25 Feb 2016

Volunteering with Ignite

Hello all, my name’s Rebecca and for the past seven months I have been a part of Birmingham Museums’ Youth Forum, Ignite. I initially joined Ignite after completing a two week work experience placement at Thinktank.


When I arrived, I was told the latest project was working on tours around the Art Gallery. I have always had an interest in fine art, so decided to join the Baroque Art tour group, and began compiling a list of the paintings we would include within the guided tour. I selected three paintings to talk about; ‘A Portrait of a Genoese Nobleman’ by Benardo Strozzi, ‘Preparations for a Feast’ from the Delft School and ‘An Allegory of Misrule’ by Johan Platzer. Working with the other members of Ignite, the Baroque Tour was beginning to take shape!

We all experienced training on how to give tours, focusing on voice projection and being able to engage with the group we would be giving the tour to. Initially, we prepared by giving tours to the other Ignite groups, and then practising amongst ourselves, making sure all the finer details were in place for our first set of official tours. After many weeks of research, script learning and mentally preparing ourselves for the prospect ahead of us, all the tours were at last, complete, and ready to be taken on a test run in front of family and friends. After a nervous start, the debut of the tour had passed with flying colours! However, the real challenge had only just begun. Giving the tour to family members was easy, but giving the tour to complete strangers, that’s another story! The next week, all groups would have to give their tours to unsuspecting members of the public! These would be real people with real questions; we prepared for the first official tours with bated breath…

Baroque Tour Group

Finally, the day of the tours arrived, starting on Teen Takeover Day, and all Ignite members, when not giving the tour, were tasked with selling and promoting their own tour. There was a healthy rivalry as each tour attempted to gain more guinea pigs, I mean… more members of the public than the last (of course, the Baroque Tour naturally gained more interest). Until eventually, the time of judgement arrived. A small group of around six or seven gathered in the Round Room, awaiting the Baroque Brushstrokes tour (yes that was the title of our tour! Guilty as charged). After the introduction it was straight on with the interesting snippets of information our team had discovered while researching our chosen paintings. For instance, Bernardo Strozzi, the man who painted ‘A Portrait of a Genoese Nobleman’, had once been a Monk, but was forced to leave in order to support his mother and sister, but even after his mother had died and sister had married, he refused to return to the religious order, fleeing to Venice, earning himself the Nickname ‘Il Prete Genovese’ or ‘The Genoese Priest’ to you and me. Overall, the tour was a rousing success, with everyone remembering facts and scripts, and gaining confidence as we all got into the swing of it. It was a truly wonderful feeling giving the tour, as we all imparted our knowledge and, hopefully, entertained and informed the public; allowing them to engage with the paintings a little more than they would have.

Rebecca Delivering Tour

The following week, we felt quietly confident, as we prepared for our last tour, whilst celebrating the Museums 130th Birthday! As we watched Queen Victoria give a short speech on the importance of such a grand institute, Lynsey (the Head Honcho of Ignite) told us that the Mayor would be attending the Baroque Tour! The Mayor and about 20 members of the general public signed up for the tour, and so, with steely determination, we commenced what would be the Baroque Brushstrokes finest hour! Getting over our initial nerves and general shock of such a large group, the tour began, and was, once again, a triumph! The Mayor thanked us and congratulated us on such an interesting tour, while other members said how interesting they found it. It was such a nice feeling when people came up to as after the tour, it was enjoyable anyway, but when you know that someone else enjoyed it too, it makes all the difference.

Now Ignite is keeping busy with a film project, focusing on areas or objects from around the Museum which we find especially interesting. Our group has chosen the statue of Lucifer in the Round Room, and once again we were baffling unsuspecting members of the public with questions and the chance to be interviewed for the short film we are making. Who knows what the next exciting chapter of my time at Ignite will entail, but it certainly won’t be dull!

If you are interested in volunteering for Birmingham Museums then take a look at the current volunteering opportunities we have available across all our sites.