Nadja Degen – A Fundraising Journey with the Royal Exchange Theatre


As a student on the MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice at the University of Manchester, I was fortunate enough to do a work placement within the Development Department of the Royal Exchange Theatre (RET). This experience initiated a ‘fundraising journey’ for me and inspired my professional future. During the time of my placement, RET was in the process of reviewing fundraising efforts in the corporate sector. As a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) RET receives a considerable amount of secured funding per year. Nevertheless, with continued cuts on public subsidy, the organisation relies on diverse income streams with individual giving, grant funding from trusts and foundations and business investment working alongside statutory support. A particular challenge emerged for the organisation in responding to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a business practice that allows companies to demonstrate social responsibility by contributing finance and skills to ‘good causes’. Therefore, my placement had a clear focus to examine the fundraising strategy in this context and to make recommendations. This project turned out highly versatile including various forms of practice-related research and interviews with representatives of arts organisations, business corporations and Arts & Business. The outcome was the report “Royal Exchange Theatre – Arts Corporate Funding in the Context of CSR” with potentially great impact on fundraising practices within RET.

In the first stages of my research, I reviewed RET’s history and profile. The theatre first opened its doors in 1976 and has since been a seminal presence in the city. It presents a varied programme of classical pieces with a modern edge as well as experimental productions. Hosting the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, the theatre supports emerging talent and nurtures new writing. In addition to the artistic programme, a wide range of participation and learning activities designed for all ages and backgrounds provide entry points to the theatre on a wide scale. Based in what used to be one of the world’s centres for cotton trade until the Second World War, RET preserves the original character of the building and enlivens the historical space in the centre of the city. All these aspects informed my thinking and demonstrate RET’s ‘case for support’ with such issues as place making, artistic excellence and audience engagement emerging. In a second step, I examined competitor’s strategies in the area of corporate fundraising and specifically in relation to CSR. This entailed online research on arts organisations’ funding schemes as well as interviews with representatives of HOME, Manchester Art Gallery and The Lowry. I felt great responsibility in representing my host organisation in the most appropriate way and gained profound insight from engaging directly with practitioners. A third step involved research on business companies and strategies of giving, especially in the context of CSR. Conducting interviews with representatives of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bruntwood and Arts & Business, I gained further first-hand perspectives and developed a better understanding of what companies seek when partnering with the arts.

The different stages of my research project enabled me to build an understanding of the fundraising process. I became aware that a clear strategic position, analysis of competitors’ efforts and a review of the target market influence the planning and execution of fundraising activities. With little previous knowledge, the placement within the Development Department at RET was a unique opportunity for professional development. The expertise and dedication of the team motivated me to an extent that I discovered a professional future for myself in the field and applied for the Arts Fundraising Fellowship, a collaboration between Cause4 and the University of Leeds. The ICP work placement thus helped me acquire professional knowledge and skills, grow a network of contacts and brought orientation for my career choice.

Alison DiDonato – Spreading Creative Skills at In Place of War

Alison DiDonato Headshot

During my MA Arts Management, Policy, and Practice course, I completed a work placement at In Place of War (IPOW). IPOW began as a research project by the University of Manchester’s Professor James Thompson to study the role of art in areas affected by conflict. Now, it has evolved into an organisation that aims to “mobilise, empower, and connect” artists in these war-stricken and marginalised communities by providing resources and encouraging grassroots artistic production. Its most recent project is the development of a Creative Entrepreneurial Programme (CEP), an eight-week curriculum that teaches young people skills for working and establishing businesses in the Creative Industries. IPOW aims to deliver the CEP in several locations worldwide, including Bosnia, Zimbabwe, and Brazil. In conjunction with this course, IPOW plans to establish cultural spaces with partner organizations in each of these locations in which the CEP can continuously be delivered by community members to future generations.

I was tasked with researching and planning the establishment of a cultural space in Kisangani, DR Congo. IPOW plans to begin administering the CEP and organizing other youth artistic programs in coordination with local partner organisation Mental Engage in a donated space in the city. Kisangani has been greatly affected by civil war, is largely impoverished, and presents few educational and employment opportunities for young people. However, DR Congo has a rich tradition of Rumba, Jazz, and Hip-Hop music, and music has had a huge cultural significance in the DRC since the early twentieth century. By creating a space for young people to learn and create, IPOW and Mental Engage hope to inspire artistic production, enhance self-confidence, and stimulate creative entrepreneurship in its youth population.

After contextualizing and planning the Kisangani space (from declaration of need to aims and objectives to proposed timelines and budgets), I also drafted funding applications for the space. My bid for a fleet of computers and printer for the space was successful, guaranteeing that children will have the equipment for learning basic technological skills, and have access to music production, film editing, and digital design programmes. IPOW is also planning a high-profile fundraiser and enlisting several celebrity ambassadors to help raise awareness and funds for its various projects. In the upcoming months, funding will become the organisation’s main focus as it strives to expand the CEP programme.

Other activities I worked on during my placement include composing several policy documents for the organisation, researching cultural policy and educational contexts for each of our future CEP pilot locations in order to develop location-specific evaluations, and creating an “Environmental Sustainability Tool-Kit” for our future cultural spaces. The Tool-Kit will be implemented as a module in the CEP curriculum. My responsibilities were varied and interesting, and I learned different things with each project.

The experience was extremely valuable, as I gained experience in writing funding applications, developing evaluation templates, and composing organisational policies. I also gained a better understanding of structures, financial struggles, and communication techniques of small nonprofit arts organisations. IPOW’s mission is inspiring, and I was happy to contribute to its vision of a world full of opportunity and creativity.

Charlotte Hall – Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate

‘An Apprentice Adventure' exhibition at Quarry Bank.

‘An Apprentice Adventure’ exhibition at Quarry Bank.

My name is Charlotte Hall and as part of my postgraduate degree in Art Gallery and Museum Studies I undertook a work placement. For my placement I worked as an exhibition assistant at the National Trust Property- Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate. Having volunteered here for two summers during my undergrad degree, the placement was seen as an opportunity to see the development of Quarry Bank and to experience it in a different professional setting and the placement did not disappoint.

Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate opened in 1748 under Samuel and Hannah Greg. During their time in charge of the mill they built a community that included a village for the mill workers, an apprentice house, their own family home with beautiful landscape gardens. Samuel also expanded his business by acquiring several other mills. Quarry Bank Mill was passed down through the Greg generations until Alexander Carlton Greg donated it to the National Trust in 1939. . Since then the National Trust has developed the mill to allow visitors to continue experiencing it with original machinery and the water wheel still running. Throughout they have different galleries explaining the different processes involved, about the workers themselves and the village of Styal. The introductory gallery has been set-aside as a temporary exhibition space. This is where I spent most of my time helping to install and de-stall two very different but equally amazing exhibitions. The two exhibitions were ‘Drawn out of Love’ and ‘An Apprentice Adventure’. ‘Drawn out of Love’ was focused on using the collection to inform the visitors about Barbara Greg and her husband Norman Janes by using their artwork. Where as ‘An Apprentice Adventure’ is an interactive story telling exhibit aimed at families and young children.

My overall aim for my placement was to gain the whole experience of putting an exhibition together right from the planning stages to the de-installation. This aim was achieved as I learnt that devising and conducting temporary exhibitions is a vast process, involving many different tasks and people, which you don’t think about as a visitor viewing the finished exhibition. Visitors see exhibitions as a whole whereas now I see the exhibitions not only as a whole but as many different components, consisting of lots of hard work, put together.

Hannah Prescott – Engaging with the ‘other’: my curatorial internship at the Birth Rites Collection

Hannah Prescott

The Birth Rites Collection is a contemporary arts collection based on the topic of childbirth at the University of Salford, Manchester. I was drawn to this placement due to its interesting subject matter of which I had absolutely zero experience or knowledge in. For me, childbirth was something that was done behind closed doors: covert, taboo ‘other’. However, my experience as a curatorial intern for the collection forced me to engage with the ‘other’ in a public realm, humanising and realising something so different to my prior knowledge.

The team was small, of three female staff including myself, however the other two were mothers. At first I was worried that I would not be able to engage with the work in the way that the other two staff could, however, I found that my lack experience on the subject matter provided a unique insight of interpretation of the work.

Although my role was named “curatorial intern”, I, in fact, did very little curating. Most of the tasks that I dealt with each week involved marketing, social media and the organisation of the Birth Rites Collections’ 2015 event; the Bi-annual Award. This meant that the skills I gained from the opportunity were highly transferable. I enjoyed the opportunity to use my own initiative and working in a small team meant that I was able to have a lot of responsibility and make the most of every opportunity.

My favourite aspect of the placement was working on the technical aspects of the exhibition such as working with assistants on touch screens, a Twitter live feed and a digital show reel. Before my work placement, I could just about use the internet and word process but now I am able to digitally record and create elements of film.

Overall, the experience at the Birth Rites Collection gave me invaluable professional experience to develop further. It has changed my attitudes towards childbirth and childbirth practice and made me more aware of the perception of pregnant women in today’s society. I believe that this was an important step towards my career in galleries and museums.

Caitlin LaPorte – The People’s History Museum

Caitlin Laporte IMG_2716

As part of my degree in Art Gallery and Museum Studies I chose to partake in the work placement module. I was fortunate enough to obtain my first choice at the People’s History Museum. I was interested in this particular placement because it allowed the placement student to gain first hand experience in the area of exhibition development. My main task throughout the duration of the placement was to research and curate a display using the museum’s peace collection. Being an international student, I had little previous knowledge of the political system in the UK, and had to spend a considerable amount of time doing general research so I would be able to create an informed display. Once gaining the background knowledge I needed and began to research the collection, I decided to focus my display on the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. The Greenham Common Peace Camp was located on RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England, and used as a protest site for nuclear cruise missiles during the Cold War. It quickly became known internationally.

During my placement I gained an extensive amount of knowledge regarding exhibition development. I had creative control over the display, with guidance from the curatorial staff, and quickly learned just how much work goes into developing an exhibition or display. Once the theme of my display had been chosen I then was able to begin developing the idea. There are many important aspects that go into creating a display, such as, object selection, interpretation, and text label writing. I found writing the text labels to be some of the most difficult work that I did throughout my placement since the People’s History Museum uses a style heavily influenced by the Ekarv style of writing. Moving from an academic style of writing to more short and simplistic sentences can prove to be a bigger challenge than expected.

This being said, I found my time at the People’s History Museum to be extremely rewarding. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work at this particular institution. I gained a broader knowledge of the exhibition development process that will be valuable for my future in the museum sector. The staff at the museum was helpful and willing to share their own personal experiences with me, which is something that I consider to be valuable as well. I will remember all that I learned from this experience throughout my future career.

Erica Mogentale – Manchester Central Library

Manchester Central Library, Exhibition Space. Copyright 2013 Manchester Central Library Development Trust.

Manchester Central Library, Exhibition Space. Copyright 2013 Manchester Central Library Development Trust.

My name is Erica Mogentale and I am currently in the Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA programme. The placement that I was assigned was with Manchester City Council- Libraries, Information and Archives. My background is in Art History, but since choosing to enrol in the AGMS programme, I have wanted to move in the direction of creative learning and cultural programming. This placement helped give me the tools and background knowledge that I needed to move in this new direction. The practical experience I gained from my placement complimented my classes within the programme and allowed for me to see a brand new connection to the art gallery and museum world.

My placement worked mainly with the event spaces of the newly renovated Manchester Central Library. I was involved with the ‘events team’ that planned and executed cultural events and exhibitions within the library venue spaces. The main objective of my placement was to help create the foundation for a new programme of venue hiring that would bring in profit, run smoothly with a new way of scheduling, and make sure that these events were executed properly and efficiently.

This placement experience taught me how to schedule, organise and execute cultural events and exhibitions within a landmark of the city of Manchester. I learned that small day-to-day aspects of planning are crucial to the running of a cultural venue. This placement not only helped with gaining new practical skill, but I took the knowledge that I gained in market research, planning, programming, coordination, teamwork and working with other cultural organisations and applied it to my course modules within the AGMS programme. This experience helped me contribute to my creative learning module assessment of creating an educational programme proposal with a group of fellow students for the Whitworth Art Gallery. Without the experience and knowledge I had gained from my placement with Manchester City Council Libraries, I do not think I would have fully understood the process of creating an educational programme within a cultural institution that could benefit the community as well as I did.

Through having my placement with my supervisors at the Manchester Central Library, I had the chance to work with multiple different departments such as Archives+, which allowed me to help and observe Archives+ work with the AGMS and AMPP programmes to plan an exhibition and launch event within the venue. Not only did I see my placement collaborate with my programme at the University of Manchester and collide with the museum world, but I also found the new connection of my placement experience within the library when I was able to apply my practice and knowledge to creating an art gallery based education programme as well.

For more information on Manchester Central Library’s events visit:

Muminah Butt – The Happy Museum Project at Manchester Museum

Mona IMG_1991

As part of my MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies I chose undertake the 30-credit placement unit as part of my course. What interested me about choosing the placement was the chance to work in well-established museums and cultural institutions in and around Manchester to see first hand what working in and around these institutions entailed. What attracted me to choose my placement at Manchester Museum to work on the Happy Museum Project as a Rulebook Recorder and Evaluator was the chance to work on an upcoming project that had never been piloted before. It explored the introduction of play in the museum and how, through compiling a play and rulebook, that this ethic, that it is okay to play, could be effectively conveyed to the museum’s visitors.

My work on the Happy Museum Project mostly focused on evaluation techniques and how the results of these could be interpreted. For example, I devised and implemented the idea of ‘Play Tracker Buckets’, in which children would drop a counter into a bucket that had either a happy, sad or a so-so face depending on their feelings at the time before and after their visit. What interested me about working on this task was to find out what had caused the change in results. For example, an increase in the results of the happy bucket would suggest that children perceived themselves as happier because of their visit, or because of a service they received from of the Visitor Team. Alternatively, a decrease of counters placed in the happy bucket could mean that children were disappointed by a service they received, perhaps they were sad to leave the museum or even being told off by their parents! While implementing this new method of evaluation I found it effective at times to place the buckets on the front desk so that visitors were able to, on their own free will, place a counter into whichever bucket they felt like. The results from this evaluation would prove to be very useful as the fluctuation in the results could be analysed within the framework of the Happy Museum Project’s Measure what Matters methods document and be used as part of further study.

A secondary evaluation technique was the ‘Play Tracker Graph’, in which children would be able to glue a happy, so-so or sad face on the timescale graph on where they felt they fit on best (left being the sad side and right being the happy side.) This technique was interesting to watch because when faced with the decision of what face to choose to stick on and where, children were very introspective and this, as an evaluator, was very interesting to watch how children perceived themselves to be. Children were more engaged with this activity because of its interactive element and the results from this evaluation technique were also recorded and analysed to be used as part of further study in the future.

The 'Play Tracker Graph'.

The ‘Play Tracker Graph’.

Lastly, as part of my work on the Happy Museum Project I undertook observations in and around the different galleries in the museum to spot any instances of child-led play. As I had never undertaken observations before I was unsure of exactly what to look out for, but I familiarised myself with the works of Elee Kirk, a Museum practitioner and educator whose works focuses on children’s experiences in museums. In the process of learning about children and play in and around museums, this task opened my eyes to how museums can be perceived by children and they can make their galleries and exhibitions more appealing and engaging with their visitors. It was interesting to watch firsthand how children interacted and engaged with the museum’s galleries and exhibits and how ‘play’ could be implemented in the museum.

I enjoyed my time working on the Happy Museum Play and Rulebook because it allowed me to work in the unchartered territories of integrating play into museums and it also allowed me to become a part of a growing venture in a small select group of museums. This experience will help me in the future to understand and implement play within museum, the ways in which cultural institutions can become more sustainable and lastly, how museums can be a source of wellbeing in community.


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