How to Revive Margate Museum and Old Town in One Day
A clue can be found in a comment I left on the Margate Architecture blog recently. To be honest the whole things seems so obvious that I have had (a) a eureka moment or (b) an idea so crazy but viable that no one has mentioned it.
This is that idea.
As a heathen I have already mentioned in the Thanet Star that I knew not that Margate Museum existed and I bet other heathens don't know too. The problem, then, is two fold - making them aware and causing them to care. This is the solution.
This summer we will have a party.
This street party will take place in Margate Old Town and will be fully supported by the local authority if they like it or not. The end result will have drawn a massive crowd to the old town and with sufficient preparation will see Margate Museum inflate it's visitor rate enough to challenge the drop of funding.
Considering that the council expects it's current grant money for such museums to see just 198 people a week one need only find a way to increase the amount of people (over a three month period) using the funded services to (re)justify the grant. This currently amounts to 33 people a day assuming that they all open Saturday or 6 to 7 people per hour (one average family every half hour or a single guy or gal every ten minuets) assuming they open for five hours.
If this was one venue that would be a "not too bad" people flow but we are talking all venues. Making this quite poor. What is needed is a venue to be filled to the maximum and taking a lot of small change from the people while they are there.
Form a consortium. This should include as many pubs and food outlets from old town as possible. The aim should be to celebrate Margate's Heritage in Old Town and involve a joint promotion on an agreed day. It is very important to release control of things so that people can grab hold of ideas they like and run with them.
Locally based businesses should consider running competitions such as prize draws, tombola, live entertainment, and similar. This raises the "carnival atmosphere" and makes it even more interesting for the customers drifting through. Add to this some live music if possible and the day is set to be a smash hit.
Now the seeds of the street party are established. We can use the Council Leaders own words to have a form of static carnival. Nothing centralised - that would be an illegal gathering if the right permission was not granted (which we should ask for anyway).
Sandy Ezekiel harps on about Cafe Society and at the start of this year I asked several Councilors what the heck he was talking about. It finally came to light that he meant that cafes and pubs should be able to put street furniture out without planning permission effectively extending the cafe onto the street.
Our celebration extends this until the edges meet. This covers us for legality (I told you the council were useful for something) and frees us up for step two.
Now while that is getting set-up we most move on to business. Specifically cross sell. We are aiming to establish a set of cross sell agreements that will allow discounts and free item vouchers to be distributed from lots of different venues.
Ideally this should lead customers on a tour. They eat at venue A and get a voucher for a half price pint at pub B where they pick up... you get the idea. It would work well if there were options for the customers to follow.
The net result is that businesses like Michael's book shop should be able to distribute Thanet History books on a buy or return, Photographers (like Ralph Holt) can establish similar deals and in the general up sell everyone wins.
Especially the museum which would be able to earn a tidy additional operational profit (ala Micheal's suggestion on another blog for which I will dig up a link later). While we are at it the powerhouse of the advertising and promotion (all the pubs and eateries) also gain from the event.
Tip off the right people at the right time. Let the press know only when they have enough time to raise public awareness but not enough time to rain on the parade. This gets free publicity and hopefully some reporters who can champion the cause. Let them know that they will be competing with Thanet Bloggers on the reporting and coverage of the event to add an extra boost to their enthusiastic efforts.
Tip off all (reasonable) campaign groups that a leaflet distributing event is about to happen. Do this in enough time for them to get there with leaflets but not enough time to tip off the press. This will add valuable crowd numbers to get the ball rolling and even a damp fizz event will encourage the local businesses to try again.
Contact any publicly and civic minded group. So local Community Mutuals, Fathers Groups, Mothers Groups, Parents Groups, Family Groups (etc.) and let them know that a family event will be taking place.
Invite local theatre groups and churches with large youth memberships and suggest that some street theatre might be a good idea. Let them know that they will need to get the relevant permits but that it would allow them to promote whatever it is they want to promote.
Tip off the local business community, specially the networkers. Get them in on establishing a "networking event" as part of the day and then you pull people with spending power in addition to the mums and dads. Time it well and you will have rewarded an eatery or two with a full compliment of paying customers which instantly makes the event something to be excited about (for them) leading to more promotion.
It's easy really. As old Bob did with Band Aid. He simply put people together with an idea and let natural chemistry do the rest. He got fame, starving kids got fed and pop stars got attention and sold records (as a side effect of course).
We will have created an event populated it with people (who spend money and justify the businesses investments) and as a result have a huge audience to convert to the idea of visiting heritage venues. That is before the every day Joe public also join us to pack out Old Town with people. All that can be done with a chair, a desk and a telephone.
By now we have seeded details and adverts for the local museums throughout the Old Town with Pubs, shops and Eateries that are joining in. This is where the Museum should be getting ready. Making sure the lights are bright, the dust is only where dust should be and that everything is well labeled.
It would be a good plan to get some local schools to make displays to explain the exhibits. Not only would the school come to visit (probably for free) but they would take the experience home to Mum and Dad. Once little Johnny's painting is on the wall for the big event Mum and Dad are going to pay to get in to see it.
Again this is another opportunity to get the press taking photos and commiserating the loss. Don't push too hard just let them "report the facts" in preparation for a campaign to "save our heritage" later. This lead up and even the day itself is about raising awareness.
Step four is all about getting the basics ready. Bright colours and good illumination are vital for creating a good impression. They might not sit well with the ideas of preserving the artifacts but this is a technical problem and one that must be solved.
(The day and after).
Proportional to the amount of effort invested by the Museum and it's supporters the number of people drawn to visit and alerted to it's existence (and to that of others) in terms of literature distribution and public awareness will be many orders of magnitude greater than a simple "event" to which mums and dads are dragged kicking a screaming. It is fully possible that almost no overt advertising need be done to benefit. Instead that effort will have been focused creating the demand to which the information acts as the answer.
The day itself is about getting the most out of this huge present audience that we have created. The idea of heritage as something they might be interested in must be sold with the same verve and life as the event itself was given. Again allow school kids and art students to compete to promote the Museum.
For example run a give away (spend some money even) for the best "walking advert". The bigger the prize fund the bigger and more impressive the "walking adverts" will be. Then commission lots of judges who will chat to "walking adverts" and take their details. Whoever impressed enough judges wins.
This methodology is sometimes called Guerrilla, or viral marketing. Both terms fail to get to the numb of it for me but it is largely a case of how far outside of the box you are willing to get. Because everything inside the box is heading for a dusty disused filing cabinet.
This whole approach is about letting go of control that was never containable to start with. Let the students and local artists and inventive people come up with previously unthought of ways to promote what matters and be ready to bend with the wind a little. The result is that a huge amount of customer attention is created in away that money could never have purchased.
The result is visitors. Lack of visitors being the thing that is killing the museums of Thanet. With visitor rates up funding makes sense.
If 250 people visit the Margate Museum during the week of the event (most on the day) and another 1000 extra visit any of the funded resources over the following few months then the figures will justify increased expenditure on promotion of these resources and supporters will be able to go back to the council and make a case for some more money.
It was a sad day when the council took control of a certain local theatre. They being even more heathens of the arts than I am. The reason it happened is that in a highly depressed Market (the arts Market is very sickly around Thanet) there needs to be innovation on innovation. Working with other people to help meet their needs (in our case businesses and Old Town as a whole) any group can innovate a solution to their needs as part of the bigger picture.
We Thanet people (and especially us Bloggers) like to site around and moan. We can talk all four legs off a donkey but only by working together can we hope to persuade it to go for a walk afterwards. With a little tactical and mutual cooperation there is no mountain we can not move.
Even in Thanet.