And the winner is...The Mansfield Museum on their Family Friendly Museum win

By Ben Miller | 09 April 2011
A photo of a group of people in a room
Officials from the Mansfield Museum receive the Family Friendly Museum Award
“We are some of the happiest people on the face of the earth,” beams Jodie Henshaw, the Development Officer at newly-crowned Family Friendly Museum Award winner the Mansfield Museum.

“Five of us went off to London on the train – we were very nervous, not really sure what to expect. One family had mystery-shopped everybody so we got to meet them.

“We had a few glasses of wine and then they announced the winner, like the Oscars – ‘and the winner is…’ Since then we’ve had people we’ve never met before getting in touch.

“This is my favourite thing,” she laughs. “St Paul’s Cathedral has started following us on Twitter. How bizarre is that?”

A photo of children raising their hands and having fun in a museum
Talk Like a Pirate Day at the museum
It’s hard to imagine a more deserving team than the eight staff behind the museum, serving a Nottinghamshire town often portrayed as one of the less glamorous cultural destinations you could pick from.

A local lass, Henshaw says the local tourist board “has never really wanted anything to do with us”, describes the council-funded venue’s marketing budget as “peanuts” and says getting exposure can be a struggle.

Resourcefulness and energy are key to their success. “We’re not naïve enough to think that we should be in the press all the time, but we’re very good at milking it when they do want to cover us,” she adds.

“We work so hard to take advantage of any opportunities we get. We all love the place and are prepared to do whatever it takes.”

This extends to looking after the occasional arrival of 40 tons of sand. “We had a beach in last summer and there were deckchairs all around the place,” she says.

“It needed watering, because you can’t build sandcastles without water. It was like being at the seaside. It was the sand they use in golf bunkers…really beautiful.”

Their latest show is about holiday camps. “I think we’re quite good at coming up with ideas that don’t cost a lot and aren’t that clever really,” she suggests.

“Kids don’t necessarily need hi-tech computer games to keep them entertained.”

The award will boost the museum’s cause in crucial funding bids and, in the more immediate future, probably see it swamped as Easter rolls around the corner.

“It puts Mansfield on the map as well,” argues Henshaw. “I do think that we’re our own worst enemy here.

“If you speak to people in town they’ll say ‘oh, we’ve got nothing here.’ When you actually start to look we’ve got award-winning parks, leisure centres which produce Olympic gold medal winners, and now the most family friendly museum in the country.”

They’ve also got a deluge of press interest to deal with. “If somebody wants an interview on a Sunday when we’re not at work it’ll get done,” promises Henshaw.

“We’re a small team – it’s a career, a passion for us. It’s not just a nine-to-five.”

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