Know Your Place – A year in the making
September 2018 will see the fifth Know Your Place heritage festival, and whilst the festival is on for one month, it takes all-year-round planning to get it ready! Here our Local Studies Manager, Jane Baxter, explains how the festival goes from idea to event.
In the beginning
The germ of the idea for the heritage festival was planted in 2011 when I was thinking of ways to promote the Local Studies Library and Archive Service. I organised a meeting with the three local history societies, the heritage guides and library managers. Together we devised a programme of events and decided to launch the festival in 2013. I was looking for a name for the festival that would stand out. I wanted something that would catch peoples’ attention and Know Your Place was born. The first festival was purely library based but now incorporates many of our heritage partners in the borough. The latest festival hosted events at Strawberry Hill House, The Poppy Factory, The National Archives, the archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Museum of Richmond.
The festival comprises a series of talks, walks and workshops. There are usually between 30 and 35 events and there are few days in September when nothing is happening. It is imperative to introduce new elements to the programme in order to keep it vibrant and fresh while at the same time maintaining the core values of disseminating knowledge of the history of Richmond upon Thames. To that end planning for the festival begins on 1st October with the analysis of feedback forms and writing a report about the last festival. The comments we receive have proved crucial for improving the quality of the events.
Securing the keynote speaker
The first task is to secure a keynote speaker to deliver the John Cloake Memorial Lecture. This is the showcase event and it is important to maintain the high quality of speakers we have had to date, such as Tracy Borman, Simon Thurley and Alison Weir. Such meritorious people have commitments planned well in advance so booking someone early is essential.
Finding local speakers
The local history societies have knowledgeable and enthusiastic members who are happy to give their time in support of the festival. Their expertise is key to the success of the events and they attract a loyal following. We discover other speakers from reports in local publications and by word of mouth. Once the speakers are booked I send them each a confirmation form together with a request for a publicity image. The forms will give us a title for the talk, a brief summary for the publicity brochure and details of the equipment required.
The production of a brochure detailing the full programme is integral to the success of the festival. This process requires painstaking attention to detail ensuring that everything is accurate and that all necessary information is available. Know Your Place is now a recognised part of the social calendar and people look out for the brochure, which we publish in July.
The next task is to enter the events on to the booking calendar which will be available from the beginning of July to coincide with the publication of the brochure. High quality posters are prepared and sent to all libraries in the borough. We also organise a mailing of the brochure with Arts Richmond.
It actually starts in summer!
Throughout August and September we run a family based activity, taking the form of a landmark selfie trail, which we call KYPsnap. Using GPS co-ordinates and an interactive map, participants are guided to landmarks across the borough where they take a picture. These are sent back to us and anyone finding all 30 sites wins a gold medal.
Planning for the KYPsnap landmark trail begins immediately following the end of the festival with new sites around the borough being identified. We aim to visit 10 schools during the summer term to promote the trail.
Kicking of the festival proper
The launch event is the In the Know local history based quiz where participants enjoy a fish and chip supper and a glass of wine. Planning begins as soon as the last festival ends. We decide on a theme for the Quiz rounds and begin writing the questions putting the picture round together. I aim to have these in place by the end of May. The quiz takes place in the beautiful Riverside Room at the Old Town Hall in Richmond upon Thames.
We have at least six teams competing every year and project the scores throughout the evening! The whole team get involved, with me at the microphone reading the questions, and members of the team checking the marks and updating the scores.
A team effort
Each member of the Local Studies team will lead 2 workshops during Know Your Place. These are held in the Local Studies search room and give an insight into the wealth of material held in the collection. The workshops are timetabled around the other events. We also participate in Open House London by leading tours of the building.
To ensure that the equipment for the talks is sent to the correct location on the right date I organise a rota and send instructions to all libraries. A member of the Local Studies team is present at each talk together with a member of staff from the branch library.
Finally everything is in place and I wait for the bookings to start. The bookings need to be closely monitored to ensure that no venue is oversubscribed. We also need to encourage promotion for any event with low take up.
A fortnight before the start of the festival I email all speakers to confirm the booking and finalise arrangements for their talks.
During the Festival
Once the festival is underway we can begin to enjoy ourselves. The quiz is always great fun and extremely competitive. The workshops are popular and participants often become regular customers and some even offer their services as volunteers.
The feedback forms ensure that we never become complacent and continue to improve; we welcome constructive criticism and always try to act on suggestions if practicable. However the positive comments make it all worthwhile…
Pleasing to discover so many things offered from Richmond Library service-wish I’d known about it earlier.
The heritage month was a very successful display of how lucky we are to live in the Borough. Looking forward to 2018’s attractions.
I love the Heritage Festival. Appreciate that it involves a lot of hard work for the organisers but well worth it.
I always look forward to this series of events. Thanks! Hard to restrict self just a few in programme provided!
[Jane Baxter, Local Studies Manager]