Martin Skworc explains how Severndroog Castle took part in the Museums at Night festival for the first time this May, sold out their tickets and delighted a new audience.
We began to talk about the May event in late January, thinking about our aims and the possibilities of our venue. We wanted to add something new and different to Severndroog’s events repertoire: our events are normally themed and happen during the daylight. It also offered the rare opportunity for visitors to access our viewing platform as darkness fell and see the panorama of lights across London!
We wanted to bring in an audience of young professionals, and work out whether there was a demand for evening events. We gave our event the simple title ‘After Hours’, aiming to make it multidimensional and give our guests freedom to explore during the evening. It took us 2 months to establish the event programme, but we were still making adjustments up until May. We successfully planned:
• performances by local folk bands
• 20 minutes pre-booked timeslots on the viewing platform
• a glass of wine included in the ticket price
• a small exhibition about Severndroog’s history
• volunteers’ storytelling sessions on a relaxed basis, adjusted to our guests’ interests
On top of this, the area outside the castle was supplied with low cost, but very effective LED lighting enabling people to enjoy socialising outside, or simply sitting to listen to the bands.
We promoted the event through our social media channels using a hashtag, and also contacted the local newspapers and helpful websites. Our poster was designed by a graphic designer friend.
We also experimented with creating this short promotional video showing what to expect at the event, teasing the idea of a young professional looking for an unusual event on the Museums at Night website, easily buying a ticket, then climbing the stairs through the castle to take in the views.
We really appreciated the help with social media promotion from Culture24 and resources made available on the Museums at Night website, as well as the quote that Rosie provided for our press releases. Thank you! (Editor’s note: if you’d like a press release quote about how your organisation’s Museums at Night event is a local highlight of the national festival, do get in touch.)
Adapting on the night
The entertainment provided by the bands, Pytchwood and the Gillies, was wonderful and delighted our visitors. Although we aimed to have our event outside and inside the venue, later in the evening the temperature went down too much. While one of the bands was performing on the ground floor, we quickly moved some chairs upstairs where the second band set up and continued to play for the others.
Our visitors had a good time wandering around the castle interior and chatting both with each other and volunteers. Undeniably, the view of the London panorama after hours was the most appreciated surprise of the evening for our guests!
Our sold out event brought in 66 visitors and demonstrated a higher demand than normal for an evening event. From the data on Severndroog’s Customer Relationship Management system we know that not only local people came to us, and that we attracted a mixed age demographic.
In our case, close communication within the group was the key aspect of the planning process and promotion. We were a small team so we allocated responsibilities, set achievable goals and had regular meetings to discuss all aspects of the project.
We effectively communicated information about our plans to the Castle team and developed a successful workflow, which avoided the pitfalls of deadlines and pressure. Because we sold out very quickly, we were able to allocate some budget to provide a glass of wine or juice to each of our visitors at a reasonable cost while still making a useful profit.
However, we were unable to secure local sponsorship or donations. The lesson we learned, and our main tip for other venues, is to work to attract sponsors at an early stage of the planning process: sponsors can enhance the event experience and provide the basis for future partnerships.
Although the weather conditions changed our plans, we managed this situation without interrupting the atmosphere; in fact the intimacy of the indoor performance delighted our visitors as they joined in with the music rather than just listening as an audience.
The event was successful and positive for both our visitors and volunteers, and gave us a great lesson about planning and implementation processes. We look forward to organising our next events, which will hopefully be even more successful!
Martin Skworc is currently studying towards a BA Music Business and Arts Management degree at Middlesex University. This was the second time he has helped to organise an event at Severndroog Castle, where he has gradually added to his responsibilities by becoming a projects assistant. He is a music enthusiast and an aspiring events manager who is passionate about innovative solutions and engaging diverse audiences from across London and beyond.
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