REVIEW – RAMM Lates – Student Takeover
Niamh O’Riordan Mitchell reviews RAMM’s ‘Later’ Student Takeover’
Night at the museum rings true when you step into the Royal Albert Memorial Museum after hours. On Friday 13 March, Exeter’s museum and art gallery opened its doors after 6.30pm to welcome in visitors to a new type of visitor experience.
All of this was achieved through the student takeover led by the Ramm Youth panel who most recently since November 2019 have been funded by Arts Council England to help shape the museum’s exhibitions and events programmes to maximise the engagement of younger audiences. All 14 members including myself are students at Exeter university who have a keen interest in engaging students and young people to visit the museum and its exhibitions.
Our key aim for the Student takeover lates was to reach out to young people, and especially to university students who may never have visited the museum or were unaware that these alternative events existed. Although many of us enjoy roaming the gallery at the weekend or catching the newest exhibition, for many the museum appears as a daunting experience where they may not feel welcome. For the Ramm and the whole of the arts, culture and heritage sector these thoughts are constantly and consciously worked into the events put on and through their inclusivity ethos. For the Youth panel, it was our task to improve and develop these interests for young people and university students. Our first initiative was to involve societies to be part of the student takeover emboldening them to either perform, teach or visit the event. We felt it was important to showcase the amazing talents of student led societies and their dedication, something we felt Exeter’s local community may not have previously had a chance to witness or admire.
On a wet, windy and slightly sombre Friday evening, the first lates of the year started off with the fabulous dance routine by URBN DANCE society in gallery 20. Amongst the fine art paintings of 18th and 19th century journeys to Italy, URBN DANCE brought a whole new creative energy through their rhythmic movements into the gallery space. Whilst the dancers performed, the vibrations and feel good beats from Sound communities ruminated around the museum walls creating a jungle-like house environment where visitors were seen dancing along to the beat with drinks in hand. Something you may not imagine witnessing inside a Victorian gothic building! Dancing took a prominent theme throughout the night, where visitors took part in a traditional Ceilidh taught by Folk Society. Many lefts and rights in the dance’s instructions were muddled as partners took to the gallery dance floor in fits of laughter.
If a more serene experience was what you were after in your visit, the Meditation society guided participants through a body scan and stress release experience much needed amidst deadlines and edging dissertation due dates. Similarly, singer Daisy Hill’s beautiful vocals were well placed in the world cultures galleries where visitors sat to relax and listen.
Whilst music could be heard throughout the museum, for those who may not have had a chance to visit the existing collections or the new Brain Rice exhibition, museum staff gave talks and tours. You could hear about existing museum projects such as ‘Exeter: A Place in Time’ from Assistant Curator Tom who spoke knowledgeably about Exeter’s historic heritage. Roaming the event, one could see that this felt like a personal insight and creative openness to engaging with newer audiences and different types of experiences. To end the night with a bang, the band Pigasus delivered a wonderful and vibrant performance to a great crowd drawing an end to a successful museum event.
More than any other Ramm Lates, younger people had certainly received the message about the student takeover. It was refreshing to witness a splash of youth amongst the taxidermy animals and roman coins. All the activities and performances had a unique and empowering feeling to them which not only engaged younger people but were also relevant to all ages. The Ramm and its youth panel presented itself as an unconventional and modern museum with a safe space where people can fit in and enjoy themselves.