Today’s guest post by Shanna Lennon, Common Cause Foundation Co-ordinator at Manchester Museum, takes a look back at this January’s Big Saturday, ‘Our Wonderful World’ …
Our Wonderful World
January is a hard month for us all – the magic of Christmas already feels like a distant memory, our New Year’s resolutions may have gone by the wayside long before the decorations were packed up, it’s dark, it’s cold and here in Manchester it’s bound to be wet too. All this, however, makes January the perfect time to champion the compassionate values that bring us all together. With museum staff, volunteers and over a thousand visitors throwing themselves into activities that engaged values of kindness, compassion and connection – last month’s ‘Big Saturday’ felt like the perfect antidote to those pesky January blues.
This big Saturday marked the start of a collaboration between Manchester Museum and Common Cause Foundation, together we are embarking on a programme of work to convey a deeper appreciation of the values that most people in Greater Manchester share – shaping the Museum’s ambition to be a ‘a museum for life’ and turning the research of Common Cause Foundation into action – this was just the start!
We kicked off the day with a social media campaign inviting people to tell us what’s wonderful about the people of Manchester and share that beyond the museum walls. There were some amazing stories shared and a real appreciation of what people value in others around them. Spot these on Manchester Museum’s Twitter and Instagram at #PeopleofMcrMuseum.
“It’s been great to talk to people that usually just pass by”
At least 125 visitors, staff and volunteers took part in the Big Conversation, a record breaking (… well for the museum at least) day-long conversation relay. This was all about being open to connecting with someone new, sharing what you love and value about life, and the joy of finding that spark of commonality with someone you’ve just met. This idea was borrowed from the fabulous People United, an organisation whose belief that ‘being kind to one another is fundamental to making the world a better place’ really aligns with those of the Common Cause Foundation and the Museum. Snippets of these conversations were all captured in this beautiful piece of art!
If you were there maybe you can spot you or your family?
One woman’s experience was so enjoyable that she thanked Amy, who was facilitating this activity, for encouraging her to take part –
“People often looked nervous about speaking to a stranger, but then looked so happy and relaxed once they made that connection” – Amy, Manchester Museum
Boreda! Nǐ hǎo! Fáilte! Āssālam ‘alaykum! Hola!… Ey Up?
Over 100 language exchanges took place at the World Welcome station, including British Sign Language, Spanish, Malay, Danish and … Yorkshire. Visitors, volunteers and staff shared the many wonderful ways they welcome people, and learned a new ways from others in the museum. Some amazingly creative welcome signs were made and displayed ready to welcome museum visitors. Everyone was given ‘I can welcome you in …’ stickers to wear which created great opportunities for conversation all over the museum. From Swedish to Swahili, Gujarati to Gaelic there was a real enthusiasm for talking to and learning from each other!
“Be kind with the world and the world will be kind with you”
They said ‘out of the mouths of babes’ come the wisest words, well that was definitely the case with some of the stories of kindness which could be found when our Manchester Gallery was turned into the ‘Manchester Gallery of Kindness’ for the day.
Over the day the gallery was decorated by a growing string of creatively collaged bunting flags telling visitors’ stories of times they had experienced people being kind to one another. After quite an abrasive 2016 and an uncertain start to 2017, seeing how much these small and often ordinary acts of kindness mean to people was just the tonic we all needed.
There were so many more fantastic activities that made the day feel wonderful.
In Nature Discovery, the Selfish Giant’s head gardener asked our family visitors to help him convince the giant to share his beautiful garden after he closed the gates and dammed it to eternal winter. As part of this interactive storytelling families shared their kind acts and intentions in the form of planting seeds of kindness which would grow in the garden showing the giant the value of kindness.
The story of Sadako Sasaki provided the focus for making origami tokens of kindness and peace cranes in the Living worlds gallery.
Kindness to other living things was encouraged by a visit from Hulme Community Garden Centre – families made bird feeders to keep those garden birds well fed over the cold winter months.
Rowena, Manchester Museum’s Visitor Team Manager and a Dementia Champion lead a Dementia Friends session where visitors and staff pledged to take action to help create more dementia friendly communities.
All of these activities hoped to create an opportunity for visitors, staff and volunteers to share what they value most with each other, and show that Manchester Museum is a place where values such as compassion, kindness and care are among the most important.
When asked if museums should be celebrating and championing these values one visitor said:
‘I think it’s very important, especially for children nowadays. I think it’s very important to try and promote things like this because it’s the basic qualities we all need to have. I found this truly amazing, a wonderful way of sharing that message – and very interactive as well’
In terms of how this Big Saturday felt for the Museum, one member of staff said:
‘The overall atmosphere was great. It felt like something new and fresh for the museum.’
And one of those amazing bunch who give up their time volunteer at the museum said:
‘It’s lovely to come into a ‘building’ where the emphasis is on friendliness, kindness and sharing – it’s refreshing to come into a positive environment basically.’
We hope that if you were there on our Big Saturday as much as we did!
Common Cause Foundation Co-ordinator