My name is George Scott, and I’m a part-time Arts Management, Policy and Practice (AMPP) Master’s student at Manchester University. One of the modules that is offered as part of this degree is a work placement module. This module is one of the reasons that I decided to undertake AMPP as my Master’s degree; it meant that I could gain hands-on experience in an arts organisation, whilst simultaneously working towards another qualification. It also has the added benefits of expanding my network of contacts in the Arts Sector, a sector in which I feel that networking is particularly important!
My preferred field of study is classical music – my undergraduate degree is in Music, and so this is the arts discipline with which I most closely identify. Although the ICP course offers a range of pre-organised placement options, I felt that there were not many options that were suited for one studying classical music management. I therefore decided to organise a placement myself, at an arts organisation in Lancaster called Lancaster Arts. Lancaster Arts is based at Lancaster University, where I studied for my undergraduate degree, and so I already had some knowledge of the organisation. Part of the work undertaken by Lancaster Arts is a classical music concert series that takes place in the university Great Hall. My supervisor was Fiona Sinclair, who is the Associate Director of Lancaster Arts and is in charge of managing the classical concerts series.
The placement was initially designed to undertake work in two different fields. The first field of work was artist and stage management. This required meeting artists on the days of concerts and supervising them throughout rehearsals, attending to any queries that they may have. Throughout the concerts themselves, I helped to manage the stage by helping with seating alterations, and give artists their stage calls. Above is a picture of my first session performing this work, in which I helped manage a concert featuring the 112-piece orchestra from the Royal Northern College of Music!
The other field of work was helping Fiona develop new ideas for audience engagement, in order to make the concerts more accessible to a wider audience and to maintain a larger audience base. Throughout the placement we had several brainstorming sessions in which we wrote down ideas for enhancing the Lancaster Arts concert experience. These ranged from new audience seating arrangements, to offering programme-matched wine and canapés in the intervals. I was then required to perform follow-up work on these ideas, such as contacting local wine companies to see how willing they would be to supply wine for the above idea. Whilst these ideas will not be instigated until the 2016/17 concert season, I felt that these research sessions were very worthwhile, as they relate closely to a lot of my other research in classical concert engagement.
Overall, the placement was incredibly successful. I gained a lot of hands-on work experience which I can use for my CV. Furthermore, Lancaster Arts are keen for me to interview for their box office manager post when the post opens in the next couple of months. Fiona has also been an incredibly useful contact already, as she was able to put me in touch with the Manchester Camerata for my dissertation research, due to her work there in the past. The ICP placement module is one that I would whole-heartedly recommend, especially if you are willing to go the extra mile and organise your own tailor-made placement!
Having the opportunity to undertake a placement in a cultural organisation was one of the biggest attractions for me to choose the MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice course at the University of Manchester, because I believe ‘the fruit’ you harvest from practice is one that can hardly be got from a book. In particular, it would not be that easy for me to work in a cultural or arts organisation in the UK by myself, as this is my first time in Europe and I am unfamiliar with this country. With great expectations, I was assigned to be the Project Assistant in the University History and Heritage, a department that belongs to the University of Manchester, which aims to research, conserve and promote the rich heritage of this university. I was excited when I was informed that I would be able to work with the university historian, Dr James Hopkins, to make a contribution to our university’s heritage; the Google result made me more excited, as it shows that it is the first of its kind in the UK.
However, on the first day of my placement, I found that I knew nearly nothing about the history of the university, when Dr James Hopkins introduced his history tour project with reference to the key events and people that shaped our present university. While I was proud of our rich history, I also started to doubt whether I would be qualified for this placement. Then James also introduced the project I would work on, which is a history tour about the Rutherford Building, which was originally called the Physics Laboratory and was named after Ernest Rutherford. This tour mainly aims to engage people with the history of this old building and seek the connection between science and the university back to Ernest Rutherford’s period. Unlike the previous history tours in the University History and Heritage, which are outside the building, this will be a new type of tour that will allow entrance to the building. To some extent, this is not just a fresh attempt for me, but also for the organisation. I still felt the project would be challenging, but, after all, it is about Ernest Rutherford (The father of nuclear physics). I quickly got my energy and enthusiasm back.
My placement objective for this project covers project management, content research, and exhibition development. To be more detailed, what I have done includes writing the project proposal, and preparing a content document which involves the context and history of the Rutherford Building and the life of Ernest Rutherford, as well as the key discoveries and important people related to this building. I also need to contact different people who can help with the project and attend related meetings with Dr. Hopkins. All this has greatly enhanced my professional abilities, such as leadership, communication skills and adaptability to challenges; it even improves my academic abilities, as I have devoted a lot of energy to doing research for the project. I am really delighted that I have the chance to meet the challenges of different roles in the placement, which helps me gain more understanding about different types of tasks in a cultural organisation, based on practical experience. Another ‘big fruit’ is that I have become more confident about my ability.
Having always had an interest in historic houses, the opportunity to work with a country house collection was impossible to resist. Tabley House in Knutsford, contains a collection owned by the University of Manchester of over 12,000 items. At the core of this collection are a number of Regency paintings, including a piece by JMW Turner. Alongside this are a mass of objects such as family treasures, diaries and household objects; it is with these objects I spent the duration of my placement.
The opportunity available at Tabley House was to be involved in increasing the documentation for the collection, photographing each item, while also condition checking and providing preventative conservation work where required. This work interested me particularly because I have had no previous experience in it, ensuring that if nothing else, it would at least be a challenge.
Each day would consist of exploring a box from the museums storage area, experiencing moments of discovery as I worked with each new object. Alongside the primary task of updating information about the objects on the collection management system, I was also able to undertake research regarding any object which particularly caught my interest, of which there were many.
The majority of my placement took place during the winter months, when the house was closed to the public. During this period, the house has a strong foundation of volunteers, performing various duties such as cleaning and preventative restoration. While at first, the placement seemed as though it may be quite solitary, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Being surrounded by volunteers who were not only passionate about museum objects, but particularly Tabley House’s objects, resulted in continuous collaborative discussion and questioning about the items I was handling.
As the house reopened, my work continued on the gallery floor in the sight of the public. My documentation table took on a new role as a temporary display, opening up yet further opportunities for conversation about the objects on show and the work I was doing. Sharing these otherwise unseen objects with visitors before returning them to storage was possibly one of my favourite aspects of my time at Tabley.
As part of my MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice, I have luckily been offered the chance to work as a development assistant for the Manchester Museums Partnership, which consists of four different venues including Manchester Museum, Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth Art Gallery, and the Gallery of Costume. I actually spent my 20-day placement across these four venues according to the schedule of my supervisor. I would like to share my experience of working in one of the venues, Manchester Museum in this blog post.
Being part of the University of Manchester, Manchester Museum is the largest university museum in the United Kingdom, owing a rich collection of anthropology, archaeology and natural history. It is not only a popular tourist attraction in Manchester, but also an important place for academic research and student teaching. After undergoing a major redevelopment, Manchester Museum reopened to the public in 2003. To keep its capability of presenting good quality exhibitions and achieving its mission, Manchester Museum receives funding from various supporters, including the University of Manchester, public subsidy, trusts and foundations, corporate supports and individual giving.
The main part of my work is fundraising, most of which is corporate sponsorship. I participated in the early preparation stages of a sponsorship application, including potential sponsor research and proposal writing. With help from Jo for a specific company’s proposal, I learned the key concept of corporate support, that is, reciprocity. To be specific, it means that the fundraiser’s research must focus on trying to fit the organisation into the corporate donor strategy, and in the mean time, the right corporate support should match with the image of the organisation. These words that used to lie in my textbook become more persuasive in practice. I found research for the information of the potential sponsors the most difficult part of my work and I have met the challenge of not being able to find the information I need, which I managed to overcome with a different searching method of narrowing down the target and trying different source.
From my professional practice, I now know clearly the four steps of sponsorship application, which are research, proposal writing, contract signing and cooperation relationship maintaining. Even though I did not get to be involved in the last two steps of a holistic application, I gradually built my understanding of the work for the museum development team, which is challenging and essential for the operation of the museum.
All the staff of the Museum have been very supportive to me during my placement. I really look forward to applying the skills I learned from this experience in my future work.
As the assistant to the curator of textiles and wallpapers at the Whitworth Art Gallery, I went into the work experience without any prior knowledge of textiles and wallpapers. I worked alongside Amy George who introduced me to these beautiful works on paper. I found myself absolutely smitten by the gallery’s collection of wallpapers. The Whitworth owns over 5,000 wallpapers, making it the second largest wallpaper collection in the UK, alongside the V&A. Over the past six months, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined about the beautifully funky world of wallpapers, from the 1960s to present-day. Handling, documenting, or even simply looking at all of the retro-centric and stylish designs made me somewhat glimmer inside. So, I am here to provide a little zest about working with the Whitworth’s wallpaper collection.
First, wallpaper rips easily – more easily than you think, I can assure you. One of my first responsibilities at the Whitworth was assisting Amy in her curatorial endeavours with her wallpaper exhibition. I put in a good amount of time and effort to meticulously roll wallpapers onto plastic spools, which were then transported to the exhibition space to be hung for display. Each spool took about an hour and a half to roll. As you can imagine, wallpaper from the 1960s tends to weather with time and can become brittle and fragile. Unfortunately, I was never blessed with graceful hands; I ripped one of the papers and my life flashed before my eyes. I have to take this time to thank Amy for her saintly forgiving nature, and have now learned to what extent patience truly stands as a virtue.
Second, documentation is actually a therapeutic past time. Following its 2015 renovation, the Whitworth’s prints collection has been relocated to beautifully organised cradles in climate-controlled stores. My job was to document the new locations of the wallpapers on KE Emu (not the therapeutic past time) and then ensure its placement in each location of the physical store (ahhhh, namaste). Surrounded by over 55,000 all-embracing stylish wallpapers, world textiles and historic prints, I found my nirvana amidst the Whitworth’s bountiful prints collection. I voluntarily spent hours each day walking up and down the aisles, visually photographing the worldly creations. It was in this collections store where I was reminded of my passionate connectivity with beautiful works of art.
Altogether, my role as a (partially successful) curator and a (overly impassioned) collections manager at the Whitworth Art Gallery has taught me the intricate practice of caring for a gallery’s collection. My eyes have been opened to an entirely new art form that I wasn’t even aware I could fall so in love with. As a parting gift, Amy gave me an exhibition catalogue from a previous wallpaper show at the Whitworth (don’t worry, I did not manhandle this one). Looking through it now, I can see I’ve developed an eye for wallpaper design, and I have Amy and the Whitworth to completely thank for that!
The first day of my placement at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House was the first time I had ever visited. In fact, it was my first real experience with the world of Elizabeth Gaskell, having known nothing about her prior to the placement. What drew me to the organization was the opportunity to develop a formal learning resource for key stage one (which covers ages five to seven). I had previous experience in developing and delivering learning sessions within an arts environment but never within this context. I saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to delve into the unknown world of formal learning.
Opened to the public in October 2014 Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is practically new. It is the former home of Elizabeth Gaskell, a famous Victorian author, with well-known novels such ‘Cranford’ and ‘North and South’. The unique selling point of the house is that you can touch practically everything. This is because the furniture and decorations are replica items. Very few authentic items remain of Elizabeth Gaskell’s and what is left is protected in clear cases that are strategically placed around the house to blend in with the surroundings. The effect is a warm, comfortable, family home and not at all what I expected upon thinking of historic houses, which so often have rope cordoning off rooms.
In developing a formal learning resource, I really wanted to play on this truly hands-on opportunity and developed activities that exploited this explorative and active learning environment. The activities allow for child-led learning and focus on the process of the activity and not the outcome. One particular favourite is the Bee Trail. In this activity, the class imagine they are bees and search for patterns and flowers throughout the house and in the garden, which Elizabeth Gaskell particularly loved. This gives them an opportunity to explore the house and use observation skills to detect floral patterns. In another activity, the class become detectives and have to search for unusual objects in the house. With different prompts on their cards in relation to different aspects of the object, each group develops a picture of what the objects, how it was used and who would have used it.
The activities also support aspects of the curriculum, which is an important part of developing formal learning resources and can be quite difficult to navigate! The activities support elements of science, history and art and design, crossing curriculum subjects to make learning more dynamic.
With the activities I developed, I wanted to steer clear of using period costume and dressing-up. This is a frequent feature of formal learning in historic houses and I wanted something different in comparison. I feel that this can distract from the nature of the visit. The main feature of my activities is that they allow for exploration, discovery and questioning and are accessible to different kinds of learner and different levels of learner.
I was able to develop three finished formal learning activities for Elizabeth Gaskell’s House to use and the next step will be to trial and evaluate with key stage one classes.
Working at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House was a truly unique experience and has enabled me to develop invaluable skills. It is a real haven in the midst of Manchester and is well worth a visit, even if you do not have a clue who she is!
This year is the 21st year of Manchester Jazz Festival, and I was lucky enough to do my placement there as a Marketing Assistant. Manchester Jazz Festival has happened every year since 1996, with both national and international artists. This year, the 10 days festival takes place from 22nd to 31st of July, with 81 gigs, 550 artists and 9 venues across Manchester City Centre.
The mjf team is a very small team, I was surprised by how such a well-organised event as the UK’s leading jazz festival is delivered by such a small team. The first I heard about the festival was during a presentation given by the Artistic Director of the Manchester Jazz Festival, Steve Mead. From his presentation, I could see how passionate he was about the festival and I could also see the amount of work the team needed to do for the festival!
As I did my undergraduate degree in marketing, and as I want to further develop my marketing skills, I chose to be the Marketing Assistant. It is an exciting time to join the marketing team, as the jazz festival is trying to build a new image for jazz. Last year, mjf had a significant change in terms of the marketing theme; it used a colourful painting for its marketing materials. The creative theme of mjf2016 is ‘Rethink Jazz’, which aims to inspire people to develop a new perspective of jazz. My main responsibilities are to look after the social media accounts and the website, drafting newsletters as well as researching different projects for the future development of mjf. As the placement will continue until the end of the festival, I believe I will be given more responsibilities and gain more exciting experiences.
The mjf team is very friendly and always willing to help. My line manager Diane always asks me what I want to get involved with, and give me the tasks according to my interests. She also brings me to meetings with different mjf’s partners, which I find very useful for me in terms of understanding their relationship with mjf and learning the communication skills from my manager. There are challenges sometimes, but Diane always encourages me and gives me as much help as she can.
This placement is a great opportunity to learn how a festival is organised and how to promote a festival. After all the assignments are handed in, I will devote more time to the festival as I know mjf will help me to develop the skills that I want as long as I am willing to. I am now really looking forward to the festival; it will also be the first time for me to see the Manchester Jazz Festival!