When we really believe the things we have share are beautiful and valuable it makes a difference to how we share them. Or, to put it another way, the way we present activities or information carries implicit messages about how much it matters … to us and therefore, by implication, to the visitor.
We were driving back from our hols and needed a cup of tea and a bit of lunch. We could have gone to Anglesey Abbey to look at how their new visitor centre was working out, but we didn’t. We had our full-on holiday heads on and went to get a nice sandwich. You often come across the best things in life, like Love, when you are not looking for them.
In the entrance foyer, we stumbled upon this very attractive thing.
So what does this say? I reckon it says: “Children and families are really welcome here” “We understand kids and families, we know you need things to do, not just stuff to look at” and “this is a great place to explore, come on in”.
The National Trust, who own and run Anglesey Abbey, have, over several years, done in-depth work on exactly what types of families like to visit National Trust properties and precisely what they want to do there. They know their families want things they can do and learn from together but do not want to be too strait-jacketed. They want choice and freedom to build their own visit. This interpretation applies that understanding.
Of course, some families would like a bit of help with how to explore this new place. So that’s here too: as well as equipment there are trails and written instructions.
In essence, this is not a new idea. Activity packs have been around in the UK for at least 15 years. Often they are presented as some rather grubby looking backpacks hanging on hooks behind the counter that the meeter and greeter may remember to point out.
The National Trust has taken a basically good idea (send kids out with stimulating stuff to play with), thought about how it works and how it could work even better. The careful, strongly audience-focussed consideration of presentation has paid off. Hugely. This feels completely fresh.
Every effort has been made to make this inviting. A rather fuddy-duddy, ‘look don’t touch’ reputation still adhers to the National Trust. This stand, situated right slapbang, unapologetically, at the entrance, breaks with that tradition. This is, confidently and convincingly, the ‘new’ National Trust; looking good.
The story of how this was made is also thoughtful, and rooted in place and the local community. There is real attention to detail, to process as well as product here.
I know the summer holidays have nearly run out. But there is still just time for a last hurrah. Rush off to Angelsey Abbey and have a last bit of summer fun with the small people in your life.
When we got round to it, our sandwich, with a view into the grounds, was pretty good too.
All photographs thanks to Peter Phillipson, TellTale. For more pictures go to Peter’s Flickr stream. Follow Peter @ TellTalePeter on Twitter.