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  • Programming for heritage

    Posted on October 3, 2019

    © National Trust/John Millar

    Everything speaks: Increasing visibility of heritage sites through cultural programming

    Our Innocastle partners identified two specific practices they wanted to share from their study visit to the UK in May.  These are now available on the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform.  And the first, on cultural programming, is summarised below.

    Readers directed here from the Policy Learning Platform – please scroll down for a selection of resources.

    What’s the point of programming?

    Today historic castles, manors and estates all face stiff competition from other leisure pursuits.  Managers and owners can’t simply fling open the doors and expect people to come flooding in!

    The National Trust (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) has found that by far the best way to grow audiences is not traditional marketing or even free tickets, but by changing the offer.  Short of appearing in a Hollywood movie, which always drives up visitor numbers, cultural programming is the next best thing.

    Programming is a way of creating and organising new experiences of your property, and presenting them in a way that appeals to your target audiences, or even different audiences concurrently.

    Outdoor sites and gardens attract people back time and again, for a gorgeous walk or a stunning view or a favourite picnic spot.  Moreover, they naturally programme themselves through the seasons. But static historic interiors may be perceived as one-off experiences.   So programming allows the site to have multiple layers during the year.  Thereby attracting an audience back multiple times.

    National Trust programming is sometimes an adjustment to things a property already does.  Like feeding the deer every afternoon or daily knighting ceremonies.  Or it can be more ambitious.  Like turning Powis Castle back into a school for the season.  Or a high-profile art installation. Historic places are not just an incidental backdrop, in each case they are integral to the whole enterprise.

    The Word Defiant! art installation at Blickling, Norfolk ©National Trust/Neil Jakeman


    Everything speaks – Reasons to return: Questions, tools and sources of inspiration to help you construct a property programme that both conveys the spirit of your place and supports your business plan (National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 2015)

    Inspiring Creativity – Heritage & The Creative Industries: An excellent set of case studies illustrating the relationship between heritage & the creative industries.  Along with convincing evidence for why it matters (The Heritage Alliance, 2019)

    Arms Wide Open: Our own INTO Report with case studies and resources from INTO members about the work they are doing to increase diversity, inclusion and equality (INTO, 2019)

    Prejudice and Pride – LGBTQ heritage and its contemporary implications: An evaluation of the National Trust’s 2017 National Public Programming theme. Firstly, how can heritage organisations uncover, understand and interpret the lives of people closely linked to their sites who challenged conventions of sexuality and gender diversity.  Moreover, what is the contemporary significance? And finally, how might these narratives be used to engage diverse audiences in contemporary debates? (National Trust, 2018)

    Women and Power – Key findings: A evaluation of four National Trust properties that received funding from the Women’s Vote Centenary Grant Scheme and/or were part of the National Partnership Programme with the National Portrait Gallery (NPG and Women’s Vote Centenary Grant Scheme, 2019)

    Isolation and loneliness: A research report into a project at Calke Abbey exploring the contemporary issue of social isolation and loneliness in 2019 in order to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Henry Harpur Crewe, 7th Baronet of Calke Abbey who was dubbed ‘The Isolated Baronet’ in his own time.

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