What a crazy couple of months we have just had in the Norfolk Museums Service!
October Half Term & Halloween are arguably our most busy period during the year and it certainly felt that way at times. Again, I have had the unique opportunity of being involved with the events at two different sites; the Spooky City event at Norwich Castle and the Pirates event at the Tolhouse Gaol Museum in Great Yaaarmouth! See what I did there? Sorry… While I got to play an important part in the Norwich offer, I organised, resourced and coordinated the entire event at the Tolhouse; high pressure stuff!
First, Norwich: I loved being part of the infamous Halloween dungeon tours at Norwich Castle. We had 12 tours per day, one nearly every half an hour, with one member of staff giving a standard tour (which is scary enough on its own), while another person ‘haunted.’ Haunting effectively involved members of the Learning team hiding behind displays and walls, out of sight, making doors bang, chains clank and flicking the lights on and off. It may seem slightly novel when you read it, but when done unexpectedly in a dark medieval dungeon, it usually has the desired effect; good fun!
Yet it was organising the Halloween event in Great Yarmouth which really stretched me. I have no experience of event planning, especially within a museum, and quickly ran into the usual restraints we face in the museum world, such as a limited budget, but this was often overcome by us simply using what we already had creatively and thinking outside of the box. I always knew that a pirate theme would be perfect as the Tolhouse Museum has a pirate collection, and the awards nominated Stories from the Sea schools project, which had an entire creative writing offer dedicated to pirates, is set to come to a triumphant end in March 2015. The Halloween event would therefore be a mini-celebration of this fantastic project while also a great opportunity to have some fun!
I wanted every child & adult who walked into the Tolhouse that evening to be completely swept away by the atmosphere, and with the help of the fantastic team in Yarmouth, some fishing nets, flags, hammocks and bubble wrap (I’ll explain), we were able to transform the Tolhouse into an incredible pirate ship! Lots of staff dressed up and got into character, making all the right ‘yaaarrr’ noises, while creaky ship and sea sound effects played throughout the museum. Visitors could make their own pirate hats and eye patches, handle replica pirate weapons & test their swordsmanship skills against a pirate, or get themselves a pirate tattoo. We had scary storytelling down in the dark prison cells.
My personal favourite activity was definitely the ‘Sleeping Pirate.’ The sleeping pirate, played brilliantly by our Learning Assistant Patricia, was snoozing on a chair in front of a treasure chest filled with cuddly sea creatures, gems, diamonds and other jewels. We covered the floor in front of the sleeping pirate with bubble wrap, meaning anyone walking on it made a noise and risked waking her, and we had another pirate on patrol. The aim of the game was for visitors to try and steal as much treasure as possible, without being spotted. The kids (and their parents) absolutely loved it! You can see for yourself in some of the pictures I have attached.
The event went really well and there were so many happy and excited faces; I felt very proud to have helped make it as good as I envisaged and I am totally grateful to the wonderful Yarmouth team again for all their help and effort on the night. It’s opportunities like these and the huge amount of creative freedom I have been allowed which have helped make my traineeship be so rewarding and enjoyable.
Please do take a look at the Time & Tide/ Tolhouse Museum Facebook page if you would like to see some more pictures of the event. Anyway, I am off to write a session plan for our new Cinderella offer in Great Yarmouth (more on that next time), before revising my notes on the Roman Soldier session which I am delivering 3 days in a row in Norwich next week. The fun never stops for a Learning Trainee!