Sustainable Improvement Fund 2016

We’re pleased to announce that the next round of the Sustainable Improvement Fund is now open for applications.

The Sustainable Improvement Fund is a major part of the Museum Development North West Programme (MDNW).  This Programme embraces the Arts Council’s five strategic goals set out in Culture, knowledge and understanding: great museums and libraries for everyone to drive development and deliver sustainability, resilience and innovation in museums in the North West.

North West Accredited museums can bid to The Sustainable Improvement Fund to experiment and trial new ideas to strengthen sustainability and resilience.  The Fund can help you develop new ways of working, partnerships and business models.  It can provide funding for simple projects that can make a big difference in what you do or how you do things; or for more ambitious projects where you want to explore or test ideas in order to develop more substantial funding bids from other sources.

The Fund reflects the North West’s commitment to partnership working: it supports museums to continue to work together, and to develop creative relationships with cultural organisations, as well as with a wide range of external partners.

The application process has changed for this year and we now require all applicants to submit an expression of interest before submitting the full application.

Expressions of Interest need to be submitted by Friday 15th January with full applications due on Friday 4th March.

Please send all completed expression of interest forms to Alex Bird, Sector Development Officer at or post to:

Alex Bird
Museum Development North West
Manchester Museum
Oxford Road
M13 9PL

Sustainable Improvement Fund Guidance

Expression of Interest Form

Sustainable Improvement Fund Application Form

Want to tour exhibitions and collections internationally? Last chance to register for British Council publication

As part of an ACE funded project to develop museums capacity to tour exhibitions and collections internationally, the British Council is producing a brochure to showcase the wealth of collections held by UK museums and to encourage approaches from overseas museums for touring exhibitions or loans.

The brochure, which will be available both in hard copies and online, will be used by British embassies, UK Trade & Investment, and British Council offices overseas to promote UK museums worldwide. It will be launched at the American Alliance of Museums conference in Washington DC in May 2016.

All UK museums – both national and non-national, are invited to register their interest. There is no charge for inclusion in the brochure. The brochure content is being collated and edited by the National Museum Directors’ Council.

For more information and an application form, please contact

The deadline for submitting material is Friday 27 November 2015

Second Call for Participants: Culture for Cities

Culture for cities and regions is a €1 million project funded under the Creative Europe programme.

The aim of the programme is to take stock of existing practices all over Europe, whilst exchanging and promoting a transfer of knowledge. The hope is that this will help create a better understanding of successful cases of cultural investment. The programme will also go into the details of policy planning and implementation.

By making sure that cities and regions involved in the project place culture at the heart of their territorial development strategies, the programme is aiming for long lasting results that will be widely shared and showcased widely in Europe.

The project has so far support 5 study visits to share knowledge between cultural practitioners across Europe. The latest took place in Dundee on 18 November. Participants from museums and other cultural organisations from ten European cities and regions spent three days exchanging on the main drivers and processes behind Dundee’s creative dynamics as part of the 5th study visit for the #cultureforcitiesregions project. You can find out more here.

A second call for participants in thematic study visits on culture taking place from February to April 2016. The deadline is the 4th December and more information can be found here.

Learning Museum Call for partners 2015‏

The National Programmes team at the British Museum has announced an open call for partners for the second phase of Learning Museum, the British Museum’s latest Skills for the Future programme, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Learning Museum is an entry-level vocational training programme to be delivered in partnership with twenty museums and heritage centres across the UK between 2014 and 2017. Through Learning Museum partners will: provide young people from all backgrounds with a year-long programme high quality work-based training that will involve championing best practice in museum collections, programming and development; and creating a strong professional network for sharing expertise amongst all parties.

Applications to be part of the Learning Museum programme will be accepted until 1 December, and are welcome from UK museums, galleries and heritage centres of all shapes and sizes. We are particularly keen to collaborate with organisations with no previous experience of partnership with the British Museum.

Applications forms are available here, as well as on the British Museum’s Learning Museum webpage. For any further information please see here

Museum Development North West Calendar

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new feature on our blog,  the Museum Development North West Calendar.

The calendar, which can be found herewill keep you up to date with our events schedule, as well as deadlines for funding opportunities.

If there is anything you would like us to add to the calendar, please get in touch as it will be updated frequently.

Museum + Heritage Awards for Excellence 2016 – Open for Entries

The Museum + Heritage Awards for Excellence 2016 are now open for entries. The awards continue to generate public recognition for the winners and shortlistees, and have been instrumental in helping many to secure funding and support from key stakeholders. Award winners have also enjoyed recognition both locally and further afield as the awards increasingly gain an international profile.

The deadline for entries is 1 February 2016 and hundreds of submissions are expected from museum and heritage attractions across the UK and overseas battling it out for one of these prestigious Awards.

For further information, including details of categories and how to submit your application, please visit their website here.

ACE Cultural Education Data Portal – Now Live

Arts Council England (ACE) has launched the Cultural Education Data Portal, which aims to bring together and provide easy access to a wide variety of data sources relating to children and young people, demographics, arts, culture and education.

The data portal can be used by researchers, policy makers, and arts and cultural organisations to help support evidence-based planning at a local level, paint a picture of strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for a high quality cultural offer, or simply to gather data and evidence to support funding bids.

To find out more and to access the data portal see here.

TEG Beginning to Tour seminar

On 15 January at  Manchester Art Gallery, the Touring Exhibitions Group will be hosting a seminar focusing on the topic of “Beginning to Tour”

The seminar will take participants through the key stages of planning and delivering touring exhibitions. It will also explores the perspective of both the producer of the exhibition and hiring venue, shares up-to-date examples of best practice and provides valuable networking opportunities.

The cost of the seminar is £45 for TEG members and £70 for non-members. To book you place see here

Museums Association 2015 Conference Report

9 things I learned from the MA Conference

1. The conference can be a very geeky (and surprisingly fun) birthday party
When I (finally!) completed my Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA) last year, I knew that I would be presented with my certificate at the next annual conference. To my dismay, I discovered that the next conference fell on my 30th birthday and instead of partying with my friends and family, I would be on my own in a soulless Birmingham hotel room. How wrong I was! I was very fortunate to receive funding from Museum Development North West to attend the full conference (sadly the funding didn’t stretch to balloons and a birthday cake!), and I was determined to make the most of an opportunity that I knew I was unlikely to get again. Conference turned out to be a great opportunity to meet inspiring people, learn new things, critically reflect on the sector, and even enjoy a couple of ‘Radical Futures’ cocktails.

2. Birmingham did a great job of showing off their museums and galleries
With a jam-packed conference programme, I would have found it very difficult to go out and explore what Birmingham had to offer. Fortunately, the MA had arranged out of hours access to three great venues – Thinktank, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Icon Gallery – in the form of drinks receptions. It wasn’t just about the free wine (although that was lovely!) – highlights included making a magic wand, light painting and a pop-up planetarium.

3. Ask a wicked question…
Sharon Heal, Director of the Museums Association opened the conference by encouraging us to ask ‘wicked questions’ in order to turn our thinking on its head and help us to think more critically. Should all museums stay open? Do we need museum directors? Do we need so many national museums? I’ll definitely be taking this away and asking myself and my organisation some wicked questions in order to be more reflective in my practice.

4. Networking doesn’t have to be scary
The thought of standing in a room full of strangers and having to ‘network’ genuinely makes me feel a bit sick. However, the conference was a great opportunity to meet people from across the country (and the globe) in lots of different roles and I found my fear subsiding as I chatted to lots of inspirational people. It was brilliant to learn about different museums, collections and approaches, and to learn from what isn’t working as much as what is. I met a self-styled ‘disruptive curator’, chewed the fat about conference sessions, and even bumped into a few familiar faces.

5. The sector loves a bit of navel-gazing
Some of the sessions I attended focused very much on ‘big-picture’ debates, particularly around workforce diversity. Whilst these sessions were interesting, challenging and tackled important issues, I found that they were lacking in take-away actions that we can use to really make the changes that are needed. I fear that if we’re just talking to ourselves, we’re in danger of working in an echo-chamber and I would have appreciated input from other sectors to give a fresh perspective.

6. You can learn more from smaller museums…
Someone gave me a great piece of advice early in the conference: ‘you’ll see lots of big museums getting up on stage and telling us this great innovative thing they’ve been doing, and you’ll find that smaller museums have been doing it for years’. Hands down, the best session of the whole conference was ‘More Than Reminiscence’ from Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery. Dr Paul Camic and Jeremy Kimmel gave a thought-provoking and engaging demonstration of object handling workshops they had developed for people with dementia, that focused on the here and now and not the past. The workshop was practical, innovative and had everyone talking about it afterwards. They’ve developed a toolkit that can be used in any museum on a shoestring, and I’d highly recommend checking it out.

7. …and staff at all levels (not just directors)
Friday’s programme kicked off with an ‘in conversation’ session with four national museum directors. Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections at Glasgow Life argued that we need to make museums less hierarchical, allow staff to use their skills more fully and speak to front of house staff. I feel that the conference would have benefitted from this approach, with more sessions being led by front of house staff and presenters being more representative of staff and volunteers at all levels.

8. We need more freedom to take risks and think creatively
Unsurprisingly, a lot of discussion during the conference was surrounding cuts, closures and further cuts to come. When inspiring case studies were presented, inevitably people would say ‘well that’s great, but we could never afford to do that’. There was an overall impression of people feeling ground-down and frustrated. However, I want to think more positively. We can take the essence of a great idea and look for ways to apply it to our organisations.

For example, the Museum of Gothenburg encouraged us to ‘unlearn’ and ‘Funk-think’. They argued that ‘knowing nothing’ as a point of departure can be a constructive critical tool for transforming the museum. One of the case studies they presented worked with people with different ‘function variations’ and took the approach that it is the museum that has the disability and not the visitors. They employed ‘Funktek Pilots’, who had different function variations and were paid to test the museum. Through a process of try again, fail again, fail better they test and learn constantly.

Whilst most museums will not have the budget to run a project of the same scale, the philosophy of the idea is something that everyone can embed into our own practice. However we need the support of our organisations (and funders) to be able to try out new ideas, think creatively and test innovative approaches.

9. I want to make sure that this investment doesn’t go to waste
To send someone to conference, organisations invest time and money, however often that investment is limited to just the couple of days out of the office that the conference (or other training) takes. Staff come away feeling inspired, but within a week are back on the treadmill of day to day pressures and don’t have the time to reflect on and implement learning. To really reap the benefits we need to see conference as not just a self-contained jolly, but as part of a wider CPD process. I need to ensure that I put aside time to critically reflect on what I’ve learnt, share big ideas with colleagues, and ask the wicked questions that will help me to put those ideas into practice.

By Catherine O’Donnell, Engagement & Events Officer, People’s History Museum

The John Ruskin Prize 2015 Final Call for Artists – Win £5000

From Hogarth to Hamilton, artists have long used their work as a platform for social commentary and debate. Don’t miss your chance to have your say on British society today and win up to £5000 with The John Ruskin Prize 2015.

Organised by The Big Draw in collaboration with the Guild of St George and The Pilgrim Trust, there are just 4 days left to apply for The John Ruskin Prize 2015, open to all artists 18 and over living in the UK. In 2015, The Big Draw are inviting submissions in a range of 2D media in response to the theme: ‘Recording Britain Now: Society’.

  • £8000 in prizes to be awarded to selected artists: £5000 winning prize, and new £2000 runner up prize and £1000 student prize.
  • The New Art Gallery Walsall to host the shortlist exhibition featuring 15 shortlisted artists.
  • Award winning artist Adam Dant joins the selection panel in 2015 alongside: Gill Saunders (Senior Curator of Prints,V&A Museum), Stephen Snoddy (Director, The New Art Gallery Walsall), Sue Grayson Ford (Big Draw President), Clive Wilmer (Master, The Guild of St.George).

Full terms and conditions for The John Ruskin Prize 2015  are available here

Behaviour Management and Youth Arts

Artswork are set to host an event discussing Behaviour Management and Youth Arts on 24 February 2016 at HOME, Manchester.

The course will focus on the process of understanding challenging behaviour and the best ways to cope with it, a topic essential to any youth arts project. This one-day course looks at how you can create a positive environment from the offset, and get the most out of your young people! Together the course will provide support and address any issues within your own projects that you would like to discuss.

From this event delegates will gain:

  • Understanding of behavioural issues, their causes and their preventions
  • Strategies for transforming challenging
  • Flexible and responsive approaches to use in your own work
  • Troubleshooting 101 – an opportunity to discuss personal concerns or previous experiences, and learn how to manage these more effectively in the future

The course will cost £130 per person, including lunch, refreshments and a certificate of attendance for each delegate. Limited bursary places are available. English National Youth Arts Network members receive 10% discount on spaces. Membership is free, to sign up see here

Book your place here or contact Rachel Hall for further information.