Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse
Report of the Western Area Manager.
Mr Robin Hanley presented highlights from the report which covered the period between October 2013 to February 2014.
Mr Hanley provided Members with a full copy of the Countywide Curator Report for 2012-2013 for their information.
Gressenhall closed to the public on Sunday 3 November and re-opened for the February half-term holiday. The Museum opened with a ‘behind the scenes’ preview event which gave pass holders and friends of the Museum an opportunity for tours and access to areas that were not normally open to the public. The formal opening on Sunday 9 March was a successful start and made the front page headline of the local Eastern Daily Press on the 10March.
The full event programme was shared with Members and included some events which had been tried and tested and new events such as the Spring Fair and History Alive. Event days would be evaluated based on visitor statistics and feedback.
The cost of delivering and marketing the Gressenhall event programme continued to be subsidised with funding from the Arts Council England.
New events included a Workhouse-themed living history day called History Alive, and more thought had been given to Mothers Day event in treating Mums. The Museum would be supporting National Open Farm Sunday where free admission would be offered to the farm only. Another event introduced to the event programme was Rock and Roll Gressenhall which would be an intergenerational event exploring all things vintage dating from the 1950s and 1960s.
Gressenhall was pleased to be working in partnership with Breckland District Council to deliver the Festival on the Farm event on 26 July 2014.
The Apple Day event held on 20 October 2013 saw a strong number of people in attendance and it was encouraging to see the event continue to flourish.
There was a strong demand for the pre-booked Halloween event with 385 participants.
The pre-booked Victorian Family Christmas event took place on 15 December. It was a low cost event to deliver as it recycled materials that were used from school visits in the run up to the event.
The February half-term saw an increase in visitors with a core activity being an interactive trail aimed to appeal to the family audience.
Overall event day attendances at Gressenhall during the 2013 season had increased to 18,421 compared to 14,918 in 2012.
Gressenhall would be contributing to the county-wide programme of events commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.
The new 2014 site leaflet had been printed and distributed and headlined a strong family ticked price of £29 which was very competitive compared to other local attractions.
The Rediscover Gressenhall marketing campaign for discounted entry into the Museum would feature again in April 2014. It aimed to recruit new Museum pass members and capture email contact details for use in follow-up electronic marketing.
In other Museum developments, the Gressenhall superstores, recently renamed The Norfolk Collections Centre had improved public access to view collections. A new Mezzanine in one of the Superstores had increased storage capacity. Visitors would be guided around a number of key collections that had been arranged below the new mezzanine.
The Round One Heritage Grant application submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Voices from the Workhouse project had been successful and Gressenhall were very pleased with this. It had released funding to work on a detailed application which would transform the display areas.
Gressenhall continued to maintain a strong social networking presence with active and growing profiles on Twitter and Facebook. The museum had a Certificate of Excellence from the influential Trip Advisor website.
A new piece of equipment had been installed in the adventure playground continuing the annual programme of investment which was critical in maintaining audience numbers.
A new traditional oak-framed building replacing the temporary ticket huts was under construction and hoped to be open for 21 April 2014. This would provide a flexible space that would be used for ticketing on major event days and would provide toilet facilities accessible from the adjacent adventure playground. It would also provide a base for adult leisure learning courses.
Gressenhall continued to develop a range of commercial activities as a means of generating income which included the development of a site-appropriate wedding offer, and room hire for external visitors.
The Museum continued to benefit from the support of the Friends of the Museum in a range of activities.
The Gressenhall Learning Team continued to work with local schools to reflect changes in the National Curriculum. A strong package had been developed and would be tailored to suit the needs of the schools.
The Skills for the Future training project still remained a key programme for the museum and continued to work with partners who hosted work placements.
Gressenhall was now formally registered with Norfolk County Council as a Care Farm which offered funded work-based placements to a number of adults with learning difficulties.
Visitor numbers were circulated at the meeting.
Mr Richmond asked why the Spring Fair was at the Easter Weekend.
Mr Hanley said that Gressenhall usually supported an Easter Theme which included art attack activities. However they were changing its identity to see if it improved visitor numbers and would be closely evaluated. The Museum was up against fierce competition with the National Programme provided by National Trust.
Mr Richmond asked if the Museum had considered other types of social media such as Instagram. Mr Hanley confirmed that there was now a digital development officer who would maximise social media trends using a variety of tools.
Mr Oakes asked if there was any feedback from opening the Museum to pass holders for the behind the scenes event.
Mr Hanley said that it was the second year that this had happened and was a move towards Pass Holders feeling a part of the service rather than just discounted ticket holders.
Mr Blackburn asked if there was any information to confirm the amount of times a museum pass holder used the Museum.
Mr Hanley said a new ticket and membership system was being rolled out in April which would provide more effective tracking of Museum Pass users and allow for efficient marketing.
Mr Hebborn asked for the cost of the Museum Pass. Mr Hanley said that it was a very complicated system with over 35 different ways that a Museum Pass could be bought. However, it varied between £50 - £70 and the Museum service would be looking to simplify the pricing structure.
Mr Hanley gave a presentation providing more information on the Heritage Lottery Fund project for Voices from the Workhouse.
The Chairman thanked Mr Hanley for his comprehensive report.