Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse
Report of the Western Area Manager.
Mr Hanley presented the report which covered the period from January to May 2011.
Gressenhall opened on 13 March 2011.
Copies of the site leaflets and events programme were circulated to the Committee. Mr Hanley explained that the new style booklet worked well and two versions had been printed to market test which leaflet worked with the public.
There was a busy event programme scheduled for 2011, with Big event days and smaller themed days called ‘Days with a difference’. These would be farm-based days following the farming year.
The smaller themed days this used a smaller complement of staff therefore reducing costs. The events during 2011 would cost less than those held in 2010.
The first event had been held on Sunday 3rd April which included demonstrations of heavy horses working in the fields. The day attracted 625 visitors, an increase from the previous year.
The first big event was the Easter Fair which took place on Monday 25th April. This featured the traditional Easter Bonnet procession, and a range of craft and food stalls. There had been a reduced number of visitors from the previous year.
The May Day celebration event had been held on Sunday 1 May and was a new ‘Day with a Difference’ event for 2011. This coincided with the Royal Wedding so children had been encouraged to make King and Queen garlands. A procession had been held together with may-pole dancing; 653 people attended which was encouraging.
The main History Fair took place on Sunday 29 May. In the past this had been held on the Bank Holiday Monday, but this year it was held on the Sunday as a trial basis in order to reduce costs. There had been large number of stalls manned by local history societies, museums and other related organisations. The event also included costumed characters and members of the Norfolk and Norwich medieval Association.
Gressenhall boasted a lively events programme and included:
- Sunday 19th June Day with a Difference - Father’s Day, promoting big boy’s toys.
- Friday 8th July – Day to Remember – event for 55+
- 28th and 29th August - Village at War event.
Public attendances were being closely monitored at all events, and were expected to grow in numbers during the school holidays.
Final work was taking place on the Women’s Land Army Gallery which was scheduled to open at the end of June.
The Board Room had been re-displayed and featured some of the oil paintings from Thetford and Norwich collections. The Thetford collections had been the subject of a BBC programme, as mentioned earlier.
The improved Board Room was being increasingly hired out for meetings, providing the museum with additional income.
Carbon reduction works funded by Norfolk County Council’s Carbon Energy Reduction Fund had now seen the replacement of most gallery display lighting with low LED units, therefore providing a reduction in energy costs.
A Biomass boiler had been installed which would provide heating to the office wings.
The marketing of Gressenhall for the Board Room and conference hire were ongoing. This continues to generate additional income to the facility.
A feasibility study was underway relating to the current shop arrangements to enhance visitor spend per head.
The Playground area accounted for significant visitor growth in encouraging families to attend the museum. County Council funding became available to support the investment in the playground and a new designated toddler play area had been created in time for the museum opening.
A range of farm improvements had been made that aimed to minimise the risk of E-Coli infection and to ensure they were in line with government recommendations. Additional hand washing facilities had been installed and information cards were being handed out to all visitors explaining the sensible precautions they should take.
Gressenhall had now joined the Village Screen movement and had launched the Workhouse Cinema. This was another avenue which raised awareness and generated income.
The Friends of Gressenhall had continued to provide huge support to the site and had held fundraising events. The Friends had recently purchased two Suffolk Punch horses who were working very well.
The New Wildlife garden had been opened recently by the Friends. This had been a very successful project which had transformed part of the site.
There were 120 active volunteers who underpinned the activities ran at the site.
Gressenhall was continuing to benefit from funding through the Renaissance in the Regions Programme that came under the 2011-12 East of England Hub Business Plan. A new project ‘Building Resilience’ would focus on aiming to reduce energy consumption, reduce revenue costs and increase income.
School visits were continually being sustained and were expected to reach 10,000 school children this year. The Learning team continued to deliver a creative learning programme to all schools, from reception to secondary.
A new day event called ‘Once Upon a Time’ was being held whereby the museum would open up a gallery of fairytales.
A Night-time murder mystery event recently held had been very successful. This had been a pilot event which once advertised had been sold out within two weeks. 80 members of the public attended the evening where they toured round the site encountering dramas to piece a story together.
Gressenhall continued to host a Renaissance-funded 18 month Farm Apprenticeship post in partnership with Easton College.
The Skills for the Future Project was now recruiting its first trainees and would deliver accredited training in traditional skills. The £680,000 project ran over 3-years and would support volunteer and staff development.
Mr Hanley reported that there was evidence that the recession was beginning to impact on the museum, but was only fractional compared to last year.
They were continuing to market the museum pass for visitors and monitor visitor trends.
A member asked if the weather had an impact on visits. Members were informed that in 2010 there had been a slight impact in the summer holidays due to the weather conditions.
Another member asked how much funding had been given for the toddler playground. It was confirmed that £30,000 had been awarded which had been crucial for the development of the site. The new area had been enclosed for toddlers to run around, and was next to the picnic area for parents.
The Chairman thanked Mr Hanley for his report.