graham that they look at recipe books from the period for inspiration.

Based on recipes from ‘The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt’, ‘A delightfull daily exercise for Ladies and Gentlewomen’ and ‘The English and French cook’, the delicious food options included potage, salted duck with juniper and boiled onion, herb ‘sallat’ and chicken ‘fricasie’.

Afterwards we drank Stepony raisin-and-ginger cordial, and sampled rosewater macarons and Leach lumbar-gingerbread (made with red wine and aniseed) – a tasty way to round off the evening!

We were keen to showcase the expertise of the arts and heritage sector, so invited historians and curators to act as storytellers to give some background on the building and its collections.

We’re very grateful to historians and archivists from the History of Parliament Trust and the Parliamentary Archives for sharing their knowledge about Downing Street, the people who’d lived there, and Chancellors from the past.

Each new Chancellor gets to select artworks from the Government Art Collection to display on the Downing Street walls, so two of their curators explained more about the paintings we were surrounded by.

Finally, there’s a tradition of displaying political cartoons of former Chancellors on the main staircase at Number 11 – and who better to interpret these pictures than experts from the Cartoon Museum and Lord Kenneth Baker, the museum’s chair?

We also wanted to explain to our guests and the media what our Connect10 competition for venues to win an artist involved – and were pleased that photographer Simon Roberts and jellymongers Bompas & Parr came along to talk about their plans.

Bompas & Parr also brought a south coast flavour to the capital by serving jellies in the shape of Brighton Pavilion’s domes.

It was a great opportunity to meet lots of museum and gallery people, and compare notes on what we’re all doing for Museums at Night weekend.

Several guests spotted David Cameron (whose family actually live at Number 11 Downing Street, rather than Number 10) – and I think most people stepped up for a photo in front of the famous front door!

A man and woman grinning outside 10 Downing Street

Team Museums at Night couldn't resist posing outside Number 10 either...

Guest Post: Charlotte Fear presents Sleepovers at Pendennis Castle

Today’s guest post comes from Charlotte Fear, Event Manager South West for English Heritage, who explains the planning that goes into the sleepover events she coordinates at Pendennis Castle in Cornwall.


I always enjoy telling my friends, family and colleagues about my sleepover events at Pendennis Castle.  It’s amusing to see the range of reactions from people.  The overwhelming response is “WOW, that sounds amazing!” shortly followed by, “But where will they sleep?” and “Won’t it be cold?”

Indeed, there are lots of questions raised and lots to consider when planning this kind of event!  Let me start by outlining what our sleepover events are about, and what guests can expect.

Three children in dark corridor of castle

Visitors explore Pendennis Castle, lit by lanterns (c) English Heritage

We offer two types of sleepover events – one for adults only (16+) and one for families (children 8+). Our recent family sleepover was the first kind of this event ever to be held at Pendennis Castle – and the first time people had slept over in the Castle Keep for many centuries.

Making use of the space

The event takes place in the magnificent historic Keep.  Set up in the large ground floor room are canvas camp beds where people will sleep, and next door to this an adjoining room with a fireplace where people will gather at the start of the evening and where supper will be served.

Two children in sleeping bags on camp beds in a castle

Camp beds set up in Pendennis Castle (c) English Heritage

We offer two slightly different experiences for the adult and family events, but both will include supper and breakfast, a twilight tour and storytelling round the fire.  For families, we offer interactive activities including a soldier’s drill game, which always promises a lot of laughs for children and adults alike!

Planning – ask for help!

So, where to start with planning? As with any event, this is key and even more so with planning a sleepover.  Attention to detail is everything.  From heating to eating to sleeping, it all needs to be thought about and carefully planned.

I ensured that I consulted with all the relevant parties when planning my sleepover – both colleagues from various departments in the organisation and others who had held similar events at other venues.

This knowledge helped me to compile my ‘to do’ list, and broke down everything I needed to think about including all health and safety aspects of the event, catering, structuring the event and deciding what activities to offer, staffing – the list goes on and on!

First impressions matter

Once everything is in place, guests arrive.  What happens then?  For me, this is one of the most important aspects of this kind of event – the welcome, and first impressions.  No doubt, people have been gearing up to this event for several weeks, they’re excited and they can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.

From the very moment they arrive the ‘experience’ begins.  We help to create this by floodlighting the Keep (which looks fantastic at night), and having a historical character hosting the evening and welcoming our guests. The host is an essential part of the event, helping to break the ice and put people at ease.

The real impression can be made, however, when they enter the Keep itself – the building where everyone will sleep and where we serve supper.  We light the fire and place church candles round the room, and welcome our guests with warm punch and nibbles.

Good food and drink make a difference

The food you’ll offer is another really important part of the event to consider, and something people always remember about their experience.  We offer home-made beef bourguignon followed by sticky toffee pudding with Cornish clotted cream for supper, which always goes down a treat!

Don’t forget also that the evening meal is just one part of the experience – hot chocolate round the fire and a traditional cooked breakfast in the morning are also part of the offering and always well received.

Visitor information

Another important point to be aware of is to keep your guests informed as much as possible when holding a sleepover event. I’ve discovered over the years that people generally like to know what’s going on – within reason!

Of course, we don’t want to give away too many surprises, but I found it useful to ensure that everyone was briefed at the start of the event about what was going to be happening and when.

This was also really important when people made a booking.  I compiled a ‘pre-event questionnaire’ which was sent out to all guests who booked places at the event, outlining everything they/we might need to know in advance, including:

  • what to pack
  • where they were sleeping (and the fact this would be in a communal area)
  • dietary requirements
  • washing facilities etc
Two children in sleeping bags with candles

Candles add to the atmosphere for overnight guests at Pendennis Castle (c) English Heritage

Define your marketing message

Following on from this, I would advise a similar approach with your event marketing too.  Identifying your market and the angle you are going to use to sell this event is essential.

Be clear with what you are offering as well – a lesson I learnt here perhaps was to have a more defined marketing message. Indeed, the event almost sells itself in the fact that it’s such a unique experience; however, I felt I could perhaps have taken advantage more of the spooky elements of the experience, and the potential for things to ‘go bump in the night’!

On the subject of lessons learnt and things to take forward for next time, I’d also say that there is room to add more authenticity to the experience.

We already include some aspects of this with our historical character who hosts the evening and the authentic-style goblets and wooden bowls we use to serve supper.  However, I think there’s room to build on this – costumed medieval staff being one idea possibly. Indeed, you could go all out here with authentic beds, food and even facilities!

However you decide to plan it, this is a truly special and unique experience.  This is our first year of running sleepover events and we look forward to building on the success with more events planned for later on in the year and across other English Heritage sites including Portland Castle, Belsay Hall and Kenilworth Castle.


Thanks, Charlie!

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 or call me on 01273 623336.

On my way to North Norfolk’s Victorian Nights launch!

a black and white postcard of Victorians walking along a seashore

Where are these eager Victorians striding out to? To a Museums at Night event, of course! Postcard courtesy Sheringham Museum

Event success

Nick and I are thrilled with the way the Museums at Night campaign is gathering momentum. As we’ve had the event data from Scotland’s Festival of Museums, Newcastle/Gateshead’s Late Shows and Liverpool’s Light Night uploaded into our database, yesterday we broke through the 300 event mark – and shared celebratory chocolate around C24 Towers to celebrate.

As of this morning there are 368 Museums at Night events registered in the database. In 2011 we had 467 events in total – and it looks as if we’re on track to beat this in 2012! Thank you to all the venue staff and volunteers planning these imaginative events – we wish you every success.


I’m currently working on a revised version of our PR Toolkit to help you promote your events. In the meantime you have 24 hours to request free copies of BBC History Magazine’s official Guide to Museums at Night – fill in this form by 11am tomorrow (Wednesday 4th April)!

And if you’re writing a press release about your Museums at Night event for your local media, or trying to come up with print publicity, take a look at these useful resources – free downloadable logos, customisable poster and flyer templates, and a paragraph about the festival to include in your Notes to Editors.

Rosie’s trip to Norfolk

I’m very excited to be travelling to North Norfolk tomorrow to speak at the launch of Victorian Nights, the Museums at Night cluster of events taking place across Cromer, Sheringham and Wells-next-the-Sea. If anyone reading this is coming to the launch as well, do say hello to me!

I’ll be following this up with a marketing training session for the local volunteers.  I’m really looking forward to meeting the people involved in this wonderful programme of events – they’re even inviting visitors over the festival weekend to dress as Victorians!

Silhouettes of Victorians dancing