Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums
As I move into my final placement as a Creative Apprentice with the University of Cambridge Museums, I’ve been thinking a lot about the experiences I’ve had over the past year and skills that come with each. All have been such valuable and positive experiences, and I would like to share a few recent ones with you.
Over the course of the year, with Apprentices at Cambridge Junction, I worked to put together an event: Junkyard Festival House Party. The festival took place on a sunny day in August in a range of spaces at Cambridge Junction. The theme for our festival was ‘House Party’ with the underlying ‘Junkyard’ idea, as developed from the last years Apprentice festival. We ran with this idea and managed to source the majority of our decorative items for free: unused and unloved furniture and household items became the staple of our ‘House’. We hung chairs from ceilings, had the DJ’s on the kitchen counter and dress-up in the Bedroom! It was a successful night, having people of all ages come to listen to bands, DJ’s, acoustic acts and spoken word each in a different space of the ’House’. The whole planning, prepping and execution of the day was stressful, but a lot of fun. I have learnt so much from this experience, it’ll be one I won’t forget in a hurry.
Soon after that I worked at the Wysing Arts Centre annual Music Festival, another day and night of interesting artists and musicians. This was another experience that taught me the ins and outs of events including working with volunteers, members of the public and artists: all very different people with very different needs! Adapting to meet the needs of all of the brilliant people you can meet in a role like this is something that I very much enjoy, and something that really makes a difference to the individual’s experience.
The importance of the visitor experience is something that I have learnt more about through attending the SHARE Front of House Forums. The most recent session, hosted by the lovely Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, was all about the importance of a warm welcome. A talk by Chad McGitchie, Access and Team Leader of the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, taught us how to really focus on your front of house team, their ability to enjoy the conversations they have with the public and how their knowledge of the site and its collections can really influence the positivity of the visitors experience. Bernard Donoghue, CEO of Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) stressed how each site and collection is different and the way you approach the visitor experience should be ‘disruptive and provocative’, enrich people’s visit, injecting elements of innovative thinking. Our final session of the day was guided by TheatreWorks of the National Theatre, London: a practical workshop that got our bodies moving and our brains really thinking. We conversed with other attendees, whom we had never met, about the contents of our fridges and things we are passionate about, teaching us about successful communication and active listening. The idea of status and ‘owning the space’ was an interesting topic: as a member of the Front of House team, how do you approach a ‘10’? (a ‘10’ being someone who thinks they are of the highest status ie. very confident, always right and therefore slightly arrogant).
Just three examples of events that have given me the opportunity to develop skills and enjoy myself in the process!
Lia Butler, Creative Apprentice, University of Cambridge Museums