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Saints’ Alive!

A Blog about a creative art project at All Saints’ Church Westbury

As I said in a previous Blog I have spent a good deal of time during 2021 in a volunteering capacity as Churchwarden of All Saints’ Church Westbury.

Churches as community spaces

I am passionate about sharing the church building with the wider community of Westbury and helping them to engage with its history and heritage.

Churches like All Saints’ Church are grounded in their communities. The recent survey of the building carried out by the Wiltshire Medieval Graffiti Survey demonstrates that (another topic for a Blog!). The names of those who lived and worked in the community are literally etched into the windows and walls of the building.

The disengagement of people with churches and church life is a much bigger topic which I have no intention of exploring on these pages but the result is, it seems to me, a perception that non-churchgoers are unwelcome or don’t have the right to enter and enjoy their parish church.

I often hear children cry out as they pass the open door that the church is open and express a desire to enter but all too often I hear their parents say no. This makes me sad. Of course it may be just lack of time and the need to be somewhere else but that feeling of awe that young children have is soon lost. The danger is that in time, they too feel that the church is not a place for them.

Inspired by a presentation from Annie Lucas about her National Lottery Funded Project in St Cubert’s Church, Cornwall at the 2019 SWFed Conference in Plymouth I decided to see if I could do something on a smaller scale here in Westbury.

Source of inspiration

The vision was to hold workshops that enabled members of our community to create something themselves using our beautiful Grade I church building as a source of inspiration. I wanted those people to be welcomed and feel that they too owned the space. I hoped that they would leave feeling that they could return and explore in their own time and tell others about us. I saw the workshops as a way of helping more people to value and appreciate the church as a community resource.

Our church building has stone carving, woodwork, textiles, stained glass and ceramics all providing colour, beauty and interest and every inch telling a story.

I reached out to artists and creative practitioners via social media and the Arts in Wiltshire blog and was really pleased with the response. I asked those who expressed an interest to complete an online form so that I could see what they all had to offer. I wanted to make these workshops available to adults and young people.


Next job was to secure funding as the Church could not afford to underwrite these themselves. Grants would enable us to pilot some sessions, without risk, to see if the concept worked before considering holding these more regularly in the future.

I applied to the Westbury Community Area Board for a grant to support this work. This was part of their programme to support older people and in particular those suffering from social isolation which is said to be at high levels in Westbury. I was grateful to receive one early in 2020 with the intention of holding the workshops that summer.

Delays to the programme

Then of course the pandemic hit!

Like everyone, I initially thought the Covid 19 scare would be over by the summer and we might be able to hold them in the summer of 2020. But as the virus continued and before vaccines were available it was clear that the time wasn’t right and that those people that were intended to benefit from these workshops would be unlikely to want to risk contact with others.

So we waited and in early 2021 I started to make tentative steps with the three practitioners we had decided to work with to see if we could make them happen in 2021.

We made plans, we looked at being ‘Covid-secure’ and how we could manage the sessions following the various levels of guidance available and we felt that the roll out of the vaccine programme would mean that people felt safe enough to sign up. We agreed a programme of three workshops. Each one very different

All systems go!

I was really keen to try and reach those people that might really benefit from some activity after such a long period of isolation so I contacted the Community Engagement Manager for Westbury and Warminster and the Local Area Coordinator for Westbury and Dilton Marsh to ask for recommendations of individuals and groups who are in touch with older and in particular socially isolated individuals who might welcome the opportunity to begin to meet with others again. We also contacted those people who had been bereaved in the past year that our clergy had supported who might be interested in attending these sessions.

In May 2021, the following groups were contacted:

  • White Horse Surgery
  • Alzheimer’s Wiltshire
  • Age UK Wiltshire
  • White Horse Surgery Patient Voice
  • Care Support Wiltshire
  • Carers in Wiltshire
  • Warminster Open Door
  • Westbury Friendship Group
  • Westbury Court

Those contacted were provided with a poster in .pdf and .png format and an information sheet which aimed to answer questions and provide sufficient detail about each session. The Wiltshire Council Local Area Coordinator also circulated to his contacts. Despite a reminder email, many did not reply at all, others responded positively, seemed to welcome the idea and said that they would pass it on to their users. However, we are aware of only one person coming through this route which was disappointing. More work would be needed to find out why those who were contacted through these organisations did not attend. A more fruitful approach would be to work directly with specific organisations in partnership to create a bespoke activity which met the groups specific needs.

We decided to hold off advertising the event publicly to give these target groups time to circulate to their members and to book in.

In the end we used social media including paid for advertising on Facebook and the local press to reach out across the local area. Participants were asked to book in via Eventbrite.


The feedback reflected the high level of positive comments received on the day. Those that came were appreciative of the warm welcome and really enjoyed exploring the church in a new way.

The participants were a mixture of people who had not been before some expressed Christian beliefs many said they had none and one participant told us that she was a Muslim.

Conversations at each session and following have shown that they had a real impact on those people that came. For many it was the first time that they had been with others like this for over a year.

Feedback forms were produced in hard copy for the first two and sent as a Google form for the third session. The form was designed to:
• measure satisfaction,
• record the number of people who had not visited the church before
• find out if they would feel comfortable coming into the church on their own in the future
• explore the interest in those attending on returning and
• if they would pay for the experience in the future

Did the workshops work in the space?

The Church proved to be a successful venue for the workshops. There are a variety of spaces available. The Chancel proved to be a useful open space and its stone floor meant that mess could be cleared up easily. The building also provides quiet areas for solo or small group working. There is power and water. A microphone is available for larger groups and there is a screen and projector available. Background music can be played if required.

There is level access for those with mobility issues but it is a big space for someone with limited mobility.

Each session lasted for 3 hours with a break for refreshments in the middle.

Longer sessions could be accommodated, there were several comments from participants that they could have spent all day enjoying the activity. There is a kitchenette in the corner of the Church which enables light refreshments to be served and people could be asked to bring their own lunch if the session lasted longer.

All the professional artist practitioners enjoyed the space, found it inspirational and found it a good place to hold a workshop providing both indoor and outdoor space.

Lessons learned

Reaching our target audience

It was disappointing that our attempts to reach out to specialist support groups appeared not to be successful. Bespoke programmes working with an individual organisation would undoubtedly be a more productive way to reach this aim. A more extended programme might lead to more success through the building up of relationships and it may be that these groups would rather have an event tailored to their needs. However, the feedback and comments from the participants showed that there is a general need for opportunities to spend time together and meet new people.

Individual stories demonstrated that there is a need for these kinds of activities in Westbury. Some of our participants were new to Westbury and it was an ideal way to get to know the town and meet other people in a safe space, others had been recently bereaved and found the church space suited their needs. Some participants revealed that they had demanding jobs that had been more stressful during the pandemic and that the sessions provided much needed escape from working from home.

Our workshops were limited to those aged over 55 due to the funding conditions but feedback on Facebook indicated that there was an interest in getting involved from many people under that age. This demonstrated that future workshops would have wider appeal and something to consider for future events.


Facebook provided a good marketing space and ensured we reached a local audience. Working with other partners would provide a wider audience and a longer period would help reach a wider range of people.

Our boosted (paid for posts) reached far more people than our average posts with over 1,000 engagements when our normal posts reach less than 200.

Eventbrite was an effective way to book participants in but there were some participants who found it difficult so providing a phone number to book is necessary.


The response was that people would be happy to pay a moderate charge for future workshops. If the workshops are repeated a grant could help to make future events affordable by subsidising them.

What happens next?

We are hoping to work with a business in Westbury run by local artists who regularly provide sketching and other art and craft workshops. Art workshops is not the ‘core business’ of the Church of England and so as a church community we need to balance the time it takes to develop a programme of workshops with other activities. Working with a partner might help to reduce some of the time managing a programme of workshops would take.

We’d like to provide these workshops at a price to keep them affordable and even consider providing some free spaces (or pay what you can afford) so that they are accessible to all. We are exploring sources of funds to help make this happen.

We are very hopeful that we can hold more workshops in 2022 and have three workshops for young people planned for the February 2022 half term – watch this space!

The church building is open daily from approximately 9am to dusk – why not come on in and get creative yourself?

I’d like to thank Jo Taylor, Marie Hillcoat and Matthew Tett for their support in planning and leading these workshops and Wiltshire Council for the Community Area Grant which supported the workshops.

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Where did 2019 go?

Merry Christmas!

Where has the year gone? As a freelancer it’s been a bit of a roller coaster year and I had to hold my nerve as I did have a bit of a “dry” patch and subsequent crisis in confidence. But the year has finished strongly and I am really looking forward to 2020.

I’d like to say thanks to a few people and organisations who have helped me out this year. The wonderful Debs Poneskis who really helped me out at a difficult time. The @MuseumFreelance team Christina and Marge whose annual conference in March in Manchester was reaffirming, my former colleague Sarah Simmonds @StonehengeandAveburyWHS who is always encouraging and supportive, the ever wise Tim Burge, Helen Horler @CultureForce and the great team @WorldHeritageUK. There are many more – I hope you know who you are.

In the end 2020 was OK. I enjoyed a variety of jobs, the highlight being my first international work in the incredible Göbekli Tepe World Heritage Site in the Province of Şanliurfa in south eastern Turkey. This largely undiscovered area for UK visitors has a lot to offer. Its proximity to the Syrian border is likely to deter any but the most intrepid visitors for a while but is worth a trip. The site itself is 6,000 years older than Stonehenge and is truly fascinating. A pre-pottery Neolithic Site in the “Fertile Crescent” the artefacts revealed are astonishing for their sophistication. Şanliurfa, or just Urfa, is an ancient city, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham. It has been controlled by the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs amongst others and also known as Edessa by the Romans and the Crusaders.

‘Urfa Man’ Şanliurfa Archaeological Museum c.10,000BC

Göbekli Tepe itself, despite its age, is a relatively new tourism site having only been discovered in the 1960s and excavated from the 1990s. It was inscribed onto the World Heritage list in 2018 and in the same year a new visitor centre with exhibition centre was also opened. 2019 was designated the “Year of Göbekli Tepe” by Turkish Tourism and the site has seen some real spikes in visitor numbers in the last year which, if not managed, have the potential to put the fragile archaeological site at risk.

Göbekli Tepe Archaeological Site

I am working with the DMO for the Province and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to develop a visitor management plan for the Site, the first of its kind in Turkey. The team there are great to work with and it’s a great site to be associated with. I look forward to continuing the association as the visitor management plan develops. I’d like to thank ever supportive heritage colleagues at Newgrange, Stonehenge and the Roman Baths who have provided useful case studies and examples of best practice that I can share with the team in Turkey.

Replica of stele from the archaeological site at the Archaeological Museum Sanliurfa
showing the stone carvings

I still have capacity into 2020 – do get in touch if you think that I can help you…

Have a wonderful Christmas and a successful and happy 2020.

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Melksham Remembers

food parcel items - copy

I’m just in the final wrapping up stage of a year long First World War commemoration project in the Melksham area. There’s always a few loose ends that need tying up at the end of the project and it’s also a good time to reflect on what’s been achieved.

We started the project in the late summer of 2017 and an exhibition in November 2018 seemed a long way off then. As anyone who has put together an exhibition knows it’s not!

This Heritage Lottery Funded project was supported by the Wiltshire Council Melksham Area Board and the lead organisation was Melksham Town Council. They were keen that the project should explore what life was like on the home front rather than the usual focus on names on a war memorial,  though that’s important too.

The first step was to recruit local people to carry out the research. We held a recruitment event in Melksham library who were extremely supportive throughout the life of the project. People came and were keen (first win!). We held an induction session at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The team at the History Centre were another source of continued support with help and advice. They have a wide range of expertise within the team and the archive is comprehensive and well run. The volunteers loved using their services and always felt welcome.

The activity plan included working with young people, older people and engaging the wider community. It culminated in a public exhibition at the Melksham Town Hall 10 – 11 November 2018 with special education sessions for local schools on the Friday supported by the Wiltshire Council Heritage Education Officer, Ruth Butler. Booking the Wiltshire Scrapstore encouraged families to attend with around 45 youngsters creating poppies and bi-planes. In all around 700 people visited. The exhibition then toured local venues with stays in Seend, Semington, Shaw, Broughton Gifford and Bowerhill. In total we estimate around 1,000 saw the exhibition which was overwhelmingly well received.

melksham quotes

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Melksham and the surrounding area better and the volunteers. Its another win that they have agreed to continue their researches after the project concludes. To find out more about their work see their website

If you think that I could help you with volunteer recruitment and management or similar community engagement project please do get in touch!

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Evaluating your arts project

Trowbridge front door

I’ve been privileged to work recently with the team at the Trowbridge Museum on developing how they will evaluate the impact of their exciting Onwards and Upwards Expansion Project which will begin this summer and see the Museum closed until 2020.

expansion project image

On this project I collaborated with Helen Horler of Culture Force – always a great way to work – pooling skills and resources to ensure the client gets the best result.

What makes freelancing so great is the window it provides into new teams and organisations and I love getting to know how each team ticks, what makes them so special, exploring new collections and finding out more about communities that they work with.

Trowbridge at one time was know as the “Manchester of the West” because of the large number of mills creating woollen cloth. These structures still have a huge presence on the town and the houses of the clothiers who owned and managed the factories are impressive buildings in this relatively small town. Indeed so impressive are they that Pevsner in his Buildings of England described them as “palaces”.

One of the aims of the project is to tell the story of Trowbridge in the industrial history of England and the West Country. This is internal imagean essential aim as Trowbridge has experienced a period of economic decline following the closure of the mills and other businesses such as the Ushers Brewery and Bowyer’s sausage factory. Many people are unaware of this industrial past.

The Project will see an expansion of the Museum into another floor of the former Salter’s Mill giving it more space to tell Trowbridge’s story and to create a better temporary exhibition space to assist in the museum’s long term sustainability.

It has been so great to work with the team. We are currently gathering base line data so that they can measure the impact of the Project in the months and years following the reopening. I am looking forward to following their progress and supporting them throughout the development.

Onwards and Upwards!! 

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Exploring the City of Bath as a Great Spa of Europe


I was really pleased to be invited to assist the City of Bath World Heritage Site team with their part of the nomination bid process as part of the serial transnational tentative world heritage site; the ‘Great Spas of Europe’.

Like every specialised area, the business of World Heritage is full of jargon and technical terms.

The City of Bath is already ‘inscribed’ as a World Heritage Site (30 years ago this year) and is one of 1,052 (as of 2016) sites to be given this accolade.

The business of bidding to be added to this list is long and time consuming (you wouldn’t want it to be too easy after all) and the applicant, in theory the national government or ‘State Party’ but, in fact local people with passion and belief, have to complete a lengthy nomination document. In this dossier the State Party have to demonstrate that their city or heritage site is up there with the best and deserves to have recognition as a heritage asset of ‘Outstanding Universal Value*’ i.e. it is important not just to the local community or nation but to the whole of humanity.

The work gets much more complicated when you make a bid for a ‘serial transnational’ site.  This means a site that has more than one location and transcends national boundaries.  An example of this is the  Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. This includes Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall and the Limes of the Roman Empire in Germany. 


Each of the 7 nations and 11 sites that make up the Great Spas of Europe has a fascinating story to tell as meeting places, places of learning, healing and pleasure. The sites have to collectively demonstrate that they are worthy of being added to the World Heritage List by meeting one or more of the 6 criteria for cultural world heritage sites.

The City of Bath has a 2,000 year history of healing from the Celtic culture, through the Roman period to the Benedictine community of the Middle Ages and to the Corporation of the hey-day of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (think Jane Austen). I can’t claim to have done the research myself, others claim the credit for that, but it has been fascinating to learn about the characters who came to Bath and its hot springs drawn by the distractions and diversions as well as its reputed healing powers as I pulled together the draft City of Bath’s Management Plan as a component part of the Great Spas of Europe.

I’ve really enjoyed finding out more about Bath and its place in history whilst preparing the draft management plan. Bath had the first purpose built hotel outside of London and it’s impact on town planning and diagnostic medicine should not be underrated. Tourism and holidays were pioneered by Bath and the other towns of the Great Spas of Europe opening up the whole idea of rest and recreation for the new middle classes.

The work continues on the nomination bid and I look forward to following its successful conclusion.

As a former Stonehenge World Heritage Site Coordinator, member of the World Heritage UK Board and currently their Finance Manager I am able to advise and support on World Heritage issues. Contact me!

*49. Outstanding Universal Value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to the international community as a whole. The Committee defines the criteria for the inscription of properties on the World Heritage List. [Operational Guidelines 2016)