Tag Archives: attracting visitors

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? 


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


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


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:


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!

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/

Team Museums at Night on the road again: join our free briefing sessions!

Interested in taking part in the Museums at Night festival and/or entering the Connect! competition to develop a participatory event with a contemporary artist?

We’re delighted to announce our second series of free, friendly Museums at Night / Connect! regional workshops in early February 2015, following our successful roadshows in London, the Midlands and Yorkshire in 2013.

In February we’ll be travelling to three different regions: the South West (Bristol), East of England (Cambridge) and North West (Manchester).

A group of Men In Black dancers parade through a town centre

The circus is coming! This isn’t Team Museums at Night – it’s artist Jessica Voorsanger leading a sci-fi parade through Scunthorpe for the 2014 festival. Find out how she did it at our workshops!

Who are these workshops for?

These afternoon workshops are completely free to attend, and are open to anybody interested in taking part in Museums at Night in 2015 and beyond. Museums at Night is Culture24’s annual after-hours festival showcasing the arts and heritage sector, which each year offers a great audience development opportunity.

Whether you’re a staff member or volunteer, MDO or Town Centre Manager; based in a museum, gallery, library, archive or heritage site; and whether your organisation has never taken part in the festival before or has frequently run events, but would like more inspiration or the chance to form a local cluster; you’ll find something of interest.

What is the Connect! competition?

Formerly known as Connect10, Connect! is the competition giving venues the chance to win a participatory artist-led Museums at Night event and a £3,000 bursary. Some aspects of the competition are changing in 2015, so please come along to find out more.

What can you expect?

You’ll find out about the benefits and challenges involved in hosting an after-hours event, what it takes to be a Connect! winner, and what it’s like to host a top artist from the people who have done it before.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to hear first-hand from a Connect10 artist, who will share their experience of developing a successful participatory event, and tips for venues interested in working with artists.

You’ll learn how to organise a local cluster of venues to take part in the festival, plus there will be plenty of opportunities to meet and chat with colleagues from your region.

Event timings:

Doors open at 1pm for tea and coffee, each event kicks off at 1:30 and will finish at 4:30pm. We can’t offer lunch, but hot drinks will be available.

Event and booking details:

East of England: Monday 2nd February, Scott Polar Museum, Cambridge

Speakers include:

  • A cluster coordinatorLaura Crossley, Heritage and Audience Development consultant who has successfully bid for funding and set up several Museums at Night clusters in North Norfolk
  • A Connect10 venue: Suzannah Bedford, who led the Renewal Trust’s campaign to bring top photographer Rankin to St Ann’s Allotments in Nottingham for Museums at Night
  • A Connect10 artist: Kelvyn Smith of Mr Smith’s Letterpress Workshop, who devised a unique letterpress printing experience at Walthamstow’s William Morris Gallery, taking inspiration from Morris’ writings and the venue’s collections

North West: Thursday 5 February, Manchester Central Library

Speakers include:

  • A cluster coordinator: Christina Grogan, who has grown Liverpool’s Light Night into an unmissable city culture crawl
  • A Museums at Night venue: Damon Waldock, who has successfully developed Yorkshire Sculpture Park‘s Museums at Night events over several years
  • A Connect10 artist: Janette Parris, who brought in fellow artists and performers to copy and re-present Cardiff Story Museum, and even wrote songs inspired by their collection objects

South West: Wednesday 11 February, M Shed, Bristol

Speakers include:

  • A cluster coordinator: Elaine Lees from Creativity Works, who successfully brought venues together from towns and villages across Pennine Lancashire in the Festival of Wonders cluster
  • A Connect10 venue: Lucie Connors, who led Cardiff Story Museum‘s campaign to bring contemporary artist Janette Parris to re-make and perform in their exhibitions for Museums at Night
  • A Connect10 artist: Jessica Voorsanger, who led a parade through Scunthorpe culminating in sci-fi themed art interventions that transformed the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre

Don’t miss out – book your free place today!

These briefings are supported by Arts Council England lottery funding.


Museums at Nightclub opportunity: expression of interest form

A few months ago we introduced the idea of Museums at Nightclub: an artist-led, touring event series taking place in Autumn / Winter 2015, produced by a consortium of venues in conjunction with Culture24, taking place in areas with low engagement in the arts. It will feature artists who specialise in participatory arts events, and who have worked on the Connect10 project in previous years.

We are developing a proposal to submit to Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Programme before Christmas, involving a partnership with venues. Could you be one of them?

Download the three page information pack to find out more about what will be involved.

We want to work with 16 venues from all over the country over the two year lifetime of the project, eight in the first year and again eight in year two. We want to submit the application with at least eight venues firmly committed to the project and at least eight more aiming for year two.

Venues from anywhere in England may express an interest but preference will be given to those identified by the Taking Part Survey (2008 – 2010) as being in the 118 local authority areas in the country with the lowest level of engagement in the arts.

We will read all the expression of interest forms submitted and contact everybody before inclusion in the final application. Inclusion in the application is not to be taken as a commitment by Culture24 to include your venue in the project.

The first stage of the project after receiving a positive decision would be to hold detailed discussions with the artists and interested venues. At this stage there are many aspects of the event that may lead us to need to prioritise one venue over another; diarising simultaneous events, artist schedules, facilities, technical considerations, progress of audience development planning and much more besides.

Want to get involved? Your next steps:

1) Download the Museums at Nightclub 3 page info pack and list of local authority areas of low arts engagement. You can still apply if your local authority isn’t listed here,

2) Discuss the opportunity with your team. Becoming part of the new Museums at Nightclub touring network will involve a lot of time and development work ahead of the events in autumn / winter 2015: do you have the capacity for this?

3) Phone Nick on 01273 623279 or Rosie on 01273 623336 for a discussion about how this opportunity would work for your organisation.

4) Want to apply? Download the list of application form questions, and start preparing your answers.

N.B. Please take a look at the list of questions from the expression of interest form first, to prepare your answers before filling in the form. The form is two pages long, involves a certain amount of detail about your target audiences, and must be completed in one sitting – you can’t save it and come back to it.  

5) Ready to submit your expression of interest? Please fill in this form by Friday 29 November.

Please get in touch with Nick or Rosie if you have any questions relating to this project, or if you can’t download the documents – we’re happy to email them to you.

Guest Post: Museum Alive brings mannequin drama to Chippenham Museum!

Our latest guest post comes from Melissa Barnett of Chippenham Museum, who explains how she involved a drama group in bringing the museum’s mannequins to life for Museums at Night.


Any activity organised for Museums at Night has to be fun, should attract new audiences and should show off our collections to the best advantage.  This we did in bucket loads and we are still receiving the benefits.

The idea – and the challenge

We decided we wanted to take part in the festival at a late stage. We have no history of after-hours opening, however, and our town is quite deserted at nights. However, we wanted to get involved, so we thought we’d try something inexpensive and simple to organise and see how it turned out.

A group of children in a room with a large map

Children exploring Chippenham Museum (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

We knew that if we wanted to encourage visitors to make a special journey, something out of the ordinary was needed. However, our collections don’t include scary dinosaurs or mysterious mummies to tempt a trembling populace through our doors. So, building on the idea from the film Night at the Museum, we decided that our mannequins should come alive for the night!

a medieval woman with a basket

Is she a mannequin, or a medieval philanthropist waiting to come to life? (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

Who is the audience?

As a small community museum, most of our visitors are returning families with primary school aged children. We decided that the best time to start our activity would be at 4.00 pm, after the museum closed but before tea and bedtime.

What we did

For maximum effect, we decided that our museum should be dark and that there should be an element of surprise.

We also wanted to make our activity not only fun, but also an educational experience. So each mannequin told their story in their own words. We chose real characters from our local history – a suffragette, a First World War soldier, an engineer and a medieval philanthropist.

A suffragette and banner

A suffragette with a banner tells her story (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

How we did it

We contacted a local community drama group,  Rag & Bone Arts, who agreed to act the parts for us. The museum supplied a short script for each character and provided costumes from our education store.

Having gained some confidence, we became bolder and perhaps a little carried away and decided that as we had suitable costumes, the staff and Friends groups could also get involved, acting as general characters such as a school teacher or a cook. Some of the actors’ children also wanted to get involved and dressed up as Victorian schoolchildren!

A Victorian Schoolroom

Schoolmistress and schoolchildren in the Victorian classroom (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

Museum Alive was the obvious event title: we made a poster in-house and circulated news of the event through social media.

Museums Alive poster

On the Night

We turned off the museum lights and blacked out the windows as the actors went to stand like mannequins in their correct setting: the cook in the Victorian kitchen, the suffragette next to her banner, the engineer near the railway exhibit. They posed as though they were mannequins – motionless.

Visitors were provided with a “special” torch and told to shine the torch on the mannequins as they explored the museum. The mannequins would then come alive, tell their story, then once again become completely inactive.

A group of children shining torches in a dark museum

Children in the museum shining their special torches (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

The trained actors were superb, word perfect and gloriously scary, but the museum staff almost stole the show with their unscripted performances. The cook in the kitchen wielded her meat chopper in such a menacing way that even grown-up visitors jumped!

A costumed cook in a historical kichen

The cook in the kitchen (c) D & D Carrington Photographers

The Results

The night was a tremendous success. The museum really came alive and everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. For the museum, a significant benefit was the new partnership with Rag and Bone Arts Group, who now use the Museum for some of their performances.

We are looking forward to repeating the event in future, with more time for forward planning and extra publicity.


A woman smilingMelissa Barnett is Curator of Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre, which has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChippenhamMuseum. Melissa gained a degree in Archaeology and has worked as Curator of Welshpool and Banbury Museums, and Museums Officer for South Gloucestershire Council. She has always enjoyed working with community groups, and relishes her role in Chippenham where the museum is a thriving and popular hub for the town.


Thanks, Melissa!

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.

Work with an artist on a Museums at Nightclub!

It’s been a busy summer of evaluation, looking in detail at responses to the Museums at Night festival from participating venues and the public.

We have consistently received feedback from venues that have taken part in the Connect10 competition (and those that haven’t) that they would value more opportunities to work with artists, and to connect with new audiences through artist-led events.

And we’ve found an interesting way to offer just that opportunity…

Culture24 is seeking expressions of interest from all types of arts and heritage venues in a new project called Museums at Nightclub. Based on the successful festival template of after-hours events with an audience development objective, this new initiative springs from our evaluation of the Connect10 project.

A silent disco dancefloor

Young people flock to the dancefloor at MOSI (c) Chris Foster

The Museums at Nightclub will be an artist-led, touring event series produced by a consortium of venues in conjunction with Culture24, taking place in areas with low engagement in the arts. It will feature artists who specialise in participatory arts events, and who have worked on the Connect10 project in previous years.

We are developing a proposal to submit to Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Programme involving a partnership with the participating venues.

Venues from anywhere in England may express an interest but preference will be given to those identified by the Taking Part Survey (2008 – 2010) as being in the 118 local authority areas in the country with the lowest level of engagement in the arts.

Would this work for your organisation? Find out more: take a look at the Taking Part Survey list to check your local authority’s status and download our 3 page information pack about the Museums at Nightclub project, schedules and finance.

We want this stage of the project to be developed in partnership with the participating venues, so please do come to us with your ideas and suggestions!

If you have any questions or just want to talk through some ideas, please contact: Nick Stockman (01273 623279, nick@culture24.org.uk) or Rosie Clarke (01273 623336, rosie@culture24.org.uk).