Tag Archives: Behind the Scenes

We’re moving to a new website!

Thank you for reading the Museums at Night blog since I started it back in 2009. Six years on, the festival has grown far bigger than I ever imagined, and it’s time for a new, more visually exciting website which is easy to read on all devices, and which has all the information about the festival in one place.

This blog will stay here as an archive of the festival’s history, but we are now moving to an exciting new festival website at www.museumsatnight.org.uk. Come over and take a look!

A screenshot showing event listings

You can find all the Museums at Night event listings beautifully displayed here – adding an image really does make a big difference to how they look: http://museumsatnight.org.uk/events-page/

I’ll also continue to publish blog posts with new case studies, partnership opportunities and calls to action categorised here: http://museumsatnight.org.uk/run-an-event/

Please update your links! We look forward to working with you in future.

Museums at Night to become a biannual festival; Connect! competition announced

Culture24 is pleased to announce that Museums at Night, the UK’s annual after-hours festival of arts, culture and heritage, will now be taking place twice a year – in May and October.

The May festival will now run over four days, from Wednesday May 13 until Saturday May 16, while a second festival, lasting two days, will take place on Friday and Saturday, October 30 and 31.

Now in its seventh year, Museums at Night offers the chance to experience culture and heritage in a totally unexpected way. The festival sees hundreds of museums, galleries and historic spaces all over the UK opening their doors  late  for an array of special events. The festival has experienced phenomenal growth during the past few years,  attracting 180,000 visits to 700 events in more than 500 venues across the country in 2014.

Visitors looking into small coloured plastic scopes

Visitors discovering Connect10 artist Spencer Tunick’s scopes installation at George’s House Gallery, Folkestone during Museums at Night 2014

The annual Connect10 competition – which gives people the chance to ‘win’ a leading contemporary artist to create a unique event at their local cultural venue during Museums at Night – is to be rebranded Connect! for 2015. This year it will feature six artists, with each event taking place during the  October festival.

Voting for Connect! 2015 will open on May 1 and winning venues will be announced during Museums at Night in May. The public can vote at www.museumsatnight.org.uk.  The artists  taking part in Connect! 2015 will be announced shortly.

Previous participating artists have included Bob & Roberta Smith, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Gavin Turk, Jessica Voorsanger and photographer Rankin. Previous events have included a Grayson Perry teddy bear hunt around York Museum, New York artist Spencer Tunick photographing 100 individual nudes on Folkestone beach and Bompas & Parr floating the Bristol’s ss Great Britain on a sea of lime green jelly. In 2014, the Connect! competition attracted more than 62,000 public votes.

Connect! is funded by Arts Council England to support venues  trying something different to attract new audiences to their Museums at Night event.

Nick Stockman, Campaigns Manager, Museums at Night said:

“After record numbers of visitors in 2014, the Museums at Night festival will take another giant leap forward in 2015, doubling the number of event nights to six and extending to October as well as an extra day in May. We are really excited about the opportunity this gives venues to offer visitors something new and exciting, particularly for those people who don’t usually visit museums and galleries.“

John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Museums at Arts Council England said:

“I sometimes think museums are at their best out of hours. Museums at Night brings the opportunity for people everywhere to engage with brilliant objects and museums close to their home in fun, quirky and stimulating ways. If you thought museums are boring, think again! I’m looking forward to seeing what the artists involved in Connect! 2015 have in store for us: we had incredible feedback following last year’s unique artist-led events.”

Tying in with the European initiative La Nuit des Musées, Museums at Night is run by Culture24 and designed to attract new audiences into museums and galleries via a  range of exciting events.

For further information and images please contact Pandora George, Bullet PR, pandora@bulletpr.co.uk or tel: 07729 469220

Notes to Editors:

1. Museums at Night is the annual after-hours festival of arts, culture and heritage when hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites open their doors for special evening ev It takes place from Wednesday May 13th – Saturday May 16th. www.museumsatnight.org.uk

2. Culture24 is an independent non-profit company which exists to support the cultural sector to reach and connect with audiences. It is best known for publishing great websites about culture; producing the successful Museums at Night festival of after-hours openings and leading Let’s Get Real, the collaborative action research project involving cultural organisations across the UK and Europe. www.WeAreCulture24.org.uk

 3. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk


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/

Museums at Night 2015 first publicity deadline: register your events by Friday 13 February!

Thank you to everyone who’s got in touch asking about how to register events for the Museums at Night festival!

Here’s our resource explaining how to use Culture24’s DDE database to register your Museums at Night 2015 event: https://museumsatnight.wordpress.com/how-to-register-your-museums-at-night-event/

Our first PR deadline is Friday 13 February 2015. If you register your event listing in our database by 5pm on  this date, it will appear in our themed press releases going out to long-lead glossy magazines.

What else can you do to help us get you publicity? Send us your photos!

We’re looking for high-resolution photos showing members of your target audience having a good time in your venue – perhaps doing a hands-on activity, holding objects, or in costume, if it’s a costumed event!

Running a photo-shoot

If you’ll be offering a certain activity or food and you don’t have decent photos to illustrate it, it’s absolutely fine to stage a photo-shoot, as the Museum of Farnham did recently so they had a suite of images to use to raise awareness of their Museums at Night sleepover.

If your event is aimed at families, you’ll want to get some photos with children of your target age group: make sure you have their parents’ permission.

A group of children lying on a museum floor with sleeping bags and torches

Children posing with sleeping bags at the Museum of Farnham ahead of their sleepover. Picture courtesy Bryan Sewell.

On the other hand, if your event will offer sophisticated cocktails and live music, show people enjoying them amid your objects. Have you run a similar event in the past? Look through your pictures – and any people shared on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook on the night – and see if any would be good to use for publicity now.

Having great photos can make the difference between a tiny news nib in your local paper, and attracting a half-page feature. So please, don’t delay: register your events and send us your photos today!

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.


Two short podcasts about Museums at Night

I was recently interviewed by Terence Eden for his About a Minute podcast, which is a short burst of someone sharing their enthusiasm for a project they think is interesting.

In Episode 15, I introduce the Museums at Night festival.

And in Episode 17, I discuss being part of the group fall into the sea that artist Amy Sharrocks led at Swansea Museum during the festival last year.

A black and white photo of people on a beach holding hands to walk into the sea

Artist Amy Sharrocks leads people towards the sea for a mass fall into the water (c) Kaan Ucele Photography

Promote your museum or gallery on the podcast!

Terence is currently looking for more people to appear on his podcast – so if your museum or gallery is doing something interesting and you’re happy to talk about it for 60 seconds, he’d love to hear from you. Here are all the ways you can contact him.

Intro to Culture24 and Museums at Night!

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to various heritage sector events over the last 6 weeks, talking about Culture24 and Museums at Night. I wanted to share the resources and a helpful introductory presentation here, so you can see the sort of information I give out and download the handouts for yourself.

Museums Norfolk Development Day: Using events to engage visitors and generate income 

I introduced Culture24’s various services and some of our current initiatives with this one-page Culture24 contact handout.

I explained how museums can get started using Culture24’s DDE database to showcase events and exhibitions, with this one-page introduction to Culture24’s DDE.

Finally, I discussed how even the smallest heritage venues could successfully take part in Museums at Night and attract publicity in a mini-marketing masterclass.


SHOWCASE: South East Museum Development conference

A woman smiling on a stand with handouts

Rosie at Brooklands Museum, image courtesy Scott Ramsey Photography

I took part in this fascinating day at historic Brooklands Museum, talking about how museums could take advantage of Culture24’s services, and run successful events for Museums at Night. I was really pleased to meet so many people in person who read my newsletters, and who I’d only had email contact with before!


I also took part in the brilliant three-day Museomix hackathon at Derby Silk Mill and Derby Museum & Art Gallery – here are the terrific remixed collection objects the 7 teams developed over the weekend: http://www.museomix.org/en/localisation/derby-2014/#prototypes

As Community Manager I welcomed people who were new to the heritage hackathon experience. I created new content, sourcing stories and interviewing museum staff to provide features for the MuseomixUK Tumblr; helped the teams to post images and thoughts to their own Tumblrs; highlighted interesting digital content from others; and helped with idea generation and prototype development – I’d recommend the experience to anyone!