South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries



Registration and coffee


Welcome and introduction

Claire Dixon, Chair - South West Fed


KEYNOTE: From B&NES to Beijing: meeting the needs of local and global audiences

Stephen Bird MBE FMA MCMI (Head of Heritage Services, Bath and North East Somerset Council)

In this keynote address, Stephen Bird will look at how the Council-run museums in Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) seek to strike a balance between the imperative of dealing with over one million visitors from around the world each year and the needs and expectation of 190,000 permanent local residents. He will also consider the challenges of catering for audiences with physical and / or learning disabilities. Are the constraints of ancient monuments and historic buildings an excuse for not seeking ways of making reasonable adjustments, and are the pressures of working in a quasi-commercial environment sufficient reason not to carve out time and space to provide access that will enrich their lives? Stephen will discuss the different ways in which the Council’s Heritage Services address these issues.

Stephen is Head of Heritage Services at Bath and North East Somerset Council, responsible for the Roman Baths & Pump Room, Fashion Museum & Assembly Rooms, Victoria Art Gallery and Bath Record Office. In 2005 he restructured the service as a business unit within the Council working to bespoke financial arrangements and a rolling 5-year business plan.

For many years Stephen played an active role in the region’s museums sector. He served the Federation as Hon. Secretary (1996-2000) and President (2000-2002) and sat on the boards of the Area Museums Council for the South West (1996-1998), South West Museums Council 1998-2003 and MLA South West (2003-2009). Nationally he is an AMA mentor and Fellowship assessor for the Museums Association. He also sits on the Advisory Board of the Alexander Keiller Museum Avebury, is a trustee of Glastonbury Abbey and Company Secretary of the Roman Baths Foundation. In 2018 Stephen was awarded an MBE for services to museums, heritage and tourism.


Stonehenge and Avebury: Resolving the tensions between protection and presentation in a World Heritage Site landscape

Sarah Simmonds (Partnership Manager, Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site)

The presentation will explore the challenge of protecting and presenting the World Heritage Site and the tension between these two pivotal obligations of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. It will look at approaches taken by partners to providing inspiring and enriching visitor experiences while protecting the fragile World Heritage Site landscape which has experienced a significant rise in visitor numbers. Finally, it will consider how the Exploring the World Heritage Site and Beyond project will involve partners across the multi-owner, multiple agency landscape in addressing remaining challenges in the areas of sustainable tourism, transport and landscape access.

Sarah Simmonds has over a decade of experience in World Heritage Site management specialising in partnership working, participatory management planning, community engagement, landscape scale strategies and planning policy. Previously she worked with the UN as a capacity building specialist in both East Timor and Afghanistan and with NGOs in Indonesia. Sarah has a master’s degree in Cultural Heritage from the Institute of Archaeology, UCL where she undertook fieldwork with UNESCO in Ethiopia. She was co-author of the 2015 joint Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Management Plan and is currently working on developing a sustainable funding model for the World Heritage Site with NLHF support. She is also working with partners to design a landscape access and sustainable tourism strategy for the World Heritage. Sarah is a member of the Executive Committee of ICOMOS UK.


Networking break


The tactile and the creative - a new way of engaging people with church spaces

Annie Lucas (Creative Director, Cultural Vitality)

Sacred Lands, Saints and Sand was a one year HLF funded project in St Cubert Church, North Cornwall. It provided ‘non-churchy’ opportunities for new audiences to experience the church through hands on interaction and to learn a new skill. This presentation explores how the project worked with artist practitioners to develop tactile and sensory workshops, including stained glass-making and stone carving. It shows how the products from these workshops were included in a new handling box which was used in memory cafes and old folks’ homes to facilitate a church experience for people less able to access the space.

Annie has been immersed in the cultural and heritage sectors for nearly 20 years. Following a period designing costumes for ballet and theatre, Annie graduated in 2008 with a Masters in Costume Design from the London College of Fashion. In 2008 she was appointed Interpretation Manager at Rochester Cathedral following a successful HLF grant application, and wrote the exhibition and interpretation strategy for the second HLF grant (£3.5 million) in 2012.

After a relocation to the West Country, she has worked extensively as a freelance consultant undertaking numerous audience development, interpretation and evaluation assignments and strategic plans for clients across the country. She has an established track record for innovative audience development projects, and has just been awarded a Cornwall Heritage Award for Best Audience Initiative for her project Sacred Lands, Saints and Sand at St Cubert Church in Cornwall.

Annie runs her own heritage consultancy, Cultural Vitality, and has a special interest in projects which facilitate access for people with full or partial sight loss.

Annie's clients include Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, City of Westminster College, Cubert Church, Churches Conservation Trust, Cornwall Lord Lieutenancy, Jurassica, Kresen Kernow, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the RNIB for whom Annie recently evaluated the 2 year HLF funded project Sensing Culture, improving access for blind and partially sighted people across 5 partner museums in the South East.


Q&A Session

All speakers from the morning session

A chance to ask the speakers from the morning any questions you may have.


Networking lunch

Opportunity to network over a bite to eat.

Museum Freelance meet-up: This will be an opportunity to share experiences and to discuss establishing a network for freelancers in the South West.


WORKSHOPS (delegates will choose one workshop)

Workshop 1

Converting audience research into real actions for engagement and development

Victoria Harding (Programme Manager, South West Museum Development) and Rachel Miller (Audience and Insight Officer, South West Museum Development Programme)

It is more important than ever for museums to include audiences at the heart of what they do. Through discussion and a practical exercise, this workshop will consider some of the approaches museums can take to utilise and apply audience research. It will look at the various and creative ways that museums can gather audience research, and will focus on the key element of turning that research into action through effective planning and developing a real understanding of what audiences are truly saying. It’s not just about asking the audience, it’s about doing something with the answers!

Victoria Harding has worked in regional strategic museum agencies for over 17 years. During this time she has been involved in the development and implementation of various national programmes including the Museum Accreditation Standard, The Cultural Planning Toolkit and the development of a standardised approach to museum sector data. Since 2008 she has led the South West Museum Development Programme and worked closely with local authorities across the region to increase both awareness and recognition of the value and contributions of museums to wider agendas.

Rachel Miller’s role takes her across the region where she works with Accredited museums to practically and creatively support them with audience development and engagement. Rachel has a background in audience-focused roles from visitor services, exhibitions and interpretation posts at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; to collections work for the Royal Shakespeare Company Collection & Archive; and latterly at National Trust, Tyntesfield where she was responsible for visitor and volunteer access and engagement in her role as Assistant House Manager.

Workshop 2

Words are cheap and they create priceless museum outreach!

Nicola Trowell (Projects Officer, Wiltshire Museum) Rachael Holton (Development Officer, Wiltshire Museum) and David Davies (Freelance Facilitator)

Creative writing outreach can provide rewarding, immediate and immersive engagement with minimum cost. Wiltshire Museum will share two very different World War One outreach projects funded by HLF and ACE. One involved diverse volunteers recruited through social media and the other, for older people, was in partnership with Celebrating Age Wiltshire. Workshop participants will discover how historic information and objects can stimulate writing; learn how digital methods can cast a wide net of engagement; receive tips about working with older people; and consider how their collections could inspire creative and inexpensive outreach. Plus, they will have a go themselves!

Nicola is the Projects Officer and Volunteer Coordinator for Wiltshire Museum. She has a degree in Archaeology and a variety of experience in visitor engagement and museum outreach. Nicola’s previous roles include Exhibition and Learning Assistant at Salisbury Museum and Volunteer Coordinator at Arundells.

Rachael Holtom is Development Officer at Wiltshire Museum, and a consultant. She has worked for 20 years in education, interpretation and community roles in museums and heritage roles across England. Most recent roles include: Heritage Researcher at Trowbridge Museum; Volunteer Officer at Bath Abbey; Senior Visitor Experience at Lacock Abbey (NT) and Education Officer at The Corinium Museum in Cirencester.

David Davies has a background in community development, education and training, and BBC Radio feature making. David’s work focusses on participants’ interests and life experience using poetry reading and writing alongside objects, artworks or photographs. He aims to enable participants to gain confidence, skills and social connections and to improve their mental health and independence.

Workshop 3

How to do a local heritage study in a school setting

Michael Gorely (Local Heritage Education Manager, Historic England)

This workshop session will take delegates through the kind of training that we do with non-history specialist primary school teachers and initial teacher training students. This includes ideas on how to use aerial photographs, historical maps, street directories and census returns as starting points for generating historical enquiry. The ideas will be illustrated with practical examples from the last seven years of the Heritage School Programme in the South West.

Michael was a primary school teacher for 23 years in London, Australia and Bristol before taking up this post when the Heritage Schools Programme began in 2012. As a teacher, history, particularly local history, was Michael's specialism and he has used this experience in his present role in all settings from Reception to Undergraduate level.


Networking break


Quickfire Presentations

Representatives from the trade stands.

A chance to hear short presentations from the trade stands at this year's conference:

Trade stands

Alex's quickfire session will look at inspiring website designs, with particular reference to both the Vernon Browser module and eHive, a low-cost CMS and web-publishing tool. Hopefully this will give delegates ideas how to bring their collections to life via the web, even if working with a limited budget and resources.

Alex von der Becke (Vernon Systems)

Francesca's session aims to demystify student placements and internships with a focus on the opportunities available with the University of Exeter. From the MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy to our BA History and English or BSc Business, our courses have placements embedded in their teaching. During this session you will learn the difference between placements vs internships and the key things to consider when offering a student opportunity as well as how university staff can help.

Francesca Crickmere (Work Placement Coordinator, University of Exeter)

Francesca is a Work Placement Co-ordinator for the University of Exeter, working in their Student Employability and Academic Success team. She oversees placement modules across all undergraduate and some Masters modules, many of which are compulsory learning opportunities for students on the University’s Penryn campus. Francesca has worked for the University for 20 months having previously worked at Plymouth University for 7 years before her move to Cornwall. As well as the liaison with students and academics it’s equally important to build relationships with local, national and international organisations where students can work with professionals and complement their studies with meaningful work experience.


Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy

Jo Loosemore (Curator, Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy, The Box)

With objects, images and ideas coming from museums, libraries and archives across the UK, US and The Netherlands, find out how The Box, Plymouth will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. This presentation will reveal the partnership’s changing perceptions of the ship, its passengers and an Atlantic journey made 400 years ago. This is a local, national and international story with potential audiences at home and away. How might this exhibition engage the 30 million people who claim Mayflower ancestry, as well as those who might be new to the story and its symbolism?

Radio maker. History finder. Theatre lover. Jo is a broadcaster, curator and actor. For the BBC, she has created radio dramas, documentaries and live programmes. This has included World War One at Home (in partnership with the Imperial War Museums) for network and local radio, regional tv and online. From Brazil to the Battlefield, the story of Exeter fighting footballers was broadcast on BBC 5 Live, and a series of features appeared on BBC Radio 4 and 4Extra. She also produced the Listening Project’s national tour for BBC Radio 4, BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC local radio in partnership with the British Library, contributing the 1000th conversation to the national collection. Having created the city’s oral history archive and co-curated Plymouth’s largest social history exhibition (Tales from the City), she is now the curator of Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy – the national commemorative exhibition for 2020 in The Box (Plymouth's new History Centre).


South West Fed AGM

South West Fed

Please attend if you are a member of the South West Fed so that we can ensure we reach a quorum. The AGM is separate to the conference and any South West Fed members not attending the conference will be able to attend the AGM without purchasing a ticket.


Free evening social event (details TBC)

For the evening on Day 1, there will be a drinks reception and a visit to the SW Retro Computing Archive. The evening will begin at 5pm with a presentation on the SW Retro Computing Archive, which is held at the University of Plymouth, and gives a fascinating insight into popular culture, gaming and the development of computing. This will be followed by an informal drinks reception and a visit to the SW Retro Computing Archive itself. The permanent display holds around 250 of the exhibits at any one time. You can expect to see items such as a valve from the rebuild of Colossus (the world's first fully electronic, semi-programmable digital computer), early computer systems and consoles from brands such as Apple, Commodore, Amstrad, Nintendo, Atari and Binatone, and handheld games including Simon, Donkey Kong, and Kevin Keegan's Match of the Day! This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn about the timeline of computers and gaming, and to reminisce with others about 8-bit consoles and that time you protected the planet from rows and rows of Space Invaders. For more information, please visit:

Please register your interest for the visit to the SW Retro Computing Archive before lunchtime on Day 1 (if you are only attending Day 2, but still wish to attend this evening event, please email This will be free to attend no matter what day you are attending the conference. We will also be aiming to to gather in a bar or affordable restaurant so that you can grab a bite to eat, chat, and relax - we will update you nearer the time.

End of Day 1

We'd like to thank our conference partners Cornerstone Heritage, University of Plymouth.