Sharing great ideas for the 2017 History Festival

During November and early December the History Festival team hit the road to visit event organisers and hold a few Ideas Exchange sessions around the state.

Yorke Peninsula and Wallaroo Ideas Exchange

A trip to Yorke Peninsula was first on our agenda. Over two days, Allison and Karen packed in visits to Ardrossan Museum, Yorke Peninsula District Council, Yorketown History Group, Maitland, and Wallaroo Heritage and Nautical Museum, and on the way back Port Broughton Historical Society and Dublin History Group – phew! It was fantastic to meet and catch up with so many fantastic people.

Our Ideas Exchange was hosted by Wallaroo Heritage and Nautical Museum. Around a dozen people contributed to the discussion about what’s worked at past History Festivals, great events people have attended, and some other ideas around involving and engaging with the local community.

We talked about recording oral histories and capturing stories from the community. Oral History Australia’s website is a good starting point for anyone interested in getting started with oral history: http://www.oralhistoryaustralia.org.au/how-to-get-started.html 

Ideas Incubator: tour guiding with Keith Conlon

On 25 November, a group of around 25 event organisers came along to our Ideas Incubator session at North Adelaide Community Centre. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Keith Conlon who shared some advice and experience around what makes a great tour.

Here are a few of the tips he shared:

  • Plan the beginning and end or your tour carefully. Think about how you are going to introduce the topic at the beginning and leave them with something to think about at the end (Keith gave the example of Kevin McCloud’s well-crafted summaries on the TV show, Grand Designs).
  • Find the characters and don’t be afraid to lighten up. Use storytelling, music, theatre, poetry etc. to keep it interesting and engaging. Think about how you can convey your passion for the topic to the group.
  • Listen to your attendees. What do they want to get out of the tour? What stories do they have to share? You might get some great material for your next tour.
  • Make sure you can be heard. Practice projecting your voice. Use a portable microphone if necessary. Walk through the tour route ahead of time and find places to stop away from noises (eg traffic).  Ask attendees to gather close to you and wait until everyone catches up before you begin talking.
  • Pick out the best bits. You’ll soon discover that you can’t include everything.  The group agreed a good length for walking tours is around 1-1.5 hours. Remember attendees will have varied walking speeds. Try stopping at places where you can take in a few points of interest at once.

Keith recommended http://www.beabetterguide.com/ for some more helpful tour guiding info.

Are you a seasoned tour guide or tour participant? Leave your tips for a great tour in the comments section below.

Fleurieu Ideas Exchange

Next up we headed to Goolwa where we met with 16 event organisers from the Fleurieu Peninsula area. Attendees shared what’s worked for them in the past (such as coming up with a dramatic title to catch people’s eye in the large History Festival program) as well as discussing some successful events outside the History Festival (eg Yesterday’s Power rally in Milang and Meningie’s recent 150th celebrations).

Gaining local support and linking together with other organisers were identified as important elements of a successful regional program of events. A barrier for many potential visitors is transport, especially if they don't have access to a private vehicle. The group discussed the idea of engaging a bus company to do a day trip from Adelaide, taking in a few events in the region.

Another great idea was linking together a few sites for a self-drive trail (eg wineries, businesses, heritage places, museums) on a particular day during the Festival, with opportunities to get out and do something at each site (eg join a tour, listen to a talk, chat with wine makers, look at an exhibition).

Some of the attendees are looking for a place to source period costumes. If you have any ideas, let us know in the comments section below.

Northern Adelaide Ideas Exchange

Our final session for the year was at City of Playford’s wonderful Stretton Centre in Munno Para. Attendees shared their plans for the 2017 History Festival and talked about what they’ve enjoyed in the past.

We were also joined by Michelle Mitolo from Children’s University Adelaide who had some great advice on creating events for children and families. Here are a few points from the discussion.

  • The most popular events involve activities that kids and adults can do together. Eg working together to solve a riddle, follow a trail or answer a question.
  • Activities don’t need to be big or fancy. It could be as simple as rethinking exhibition labels or putting together an activity book.
  • Some of the most memorable activities involve opportunities to interact. With both attendees and with volunteers/staff. One person in the group remembered a great theatre-based event in Strahan, Tasmania, which involved plenty of fun and audience interaction: http://www.discovertasmania.com.au/attraction/theshipthatneverwas
  • Keep it bite-sized. Keep materials simple (not too lengthy or text-heavy). What doesn’t work – following someone around while they talk the whole time (no opportunities for interaction).
  • Include some hands-on activities. What can attendees push/pull/make/hold/help with? How about working with a school or community group to do child-led tours?

Michelle kindly provided a evaluation template that can be used for family events. You can download it from our resources page, add your logo and make changes to suit your event: http://historyfestival.sa.gov.au/resources-organisers

Thanks to everyone who attended our event organiser sessions for sharing your wealth of experiences and great ideas. We look forward to seeing what you’ve got in store for next year’s History Festival!

Resources for organisers

Check out the resources for organisers page on the History Festival website for some useful information about registering and presenting an event: http://historyfestival.sa.gov.au/resources-organisers

Tell us what you think or know by adding a comment