Wednesday 18 February 2015

Everything Speaks…

...but what's it saying?

I was at the NT conference on visitor experience (called Everything Speaks) a couple of weeks ago, and inevitably it has given me cause to reflect, both on what we’re doing, and what others are doing (both within and without the NT).

There was a mixture of keynote talks and smaller sessions (called, I suppose, ‘breakout sessions’.) The external keynotes were done by Lloyd Grossman, Bernard Donoghue (AVLA) Sarah Roots, (Warner Studio Tour - i.e. Harry Potter tour), Sarah Goodfellow, (14-18 Now), Tracy Borman, (HRP), and Sarah Lockwood (National Maritime Museum). We also had Molly Oldfield (QI Elf) as our guest speaker on the Thursday (awards) evening. All interesting to hear for different reasons, the most innovative project was probably the one at the 

NMM, which is a game/immersive theatre experience for children devised with Punchdrunk.

I find the relationship between the NT and other organisations a fascinating one. On the one hand, we’re all working in the same, heritage visitor attraction industry, but on the other, we’re competitors. Are we learning from one another, or stealing ideas? (If ‘stealing’ is the right word.) And although companies like Warner are way ahead of us with their digital interpretation (and always will/should be), and we do have things to learn from other organisations, the NT does have a number of centres of innovation.

In terms of NT speakers, James Grasby was by far the most entertaining, and of the sessions I went to, LouiseGovier (Mottisfont) had a very level-headed appraisal of simple things done very well. Overall, it was a reassuring couple of days, both in terms of making me feel like we’re not alone at Croome in trying to do things differently, and because in many ways we’re ahead of the curve (as we should be.) We’re still finding our voice, perhaps, but we do have plenty to say, and will become more articulate over 2015, both through our Croome identity work with Polimekanos, but also our two main projects of the year, the story of the Lost Tapestries of Croome, and the sculptures in the Long Gallery.

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