I don’t know about you but I find that often when you live in or near a place you can end up taking it for granted, you don’t really look at what’s around you, you don’t appreciate the facilities and attractions, you don’t visit the ‘tourist’ destinations.
I’m way too guilty of this myself. Don’t ask me when the last time I visited an art gallery in Norwich was. I can tell you that the fact is I’ve visited a Museum/exhibition in London and Oxford more recently than I have visited one in Norwich, only 20 minutes down the road.
One place I did learn to appreciate though was Norwich Castle Museum. I had the privilege of working with them on a couple of projects a few years ago. I hate to say though I haven’t visited them since. I will. I must. Thing is maybe sometimes we (or I) need to make plans to visit these local places, as we would do if we were going somewhere further afield. Set aside a day. Make it an adventure.
Norwich Castle Museum gave me the opportunity to work alongside them on two different projects. Although completely unrelated the timing was similar, so I spent a fair bit of time there for about a year.
One project was working alongside fellow people with severe learning and/or physical disabilities. The main group of people were clients at the Hamlet Centre Norwich and the project was targeted towards and partly developed by them. I was given the opportunity to work alongside and separately to the main group. We were all given access to the various parts of the museum, provided with interactive tours, shown objects from archives.
The brief was then to create a piece or collection of artworks in any medium. Inspired by our time at the museum. These were then presented and exhibited in the Castle Keep. I had discussed and agreed to separate brief of producing a collection of pieces using techniques I had developed while working on my MA at NUA.
The ‘backstage’ experience of the castle was fascinating (that counts for both of my roles, you’ll find out the next one in a sec!), being given attention and your own guided tours, handling curious objects. It was also great for me as I’d not long completed my MA in Textile Culture, to have a reason to make artwork again. It’s all well and good making artworks for artworks sake, being creative, but when that creativity has a goal, that’s what I’m interested in, that is when I focus and work best. There was also an agreement that I could access studio workshops and equipment at NUA to create my artworks. This was brilliant for me, as you are given so much opportunity when studying to use vital pieces of equipment and machinery, yet when your studies are over this access is terminated. You have to change your ways of working around what materials etc you have access to. It is unlikely I will ever own a meter wide digital fabric printer or embroidery machine!
This project came to a natural end, I finished my pieces, the job was done.
My other role was as a member of Norwich Castle Museum Youth Forum. Working as part of a ‘youth’ team (we the forum members were aged 18-30ish) we held workshops and activities, predominantly fun educational sessions for children and teenagers, but also adult events.
I remember one of the adult events we held were a series of quiz nights in and around Norwich, in quirky pubs. The theme would always be based around art, history and the museum, as the aim of the Youth Forum was to encourage interaction with Norwich Castle Museum. The final quiz night (if I remember rightly it was the final one) was held on Museums at Night, in the Museum. Which is a big event where the castle is open later into the night and provides free entertainment and activities to its visitors.
Unfortunately this role was no longer available as changes were happening within the Museum and the Youth Forum as it was would be no more.
I was offered a different volunteer position at Norwich Castle Museum at the time, however this was of a different role. An advisory group was being set up, I have to be honest I didn’t read into the finer details. I was disappointed that the Youth Forum as it stood was ending, I enjoyed the creative process of organising activities for young people, coming up with ideas and making props. I enjoyed being around likeminded creative people my age, as well as being around the children to enthuse and encourage an interest in history and art.
Overall I enjoyed all of my time at Norwich Castle Museum.
I feel it is important to allow young people to have access to places like this, not only access but to become involved.
When people feel they are a part of something, their interest, respect, confidence and enthusiasm grows. Mine did anyway.
I was asked by Claire Adler, Heritage Consultant, to write this piece to help support a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. Which could hopefully mean that more young people will have access to the opportunities I was privileged to take part in.