Thursday 7 November 2013


I stayed up near Tamworth on Sunday night so that I could go to one of the Trust's 'sharing days', at Calke Abbey, between Burton-on-Trent and Loughborough. Some properties have been exploring the idea of Encounters, which is essentially live interpretation. This is being used at places like Carding MillClumber Park, Saltram. It's something that visitors seem to like a lot, as you'd expect - real people in costume who engage with visitors.

The most engaging presentation was done by people from the Eden ProjectNathanRamon and Di (aka Peggy), who told us about their pollinators. This is their form of live interpretation, and effectively it's everyone, all the time. They talked about being provocative in order to encourage visitors to strike up conversation. Provocative can mean simply starting to clean all the leaves on the plant with the smallest leaves, or creating characters that roam the site. If someone starts a conversation with you, you know that a) they're interested, and b) they speak English.

It's a long way from being bombarded with information, which was so well illustrated at the beginning of the day with a clip from Steve Coogan's The Trip, called How To Spoil a Beautiful View.

Other things they touched on were the importance of creating common ground with your audience and how character and costume tend to break down barriers. Interestingly, at Eden, people have to audition before their potential peers, and the person is found before the role, rather than the other way round. This then plays to the strengths of the individual. And a final point - magic requires planning.

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