A personal introduction to these resources
I was first involved with the Museums at Night festival back in 2009, and over the next decade it grew into a twice-yearly extravaganza of after-hours events across the UK. I spoke to thousands of museum people over the years, encouraging them to programme creative events and pass on what they learned. It was one of the highlights of my professional life so far!
I created and commissioned a range of resources to support museums and galleries to create, promote and deliver successful after-hours events. The selection of resources below is largely based on case studies, guidelines and tips from museum and gallery staff and volunteers over the years based on their personal experiences, sharing what worked well, what they wished they’d known beforehand and how they’ve learned from mistakes.
The festival wasn’t just about big museums with budgets for event marketing: you’ll discover extraordinary creativity, often taking place on a shoestring budget, at the most quirky and unusual heritage sites across the land. If you’re considering programming an after-hours event at your cultural or heritage space, I hope this provides some inspiration and reassurance.
Museum Lates are nothing new! I was delighted to read this quote from Still Digging by energetic adventurer and magnificently moustached archaeologist Sir Mortimer “Rik” Wheeler, about one of his audience development initiatives. While working at the Museum of London in the 1930s, he experimented with programming a series of classical music concerts:
“These concerts were a great success. The audience consisted of an astonishing medley of critics, music students, tradesmen, guardsmen with their girls, passers-by and pilgrims of all sorts.
They stood or sat about on the stairs or balconies or vacant patches of floor, without any special provision; indeed the slight discomfort contributed to the sense of informality and adventure.
No stage separated listener from performer, and the resultant sense of intimacy gave an unusual quality to the scene.
‘But what has music to do with a museum?’ asked the caviler.
‘A museum, my dear sir, is a home of the muses. Why should we turn Euterpe into the storm?’”
Let this inspire everyone considering programming musical or performance events after hours!
Although the Museums at Night festival eventually drew to an end, with after-hours programming becoming normalised all year round, Culture24 will continue to host these resources and keep them freely accessible here on our website.
For an overview of the current Lates situation, you may appreciate the extensive research Culture24 carried out in 2018, which resulted in this three-part study into museum and gallery Lates and their role in the night-time economy.
I would like to thank my mentor, Festival Producer Nick Stockman for his support and encouragement, along with all the Culture24 staff, festival interns, participatory artists, curious journalists and friendly project partners who came on this journey with us. Special thanks to all the brilliant museums who took this opportunity to experiment with creative programming, and everyone who wrote up case studies – and of course, to all the members of the public who thought the idea of doing something different in a museum after hours was intriguing enough to come along to.