Jody East: Channelling New Voices

Transformers case study
As a creative programming curator in my mid-thirties who has worked in museums for 11 years, I wasn’t sure if I yet qualified as a "mid career" professional to apply for the 2015-16 Transformers programme.

In a way I still feel like I’m just starting out, learning new things and hungry for new experiences all the time.

I then realised that that is exactly what the Transformers programme offers: both the chance to step back and think about the changing world of museums, and my own personal development in that; and also the chance to challenge myself and my organisation by embarking on a project funded by the Transformers microfund.

My head was bubbling with a range of things I wanted to suggest for my project – everything from mixing up teams to engaging younger audiences more in programming to something "digital" - vague to say the least!

More of a feeling than a plan... but that was OK, because as part of the programme we were given the support, space and tools to work through ideas, completely change ideas and share previous experiences. The project that I eventually pitched embraced all my original thoughts – Channelling New Voices became a way for the youth engagement, programming and digital teams to work in a more integrated way.

Two particular ideas formed – the first was iCurate, in which a young person joins our exhibition project team and spends a day or so a week working with us on an upcoming exhibition and curates the museum social media around the project.

Our first young person to be part of iCurate was Ruby, working on Fashion Cities Africa. Instagram was completely new for the museum at this stage so Ruby was the first person to lead on the content for it. It has given the museum's Instagram a really fresh, contemporary voice.

Ruby has also helped me set up a scheme called Digital Ambassadors. We could spend a lot of time as an organisation trying to market sites that young people engage with but we felt the most powerful way to engage this audience with our exhibition was to invite and encourage a group of young people to be ambassadors for it and use their own social media accounts to talk about it. To do this we put a call out to Brighton Fashion Week volunteers who were active on social media and had a strong interest in fashion.

Part of the project’s remit was also to engage more with creative digital industries in Brighton, which is a hub for innovative, creative people and I participated in Culture 24’s Young Audiences digital programme to give me more confidence in delivering iCurate and the Digital Ambassadors scheme. I’ve also given a talk at Good Rebels Digital Marketing Agency and there is potential for us to work together in the future.

As an organisation I think it’s been useful to highlight that working with young people does not have to just come under the learning team remit, and working with digital tools does not have to just come under the marketing/digital team, but the work we do is stronger and more joined up when we cross departmental borders. Both schemes we will take forward to future projects.

As an individual, one of the best things Transformers has provided me with is a network of peer support across the UK that I feel I can call on for advice, visits, inspiration and a cup of tea any time in the future.

Jody East is the creative programming curator at the Royal Pavilion & Museums in Brighton & Hove

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