NWFED associate members can attend all the NWFED events throughout the year for free. If you are an institutional member your staff and volunteers can attend all our events for free. Please take a look at the individual and institutional membership forms under Membership.

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In Conversation: Co-production & Working with Communities – Review Part One

0 posted July 26th, 2022 | Leave a reply
Agnes Fough, People's History Museum Community Team member speaking at NWFed In Conversation event July 2022

NWFed Board Member Claire Sleightholm reviews our recent sold out event at the People’s History Museum #InConversation

In what was NWFed’s first face to face conference for a few years, we were delighted to have a sell-out event. It seems museum people are ready to get back together and share.  For many, it was the first opportunity in a while to meet up with colleagues from the region, so it was fitting that the theme of the conference was co-production and working together. As the day progressed it became clear that lockdown, with its limitations and unexpected benefits, shaped projects in ways that could never have been expected.

The day started with NWFed Chair Alex Walker reflecting on the benefits of human connection in sharing ideas.

Katy Ashton followed, and as Director of our host venue, the aptly named People’s History Museum, she was well placed to suggest that co-production was in the “DNA of the organisation”. Going further, she indicated that there was a growing commitment in museums to act as facilitators for today’s concerns and, “how [museums] help us think about the world we live in today”.

Hearing next from PHM’s Programme Officer, Zofia Kufeldt, we learned about PHM’s programme-led approach with a new theme being explored every two years. These themes, “explore what it’s like to live in post-Brexit Britain,” and how our communities have “more in common than what divides us”.

The current theme is Migration: A Human Story. Co-production began at the very start of the project with community consultation to create an ‘authentic’ programme, resulting in a Community Programme Team being put together from diverse community members who had lived experience of migration. A democratic process was used throughout with all decisions made by the team, and the Community Programmes Team members’ stories were presented unedited except for spelling and grammar.

Agnes Fough, one of the Community Programme Team, shared her experience of working on the project and telling her own ‘migration story’. Despite working through lockdown and the challenges of learning how to use Zoom (one we can all share) she felt supported by PHM staff.  So much so, that her questioning of their graphic display, Battle for the Ballot, and its limited representation of migrant and refugee stories resulted in a response being added permanently to the graphic.

Despite migration in and out being a constant throughout Britain’s history, these stories are not well represented in PHM’s collections. Not satisfied with representation, the project wanted to use these stories as a starting point for campaigning. This is becoming more important with the recent change to the Nationality and Borders Act this year.

The excellence of this project was demonstrated by the museum, and their Migration programme, receiving the Activist Museum Award in 2021; a prize given in honour of the pioneering work of Professor Richard Sandell on museums and social justice at the University of Leicester.

We were delighted to hear from Richard himself next, whose presentation ‘Activism as Ethics’ set out a position that socially purposeful work in museums is not different, but instead a fundamental way of working.

Professor Richard Sandell speaking at NWFed's In Conversation: Co-production & Working with Communities July 2022

Activism was demonstrated to have a number of definitions but in Sandell’s own definition of 2019 it is described as “museum practice shaped by ethically formed values, that is intended to bring about social, political and environmental change”.

Richard acknowledged there were significant challenges for museums in this position:

How do museums make a case for this practice?

How to overcome censorship or self-censorship?

How to encourage reflection rather than rejection of these positions in visitors?

One reply was that there is always pushback in any perceived non-neutrality as “culture is always political”. Of the possible responses to this it was argued that self censorship/evading the question or simply presenting a series of options for visitors was not only unhelpful but harmful. In fact, the only socially responsible response, Richard argued, is one that articulates a particular position, as this demonstrates a museum’s solidarity with the communities with which they are working.

In the following session, National Lottery Heritage Fund North Manager, Shanna Lennon, indicated that co-production was the key (in many cases) to a successful funding bid. Shanna acknowledged the difficulty of bidding for a
co-produced project when the outcomes and outputs are inevitably not known and hence cannot be described on an activity plan. Instead, providing evidence of research into the chosen community that informs methodology and costs is preferred.

After this inspirational morning, we were given a tour of the museum and saw for ourselves the Migration-focused work which now has a permanent place in the museum.

Stories shared for Migration: A Human Story are now placed within historical narratives in the permanent gallery.
These juxtapositions provide a contemporary, personal response to ‘people’s history’ that has the effect of lifting these displays onto another level of engagement.

Look out for part two of Claire’s review of this event coming soon!

Heritage Open Days Directory Now Live

0 posted June 9th, 2022 | Leave a reply
Family enjoying Heritage Open Days at the Gothic Temple at Stowe. ©Heritage Open Days/Chris Lacey

England’s biggest festival of history and culture returns this September. Has your museum registered to take part?


Co-production & Working with Communities (plus our AGM)

0 posted May 11th, 2022 | Leave a reply
People’s History Museum, Manchester

Join us for our next event for NWFed members
Wednesday 6th July 2022, 10.00 – 4.00pm BOOK HERE

At this one-day conference at the People’s History Museum (#Art Fund Museum of the Year 2022 finalist and Activist Museum 2021-22 Winner) in Manchester we will discuss the ways in which museums in the North West are working with communities. It is no longer enough to simply produce programming for our communities. We now aspire to include groups and individuals in the creation of museum content whenever possible. Throughout the region there are excellent examples of such co-produced practice, and we’re delighted to be showcasing seven North West case studies. We’ll also be holding our brief AGM during the day.

Places are limited so book here now

Speakers and case studies will include:

Professor Richard Sandell, Director of Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester, and author of Museum Activism (Museum Meanings).

Zofia Kufeldt from People’s History Museum on their co-produced exhibition Migration: A Human Story, plus a curator’s tour of the exhibition

Imperial War Museum and Manchester Jewish Museum on their Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme in Greater Manchester

The Walker Art Gallery on Colonial Legacies of the Liverpool Sandbach Family, a community-led research and display development project

Pete Gardom from thisgreatadventure on Fleetwood Museum’s community-based digital storytelling and location-based trails project, Finding Fleetwood

National Museums Liverpool and Migrant Artist Mutual Aid on Meet Me at the River, a co-produced exhibition aimed at creating dialogue and reflection on the legacies of historic slavery

Shanna Lennon from National Lottery Heritage Fund on why co-production is a strength from a funder’s perspective and its new Dynamic Collections campaign supporting museums to work more collaboratively with their collections

Speakers will reflect on their experiences, including:

The successes or benefits of their projects for the museum, the individuals or groups involved, and wider society.

The challenges and how they were overcome.

Who is driving the change in approach towards co-production?

Advice for colleagues new to the process.

When do co-production approaches work best? And when do more conventional delivery styles work better?

This event costs £20 (to cover catering costs) for all NWFed members (and those who work in NWFed member museums). Find out how to join us as an individual member for just £12 per year (£5 students) here.

Places are limited so book here now

People’s History Museum is easily accessible by public transport and is fully accessible.

If you would like to talk to us about your access needs for this event, please contact us at

“Front of House make museums; they are the face of every single one.”

0 posted March 19th, 2022 | Leave a reply
A museum staff member giving a talk in a gallery to a group of young people. Credit: NML Copyright: Pete Carr
Credit: NML Copyright: Pete Carr

NWFed trustee, Claire Sleightholm, reviews our recent In Conversation event on the Changing Role of Museum Front of House


In Conversation: The Changing Role of Museum Front of House

0 posted January 26th, 2022 | Leave a reply
A museum staff member giving a talk in a gallery to a group of young people. Credit: NML Copyright: Pete Carr
Credit: NML Copyright: Pete Carr

“Front of House make museums; they are the face of every single one.”

Join us for our next free In Conversation event for NWFed members.
Online on Thursday 24th February 2021, 12 – 1pm #FOHMuseums

The pandemic has shown that in a crisis, Front of House workers are invaluable. Their work to reopen museums, respond to the constantly changing environment, and create a safe, comfortable visitor experience are at the heart of the museum sector’s recovery.

But what of the future? NWFed’s latest In Conversation event offers an opportunity to discuss and explore the changing role of Front of House with a panel of colleagues who are passionate about the subject.

Chad McGitchie is Visitor Services Team Lead for The Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery, and Chair of the Northwest Visitor Team Management & Development Network.

William Tregaskes is Co-founder of Front of House in Museums and the Museums Association Rep for Wales.

Chairing the panel will be Dwight Clarke, Visitor Services Officer, Manchester Art Gallery, and a member of the NWFed board of trustees.

This event is free for all NWFed members (and those who work in NWFed member museums).
Find out how to join us for just £12 per year (£5 students) here.

The event takes take place on Zoom on Thursday 24 February 2022, 12.00 – 1.00pm.
Book your tickets through Eventbrite now and we’ll send you a Zoom link to join the event the day beforehand.

If you have ideas and requests for events and networking opportunities you would like to see in the region, please email us at  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @NWFED to keep up to date with our events programme.

You can also download presentations and information about our past events in the resources page on our website.