Tag Archives: city events

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.

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Last minute London pop-up museum opportunity

There are just two weeks to go till Museums at Night 2014 kicks off!

We have a last-minute exciting promotional opportunity which could be right for your organisation, if you’re willing to lend out collection objects for half a day, and able to act quickly!

Do you fancy furnishing a pop-up museum in a fancy hotel room in central London for a photoshoot before Museums at Night?

Get involved in a great PR opportunity with all the costs covered: we’re aiming to shoot this on Monday 12 May and for the images to be shared widely over the following few days.

This could be a great last-minute chance to raise awareness of your collections ahead of the festival, whether or not you’re planning to open late.

If you’re interested, please call Nick Stockman on 01273 623279 or email nick@culture24.org.uk as soon as possible.

We’re here to help!

This opportunity not quite right for you? No worries: whether or not you’re in London, it’s not too late to register a Museums at Night event, do a marketing push or call us if there’s anything you’re not certain about.

We only released the Museums at Night poster files as downloads yesterday, and already venues are turning around lovely publicity such as this new flyer from Gladstone’s Library in North Wales promoting their Museums at Night author talks.

A flyer to promote Gladstone Library's Museums at Night event

Guest post: Morag Calderbank explains why the UK Supreme Court is opening late for Museums at Night

In our latest guest post, Morag Calderbank, one of the Information Officers at the UK Supreme Court, London, tells us why her team are excited about taking part in Museums at Night for the first time.


As an information officer at the Supreme Court I am part of a small team dedicated to making the Supreme Court open, transparent, friendly and accessible to the public. Since the Court opened in 2009 our visitor numbers have been steadily increasing, with more than 75,000 people coming through the doors over the last 12 months.

Through educational and architectural tours, outreach projects, running debate days for young people, numerous open days (which include arts and crafts activities), consistently refreshing our exhibition area and being able to take part in something as experiential as Museums at Night, we are continually striving to expand and diversify our audience.

grand building of the supreem court at night time. Lights on in the building. Traffic lights blurred from fast moving traffic.

The UK Supreme Court is opening its doors to the public at night for the first time

What is the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court first opened its doors to the public in October 2009 following a two year renovation of our glorious neo-gothic building, formerly the Middlesex Guildhall. The Supreme Court acts as the final court of appeal in the UK. Its judges used to be located in the House of Lords; serving as the appellate committee of the House of Lords. The judges work mainly in committee rooms along a vast committee corridor.

The need for a Supreme Court was primarily to establish a clearer separation between the three branches of Parliament; the executive, judiciary and legislature. Its previous location made this distinction rather blurred. The UK’s top court also needed to be more user friendly. By locating the judges within Parliament, the public found it difficult to access and many people were unclear about their role.

Why Museums at Night?

The Museums at Night festival attracted our attention as a really innovative way to reach out to the public. It enables our building to open after hours to welcome prospective visitors who can’t come and see us during our usual opening hours from Monday to Friday (9.30am to 4.30pm). Our event, which we’re delighted to say has now sold out, offers the chance to explore the highest court in the land in a relaxed atmosphere – we’ll be positively encouraging no ‘silence in court’!

A group of people inside a bright courtroom

Visitors inside the Supreme Court. Image courtesy of Greg Allen Photo.

Our hopes for the event

We want to inspire people to find out more about the law and see how it can relate to their own lives – maybe even challenge some misconceptions about courts and judges.

Our Museums at Night happening will be extraordinary as it allows the building to be seen in a new light; through the eyes of a court artist, through the perspective of an architect and even as a performance space for actors and musicians. We hope that our visitors will have a stimulating and fun evening and leave knowing a little bit more about the important work that goes on here.


a smiling woman wearing a lanyard

Morag is part of a small team making the Supreme Court accessible to the public. Morag started at the Supreme Court in June 2010 having previously worked for two years as a Visitor Assistant at the Houses of Parliament. She has an undergraduate degree from Sussex University in ‘American Studies’ and a Masters in ‘Learning and Visitor Studies in Museums and Galleries’ from Leicester University. In her spare time Morag sings with the Sing Tower Hamlets choir – which is great fun!

Follow the Supreme Court on Twitter @UKSupremeCourt


Thank you, Morag!

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.

Guest post: Kerry Whitehouse from The Infirmary, Worcester on dramatising medicine for Museums at Night

In our latest guest post, graduate trainee Kerry Whitehouse talks about how The Infirmary, Worcester is engaging university students with the dramatic element of Medicine, as they rehearse for their Museums at Night performances.

Tables with cabinets displaying an assortment of artifacts. Information on the walls to read and a set of headphones resting on a table.

The Infirmary’s interactive exhibition at the University of Worcester’s City Campus combining history, science, art and technology

We’re a medical museum in the heart of Worcester, housed in the former Worcester Royal Infirmary, and now owned by the University. How can we engage their students with our collections and stories?

One way is to include them.

How we involve drama students

The Infirmary is very pleased to be working with the drama department from the university to deliver one of their course modules. ‘Theatre, Real Lives  and History’ is a module that enables the students to develop their skills within the context of The Infirmary and accompanying historic rooms, such as the hospital’s former Board Room and Chapel.

Objects and information from the gallery inspire the students’ creative processes as they immerse themselves into characters from the hospital’s past.

The groups will then pitch their proposals in a ‘Dragons Den’ style presentation to determine which group will be involved in the Infirmary at Night Museums at Night performance.

This week, the students are working on First Person Interpretation, so they have cast themselves back into the characters displayed in the museum. I ventured out of the office today and spoke to the groups to get their ideas and thoughts on how it was all going.

A group of students working around a table

Drama students Isaac Alcock, Beth Crump, Jade Senior-Moulavi, Hannah Dhimaan and Kelsea Braddish researching for their performance

Group work

Each group was working in different ways. One group in the chapel had decided to sit around the table first to discuss how they were going to work and were assigning characters. The other two groups were engaged in acting and were busy rehearsing some of their scenes.

One group I spoke to were rehearsing in the museum, which is based in a former hospital ward. They used some of the museum’s dressing up costumes to help get them into character.

This group had already decided which characters to portray and when asked why, one of the students who was portraying Charles Hastings (Founder of the British Medical Association) said that he felt he had an empathy to the man, as it was thought that he had become a doctor because his father had been injured in an accident and had become disabled.

This group had opted for a ‘time-travel’ theme, with the past meeting the present. I watched as Matron Mary Herbert interacted with a present-day tour guide taking them around what was once her ward.

A collection of drama students. A woman dressed as a nurse talking to another in a white doctors coat. A woman with a bloodied apron stands behind them between two men.

Drama group getting into costumes: note the bloodied apron (L-R) Nurse Lucy Towns, Jeremy Weighill, Hannah Ives, Christopher Lopez, Doctor Kate Adams

The goals of the performance

When I asked this group on what their goals were for the performance for Museums at Night, they told me that their main aim was to engage a younger audience, by educating and entertaining them.

While I was observing the class, one group offered to show what they had been working on with the rest of the class. When asked at the end of the piece “How did it make you feel as an audience?” the replies were: ‘It was fun’, ‘It made me feel a little tense’ and ‘I loved how it was interactive’.

The performance itself is in its infancy, but after watching what the groups were working on and how they were working together, I’m really excited to see the end result!

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Kerry Whitehouse is a graduate trainee working with both the George Marshall Medical Museum and The Infirmary in publicity and marketing.

Follow the Infirmary on Facebook for more updates ahead of their Museums at Night performances.

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Thanks, Kerry!

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.

Guest post: Bill Griffiths on creating Newcastle-Gateshead’s Late Shows

Happy New Year! Our latest guest post comes from Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and creator of The Late Shows.

5 young people on a night out with glow sticks

A group of after-hours visitors showing off their glowsticks (c) The Late Shows

The Late Shows was developed as Newcastle Gateshead’s response to the Museums at Night festival. In our first year, 2007, we opened on the Saturday night only having begged and bullied 14 venues into taking part. We had 4,500 visits. Last year (2013) we had 60 venues and 33,000 visits.

We restrict participation to venues that are not normally open at night, but now the evening venues want to be part of it as well so we have our own ‘fringe’, The Late Lates, with evening venues staying up past their bedtime too.

The weekend starts with our ‘Friday night warm up’ where we open venues in the Ouseburn quarter of the city, where a number of arts organisations are based – then on Saturday night we open the lot!

We were very fortunate in hitting a distinctive brand and title for it in our first year. It’s designed to appeal to the Arts Council’s ‘Fun Fashion Friends’ audience segment, that is, 16-34 year olds who intend to engage with culture but maybe don’t get around to it.

We have had steady audience growth each year with existing audiences coming back and bringing their friends. It’s fair to say the Late Shows is an eagerly anticipated event in the calendar.

We manage it via a steering group made up of experts from different organisations, and we have a volunteer crew for the event who give out glowsticks and brochures, make visitors feel welcome and signpost them on to other venues.

people in an open top bus

An open-top bus full of cheerful Late Shows visitors travelling to their next venue (c) The Late Shows

Key tips from the Late Shows’ success:

  • Don’t have a theme beyond daytime venues being open at night. This allows the maximum number of venues to take part and showcase their work.
  • Do encourage people to move round. We call the Late Shows experience a ‘cultural tapas’. We put on a free bus to move people around between multiple venues, and encourage venues to put on programming that will keep people for no more than 20 minutes. Many people like to try and see as many different places as possible.
  • Mix it up – some arts, some heritage, some arts in heritage sites. The broad mix of programming will attract a broad audience. Although young people are our core audience we see a lot of families coming in as its something they can do together on a Saturday evening, and we also get a lot of older people who say they feel safer being in town during the event.
  • Give all the venues equal billing in the brochure – it creates more of a spirit of being part of a family of venues. Equally, get all venues to market the Late Shows brand in their own promotional material.
  • Have glowsticks! This is more important than you would believe. Firstly it creates a festival atmosphere; secondly it make the event stand out in people’s minds; but thirdly and most importantly, as people are walking about the city they see that other people are on the same night out as them – and as a result feel more secure.
  • Ensure venues provide opportunities for people to participate, not just passively view.
  • Use social media to build your audience.

For more information, come to www.thelateshows.org.uk!

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A man in a jacket wearing a poppyBill Griffiths’ day job is Head of Programmes at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. He started his working life as a field archaeologist before becoming involved with the development of Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum on Hadrian’s Wall. From there he became the Museum Hub Manager for the North East and set up The Late Shows in 2007.

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Thanks, Bill! If you’re reading this and you have an interesting story to tell or case study to share about planning or marketing after-hours events in arts or heritage venues, I’d love to publish your guest posts as well. Please get in touch with rosie@culture24.org.uk.

How to work together and form a Museums at Night cluster

As part of our Museums at Night briefing sessions, which Nick and I held in London, Birmingham and Bradford (and will also be bringing to Wrexham and Cardiff next week), we invited experts who had run Museums at Night clusters to share their experiences and recommendations.

A family group writing at a table, guided by an explorer

Egyptian Explorers at Blackburn Museum, part of the Pennine Lancashire cluster of Museums at Night activity (c) Bob Singleton, Pixel

Heritage and Audience Development Consultant Laura Crossley shared her recommendations for getting local heritage organisations to work together to plan and market a joint programme of Museums at Night events, using three contrasting case studies from the Norfolk area.

Why does Laura value clusters so much? In her own words,

Clusters are a fantastic way to:

  • Create something that’s more than the sum of its parts. Even very small events become something big when combined with other events and marketed as a complete visitor offer.
  • Attract lots of visitors. People are much more likely to come out if they can attend more than one event in an evening.
  • Get great media coverage.
  • Garner local long-term support by bringing new visitors to your venue who’ll want to come back again and again.
  • Improve partnership working between venues in the same location.

Sounds too good to be true? Here’s the evidence… I managed the Victorian Nights Festival, which saw 12 Museums at Night events across 9 venues in North Norfolk in 2012.

  • 3,252 people attended the festival.
  • 60% of visitors were first time visitors to venues. 
  • 91% of visitors said they would definitely return to participating venues in the future.
  • £50,000 was spent in the local economy over the festival weekend.
  • 32 print and web articles with an AVE of £28,651 were produced about the festival.
  • 138 volunteers supported the festival.

Read more of Laura’s key recommendations for organising a cluster over on her blog.

Lindsey Braidley, Learning & Programmes Co-ordinator for Heritage Services at Bath & North East Somerset Council spoke at Culture24’s Museums at Night briefing session in Birmingham.

Using these slides, Lindsey shared how the Bath cluster of Museums at Night festival activity grew to encompass more venues and different themes over the last few years, and how they’ve overcome funding challenges and collaborated with different local initiatives to keep their activities fresh and interesting.

Her top tips include involving local tourism organisations in planning and promoting your joint offer, and (if you’re organising a succession of events on the same evening) attracting a large group of people to your first event by making it a dinner or a food-related experience, before setting them off across town to explore your other events.

Elaine Lees from Creativity Works in Pennine Lancashire explained how she successfully bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create a new Museums at Night cluster of activity in her area, the Festival of Wonders. She covered how she got multiple museums and libraries on board, how they promoted their events, the challenges that they overcame and their plans for the future.

Christina Grogan from Open Culture in Liverpool shared the story of the phenomenal success of Liverpool’s Museums at Night strand of programming, Light Night. She suggested tips on bringing together a range of partner organisations, joint marketing and promotion, and the value of bringing the city centre to life with animation, performances, and hundreds of late openings and special events.

If you’re interested in forming a cluster to work together on planning and promoting Museums at Night events in your area, do get in touch with us: we’re happy to help in talking through plans, and can connect you with people who have made clusters work successfully before.