Getting Coaching on Telling our Stories

Getting coaching on telling our stories

They were advertised as Learning Coach trips and both tours attracted a good number of people. The first was Herefordshire based and took in Berrington Hall, the National Trust place between Hereford and Leominster,  met by the NT Visitor Experience  Manager nationally, Tony Berry; a lunch visit to Yarpole Church; a pop in to Croft Church on the Croft Castle site, also National Trust; we finished at Stretford Church, which is the care of the Church Conservation Trust. So what did we learn?

Tony Berry was an inspiration, explaining how the National Trust had turned round the way they presented their buildings through the use of ‘story’.

·         people who lived there, or perhaps

·         one particular person

·         one special object

·         one particular room

·         an aspect of the garden

·         a particular shrub, species or water feature

The general does not work and we need to bring things to life.

Yarpole told us their story of rebuild and reuse.

Croft told us nothing at all.

Stretton must have heard Tony Berry speak previously!

The second trip was Shropshire based starting from Church Stretton and travelling via Apedale towards  the Ironbridge Gorge to hear from the Managing Director of the 10 Museums, Anna Brennen. In an entertaining talk she told us how the museums have to pay for themselves if they are to survive, just like our churches must. They are super pro-active at selling themselves. The longer  she went on spelling out their diverse ways of reaching people, the more passive our church approach of ‘our old building is very interesting’ appeared. It was a chatty lunch at the Wroxeter Hotel as we tried to absorb all we had learnt. Wroxeter church is a CCT church with Saxon origins and pillaged bits of Roman town, which still needs better ways to sell itself.  On to Atcham Church,  across the road from Attingham Park, a National Trust property with thousands of visitors. We were greeted by tea and cakes and a run down on what they were doing to attract visitors; signs in the churchyard with invitations to sit and contemplate the river Severn; a new book just published about the war graves with information about the men who occupy them; information about the church available even when empty.

Both days were good days out and the feedback was positive. So what can the Shropshire and Herefordshire Churches Tourism Groups do? Can they rise to the challenge? And if your church has not got as far as joining one of these groups then can you join up and help us tell our stories in a proactive way? Happy visitors are generous ones.