Macclesfield Museums

I was commissioned to work alongside the staff and volunteer teams to create a marketing and audience development plan which would strategically map out how the organisation could reach new audiences.

This was the first time the team had taken part in a structured audience development planning process – which included a series of workshops and meetings to consider objectives, existing and potential audiences, stakeholders and competitiors, strategic options and tactical actions.


Macclesfield Silk Museum follows the journey of silk from cocoon to loom. It houses exhibitions from their collections including: the properties of silk, design and education, Macclesfield’s diverse textile industries, workers’ lives, Macclesfield silk during the war and historic machinery and looms. They also host artist residencies and special exhibitions.

The Old Sunday School shares the history of the building, local archeaology and hosts temporary exhibitions.



The John Rylands Library

The John Rylands Library became part of The University of Manchester in 1972 and currently holds the Special Collections of The University of Manchester Library.

The building – situated on Deansgate – houses over 250,000 printed volumes, and well over a million manuscripts and archival items.

The John Rylands Library

Following my review and recommendations, their audience development plan now follows a clear structure which:

  • audits the Library’s current context and situation
  • defines their target audiences and objectives
  • outlines a strategy and associated tactics
  • identifies evaluation and measurement tools.

The Grundy Art Gallery

My work with the Grundy came at a time of great cultural groundswell in Blackpool. The work of LeftCoast (Creative People and Places Blackpool and Wyre) was underway and the Blackpool Museum project was beginning its development phase in advance of a stage 2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Grundy Art Gallery was very much part of this cultural call to arms on the Fylde Coast – with a new curator fresh from the Hayward Gallery of London’s Southbank, a passionate and experienced gallery team working alongside him, and a National Portfolio Organisation application approved in July 2014 by Arts Council England for another three years.

But – due to pressures on staff time – there had been no real direction for marketing and audience development.

I worked closely with the team to create a plan which used up-to-date audience intelligence to inform a defined 6-step strategy. A working, active document was produced which was designed to meet the changing needs of its audience between 2014 and 2017.

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Image: taken in Heather Phillipson’s exhibition ‘Yes, surprising is existence in the post-vegetal cosmorama – ‘ 

‘I could not recommend Marge Ainsley enough – her energy, dedication and real care have shone through at every moment. Marge combines a deep understanding of audiences and the arts sector with an ability to connect with individuals and teams. Marge has a skill for not only drawing out information from people and organisations, but also rigorously applying analysis to that, in a way that is sensitive to where that organisation is at, and where it wants to go.’

Richard Parry, The Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool

Creative People and Places Blackpool and Wyre (LeftCoast)

Photo credit: CJGriffiths Photography

LeftCoast is an ambitious new programme of arts and cultural activity across Blackpool and Wyre to enrich the lives of those who live, work and visit there. From 2014 to 2016 the LeftCoast team will be experimenting on behalf of the nation to create a new English coastal experience in Blackpool and Wyre through arts and culture.

It’s about:

  • Engaging more people with arts and culture.
  • Developing the arts and cultural sector in Blackpool and the Wyre.
  • Creating, generating, importing and exporting great art.
  • Changing internal and external perceptions of Blackpool and Wyre.

My work involves mentoring LeftCoast’s staff team on marketing and audience development approaches.

LeftCoast is one of Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places funded projects. The funding focuses investment in parts of the country where people’s involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average, with the aim of increasing the likelihood of participation.

Eden Rivers Trust

photo of river eden

As the team were going through the process of redesigning their website, it was a perfect opportunity to review their existing social media platforms. Were they reaching the right audiences and could they manage their social media channels more effectively?

Having worked on their tactical marketing and communications plan alongside a fellow freelancer, I was invited back to deliver social media training to a range of staff members. The first session went back to basics – considering the why’s and how’s of social media, with a particular focus on target audiences and creative examples showcasing best practice. I then ran a facilitated second workshop where the team devised their social media strategy; outlining the key audiences, platforms, content and staff responsibilities.

‘Marge has been great to work with.  Her extensive knowledge and understanding of social media have provided us with the insights and confidence we needed to help shape our Social Media Strategy.  She brought fresh-thinking to the table, came well prepared and made it easy to understand, taking away a lot of the mystery surrounding social media.’

Joanne Spencer, Project Manager, Eden Rivers Trust

Dales Countryside Museum


Dales Countryside Museum

The museum – managed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority – tells the story of the people and landscape of the Yorkshire Dales past and present. It’s housed in a conversion of the Hawes railway station in Wensleydale.

Through a series of meetings and seminars I worked with the team to audit their current marketing activity, which included a review of their approach to social media. Our sessions focussed on understanding the needs of priority target audiences, followed by the development of creative ideas for tactical activity.

“Marge has been great to work with in relation to our marketing and communication activities. She very quickly grasped the context within which we operate and suggested practical ways in which we could develop communication with our various audiences.”

Fiona Rosher, Museum Manager, Dales Countryside Museum

The Laurence Sterne Trust, Shandy Hall

Image copyright and courtesy The Laurence Sterne Trust

The Laurence Sterne Trust was established as a registered charity in 1967 in order to promote the writings of Laurence Sterne, the 18th century novelist and vicar of Coxwold. Shandy Hall is where he lived and wrote The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy.

The Trust promotes Sterne’s work and international reputation through exhibitions, events and public access to the property and its collection.

My work involved a number of audience development mentoring sessions with the team through a commission from Museums Development Yorkshire.

The Citadel

The Citadel is an arts centre based in St.Helens offering a range of exhibitions, community outreach, performances and workshops.

I’m working with the team to build a strategic plan which will develop existing and new family audiences. It’s part of two year project funded by Arts Council England which aims to bring new audiences to The Citadel, and raise the quality of artistic programming for families.

We’re working through a tried and tested audience development planning process, which involves the whole staff team. So we’re reviewing the Citadel’s current position in terms of family audiences, identifying its aims and objectives for the project, and outlining a strategy and tactical blueprint.

The Citadel

Image: Getting to know your audience – planning workshop with the team

London 2012 Stories of the World

Northwest museums: Harris Museum & Art Gallery, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Platt Hall — Manchester City Galleries, Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery, Bolton Museum & Art Gallery, Lancashire County Museums Service: Queen Street Mill, Burnley, & Helmshore Mill Textile Museum.

Yorkshire museums: Museums Sheffield, Barnsley Museum & Heritage Service, Leeds Museums & Galleries, Bradford Museums & Galleries, Scarborough Museums Trust, York Museums Trust & Hull Museums.

I also co-ordinated the Digital Journalists (DJs) scheme across both regions. This involved training co-curators from across the museums to use various social media channels to create a dialogue about their work.


Image credit: Joel Chester Fildes

London 2012 Festival

Young curators in Bradford spent 2011 investigating and responding to Bradford’s rich collection of textiles from all over the world. Golden Threads was the result: an exhibition which opened in May 2012 that made links between historical and modern Bradford.

This project was led by Arts Council England in partnership with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.


Image courtesy Bradford Industrial Museum

“Marge was a great asset to Bradford’s Golden Threads project as she was able to bring creative flair to marketing but also had key knowledge regarding social media, branding and design as well as an ability to work with a range of staff and project participants. She also demonstrated great flexibility in order to help us meet deadlines and produced a great finished product.”

Janet Simmonds, Museums Manager