West Cheshire Museums manages Chester History and Heritage; Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse; Stretton Watermill; Lion Saltworks; and Grosvenor Museum. These diverse group of local museums and their collections cover a huge slice of Cheshire’s history and tell the stories of the area’s people and places, from prehistoric times to the present day.
What: Local Authority
When: Cohort 1
How West Cheshire Museums describe their experience
of the Prosper North programme:
Transformative – Supportive – Consultative
Their ambition is to inspire their community and visitors to discover, explore and enjoy West Cheshire’s rich heritage, culture and history by providing a fun, engaging and memorable visitor experience through the conservation and interpretation of the collections and buildings in our care.
Within the local authority, the museum team is small, long-standing and often stretched to deliver. They are trying to modernise the service and are looking at their skills gap in areas such as technology, income generation and marketing through the ‘Curating Change’ project. Large established services, such as the museum often prove are notoriously complex to adapt their direction of travel and managing change has been likened to steering a large ship.
Richard Hall is the Finance and Performance Team Leader for West Cheshire Museums, a role that is designed to seek out opportunities and move the business forward. He attended several sessions and disseminated his learning among other team members and managers. ‘All the sessions were excellent, but my lightbulb moment was the in-depth business planning in Bolton’. He could see both internal and external opportunities emerging from this session. He particularly benefitted from interaction with other people in the cohort who were experiencing similar challenges and willing to share their learning. He commented that the people who led sessions were very knowledgeable and had a genuine interest in helping the participants. Due to the size of the groups they were able to adapt the sessions to suit the needs of the participants.
As a result of the business planning sessions and as part of an on-going buildings and staffing review, they are looking to rewrite both their five-year business and marketing plans, together with reviewing and integrating the retail and merchandising, and developing an online shop.
Building on the learning from Prosper North, they are now looking at wide range external partners as long-term relationships rather than one offs. These include numerous small community partnerships linked to museums, CICs delivering education, catering and training, Marketing Cheshire to get the message out and the Bank of America, who are giving advice on customer relationship management.
Richard gained a great deal from his involvement in Prosper North. It gave him the confidence to take forward his role, support the change process, develop thinking around the ambitions for his service within the authority and the community, and make the work with partners a reality. ‘Maybe I steered the ship just a degree.’
Prosper North was a free programme funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and delivered by Creative United in partnership with Key Fund, Bates Wells, Social Investment Business. The programme offered a mix of free, tailored 1:1 business support, workshops, webinars and meetups designed to enable cultural heritage organisations in the North of England to increase income and impact, become more resilient businesses and explore social investment.
You can find out more about the Prosper North programme here.