At Work With… Ellie Newland

If there’s one word that definitely applies to my job then it’s ‘varied’.  One glance through my daily ‘Things to Do’ lists of the last couple of months reveals a whole host of miscellaneous items:  ‘Book Bollywood dancer’, ‘Build giant maze‘, ‘Dinosaur meeting’ ‘and ‘Edit Haunted House script’ being amongst them.

My main responsibility is putting together the events programme for children and families across all our sites: Preston Manor, the Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Hove Museum & Art Gallery and the Royal Pavilion. The programme can include informative talks about the collections, hands on arts and crafts workshops and bespoke theatre performances in our more unusual spaces, alongside countless other activities. As the events are tied into our rich exhibitions programme as far as is possible, it means that I am constantly learning about new things, which I love.

Child-friendly projects
Child-friendly projects

I am also called in to help the exhibitions team ensure that major shows are as child-friendly as possible – whether that’s by writing a gallery trail or devising interactive gallery activities that can be enjoyed by all the family (most recently giant fuzzy felt and magnetic poetry in the Ragamala exhibition). It’s great to walk into the galleries and see them packed out with little ones getting creative!

No two days are the same; one day I might find myself running a children’s animation project, the next I might be sat at my desk ploughing through financial paperwork, or researching Edwardian ghost stories for a storytelling event at the Manor.

Christmas is a particularly busy time of year in the role, and I can’t seem to sit down at my desk for five minutes at the moment without the phone ringing! The reason? Dickensian Christmas at the Royal Pavilion. Now in its fourth year, this sell out event seems to go from strength to strength. This year it was named by The Guardian newspaper as one of the seven best places in the United Kingdom for families to enjoy a Christmas day out.

Father Christmas at the Royal Pavilion
Father Christmas at the Royal Pavilion

The six day run, starting on 17 December, will see over 1000 children and their families visit the palace to meet Father Christmas himself and receive a present from one of his elves. After this meeting each family are taken on a specially devised Dickensian tour of the building, led by a cast of larger than life Dickensian Christmas characters (including ‘Mr Bah Humbug’ himself – Scrooge!).

Despite the pressure involved in pulling off an event of this scale (risk assessments, staff rotas and day schedules not being amongst my favourite aspects of the job!), it is a great deal of fun to put together something that really shows off the building at its festive best. I am also lucky enough to work with a talented and dedicated team on the project, without whom I would be utterly lost! Particular thanks need to go to the role play team, the Information & Security team and, last but by no means least, the volunteers who painstakingly wrap our hundreds of presents!

Squeezing all this into a three day week can be a tough call, but bringing the buildings to life for the younger generation and seeing the creativity our collections can inspire is a just reward for the hard work (most of the time, anyway!).

…Ellie Newland, Children & Families Learning Officer

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