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Inspirational Design

Always a fan of new inspiration I have been a regular viewer of the TED talks and podcast series.

They always provide me with some optimism and spark new creative ideas.

I recently enjoyed this talk by Jacek Utko on how he has reversed all newspaper sales trends through the creative use of design … something we are passionate about here at the Herbert. Have a look for yourself … I found this fascinating – although I worked in papers for over 13 years so forgive me if you yawn.

… this month I have given our designers the freedom to go wild on our next What’s On cover as a lead in this direction …. watch this space…



Peace and Youth

This November has seen an odd collision of events.  We host a number of events as part of Coventry’s annual Peace Festival, which attract many familiar and some new faces to the talks.  Sunday 14th November was both Remembrance Sunday and the 70th anniversary of the Blitz.   The sense of respect for the fallen, veterans’ military pride and peace activism sit side by side and it feels taboo to explore the contradictions, despite my feeling that Coventry’s Blitz is a symbolic moment in the shift in warfare over the last 100 years, from 80% of causalities being soldiers to become 80% civilians.

Artist Presha Dem teaching air-brush skills.

The other dimension, which has made this year remarkable, is our Street Art exhibition.   The ‘in your face’ essence of street art, even in a comparatively refined gallery context, sits strangely with the respect being offered veterans in the Herbert and the neighbouring Cathedrals.

Street Art shows work that is almost universally anti-authoritarian, and much of it is social commentary and calls for peace, often revealing hypocrisy as incisively as Gillray or Hogarth. Street Art is attracting a huge number of visitors, including younger people who so rarely visit galleries, and they are responding strongly to the content, putting the lie to the idea that young people only want the vacuous culture which is sold to them.

Working on the shirts.

Mohammed Ali’s installation portrays people who have been labelled both terrorist and freedom fighter.  Ghandi’s role in history is settled, William as Ouderland is less clearly decided, and when Mohammed talked about Salah Ad-din (Saladin)’s humanity upon liberating Jerusalem in 1187, I realised the weight of historical ideology I hold around the word “liberate”. His work also includes two moving images of Coventry’s Cathedral, and a disturbing piece in which falling bombs are rendered with a beauty resonant of Islamic lattice work.

As a community project linked to Mohammed’s forthcoming event “Breaking Down the Wall”, I was working with young people involved in the “Rep Ur Endz” project – about pride in representing

The CV6 tag on the sleeve.

their districts in the city. The day after we had 2400 visitors to our Blitz family event, I asked the young men about their thoughts about remembrance happenings.  The reply “I haven’t noticed anything” left me wondering how so much civic endeavour can fail to touch thoughtful young people.

These young men are not ‘dis-engaged’ with issues of peace however. The final t-shirt proclaims “Rep Ur Endz CV3” . . . but their preliminary sketches for artwork show a sense of responsibility  and connection to the broader world.

Early artwork sketches – Rep/ Palestine Ur Endz.

Breaking down the wall: featuring Mohammed Ali painting and poets live in the Herbert takes place on Friday 19th November 7pm.

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Experiment S

Crowds Gather for Beginining of the Launch

Okay,  so I said I would get back before the launch and I didn’t, and even though we had a barn storming 2,000 people turn up to our Street Art Launch and get down to Jason Fury’s Hip Hop vibes,  I still didn’t make it back here to share the effect of the planning we had noted in advance.

If you didn’t make the launch and are a little curious you can watch a record of the night here through Mohammed Ali’s eyes.

It appears that stage 1 of Experiment S is complete. We planned and targeted new incoming students through print, email, press and bribery (sweets) and provided a quality product. The results have been quite stunning.

We now have a regular flow of students within the building interacting with our cafe, collections and of course the three Street Art Exhibitions that kind of hit the nail on the head with content.

Stage two of this new direction in audience development is to get a moderate repeat performance for the two events we have coming up for Mohammed Ali – Can Graffiti Art Really Change the World talk with luminary Henry Chalfant and Breaking Down the Wall Live with spoken word and live art that should be a really nice vibe in the gallery.

Crowds Mob the V A Street Art Exhibition

The real challenge of course is sustaining student interest in our offer when Street Art moves out and something with less obvious connections moves in.

We will always be a family friendly venue and need to generate a dual focus – if done effectively, holiday periods where many students are absent would be flowing with families and when families with older children are at school and work our local student population would help us keep up those numbers.

If we look at the positives of what we experienced in our successful family audience focus it would lead us to an approach of total saturation of ‘student’ content,thinking, programming, offer, appeal, marketing, learning, interest, inclusion, media running through everything we do in order become really student friendly.

Let’s hope this can be pulled off by our amazingly talented teams across all departments…

… another time.

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Is This Thing On?….

Today’s guest post is from Dave Sumner, a Marketing and Communications Assistant at the Herbert.

Hello my name is Dave Sumner and believe it or not this is my very first foray into the world of blogging so please hang in there with me.

In a world run on social websites I have found myself shying away from Twitter faces and my tubes. Call me crazy, but I’ve never understood what’s social about sitting on your own at a computer screen tapping away at a keyboard. So when asked to write a blog about myself and my role at the Herbert I was understandably apprehensive, but I thought it was time to have a go, roll my sleeves up and join the thronging masses.

Now I know you’re probably thinking ‘this guy’s been living in a cave and if he ever sees a computer he’ll start burning it at the stake for witchcraft’. But, believe it or not, before joining the Herbert I actually spent 10 years working in IT on an IT helpdesk. I guess that’s where my reluctance started.

After having spent 9 to 5 chained to a desk slowly becoming my own Dilbert character, coming home and voluntarily doing the same thing just didn’t seem right. 

I joined the Herbert Marketing team back in July and I’m here on a short-term contract for six months. I’m here to mainly help in setting up and running a new CRM Database. It will eventually be used by all the staff here as a central source of information that will hopefully improve everyone’s understanding of the relationships that exist between ourselves and our contacts the outside world. I’ve also found myself doing some telephone prospecting to businesses around the area to establish whether they might have a need to hire some of our competitively priced rooms whilst explaining what fantastic facilities we have here at the Herbert. Read the rest of this entry

Well Hello…

… wow

It’s been a time since I have been meaning to introduce myself and share a little insight into the work that my team and I deliver but I’d fallen into that age old password and username trap.

With so many websites, platforms, applications, personal security and work vs personal things to remember I had failed at the first hurdle of misplacing the password and username amongst the droves that I’d set up – a personal bug bear I have yet to fully bring under control in my life.  Life has become so much more challenging and demanding with regards to technological input for a person of my age.

Screenshot from the zx81

I’m no technophobe, are computer and social networking literate, pretty much see myself as an early adopter, but still can’t get away from the fact that my introduction to computers was a primary school teacher with a ZX81 who had built a carry box for it the size of a table football to grandly unveil its prowess in making a stick man do star jumps. I guess I will always have a little bit of that ZX 81 ingrained on my frontal lobes slowing me down…

Anyway here I am. Hello.

I work heading up our talented, hardworking, dedicated, dashingly good-looking (and adequately modest) marketing and communications team.

Our mission in short is to spread the word. The word in this case being the groundbreaking, inspiring, emotionally stimulating, educational brilliance of  both the work our experienced teams deliver on an hourly basis and the well-developed quality of our public offer.

As a trust we aim to ‘Bring History and the Arts to Life’, and as part of a small communications team our simple goal is to ensure that all of this work does not go unnoticed. Sounds relatively simple and generally it is. But not always.

Over the coming weeks and months I aim to share with you things that we have dealt with retrospectively, things we are currently working on and some challenges we are struggling to meet. Along the way I’m sure we might learn something from suggestions you may contribute and I hope you may learn more about the breadth and depth of our organisation’s work.

I’ll be joined in this outpouring of all things marketing by a cast of brilliant characters who will unveil their unique superhero abilities in marketing for all to see … but for now … I’ll say a brief thank you to my brain for finally remembering my password and username … back soon!

Jamie Perry, Head of Marketing and Communications

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Herbert Looks For New Friends

Sir William Craven of Coombe Abbey (1638-1695) by John Hayls purchased with assistance from the Friends in 1984
No, it’s not Ben! It’s Sir William Craven of Coombe Abbey by John Hayls purchased with assistance from the Friends.

A special message from Ben Goodwin, Marketing and Communications Assistant:

As the person responsible for new members joining our Friends of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum organisation, I have to say it’s been wonderful to actively see how supportive the people of Coventry really are.

This is Ben!

The Friends help to raise funds for the museum, help acquire new items for the collections or enhance other aspects of the organisation’s facilities. It’s also a social organisation that provides a forum for people to meet, be entertained and work together towards a good cause. 

Since we re-launched the organisation a couple of months ago, many people have come forward and, not only have they joined the Friends, they have offered their own time, services and vast expertise. This has come in various forms, from administrative support at the Herbert itself to members offering special talks in their chosen subject areas and others are utilising their contacts to further promote the group.

I know we are a popular attraction within the area, but, when people interact with us in the way I’ve just described, you understand how much the people of Coventry recognise the Herbert as an important place in our city. They have an emotional attachment to a place that’s more than just a museum; it’s a place for the people of Coventry and its visitors to meet, celebrate and explore their cultural and creative past, present and futures.

There are many benefits of becoming a Friend including a discount in our shop, unique guided tours and talks, VIP invites to exhibition launches, a Friends newsletter and priority entry to special events. However, in the words of the Friends Chairman, Pete Walters, ‘what people get out of this organisation is unquantifiable. The sense of pride and achievement in seeing a campaign come to fruition is amazing.’

I couldn’t agree more with Peter, as, to me (admittedly, I’m biased!) the Herbert represents the heart and soul of the ever-changing city around us. Those who join the Friends want to be part of the gallery; people who will represent and cherish what the gallery stands for.

I’m very proud to work at the Herbert, but it adds an extra sparkle to my role, knowing that there are such dedicated people across the city who are willing to engage with us in their free time. Their efforts make our offer more varied and colourful than anything that could be achieved on simply staff-power alone.

Be a Friend!If you’d like to join visit, pick up a leaflet from the museum itself or call Ben Goodwin on 024 7629 4736 for more information.

To celebrate the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum’s 50th Anniversary, there is a 50% discount on all Friends of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum memberships.

Friends prices under the current offer see annual memberships available at £16.25 for Adults, £13 for Concessions and £25 for a Family.

Please note that this is a time limited offer, so make sure you purchase your memberships on or before July 31st 2010.
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