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Leon Burman

My Work Experience Placement at Whitchurch Silk Mill

By admin 10.03.2021

Whitchurch Silk Mill have the great pleasure of working with young people. We provide annual work experience placements for University students, where they get the chance to work behind the scenes with our Visitor Experience Team here at the Mill. Read Brittany’s post to find out what it’s like to work with us…

As an Event Management student starting my final year at the University of Winchester, it was time to choose a part-time work placement. After reviewing potential placements, it was clear to me that Whitchurch Silk Mill was a great opportunity to work within my local community. 

There were many reasons why I chose to do my placement at Whitchurch Silk Mill. Firstly the irresistible, beautiful setting was a definite bonus, and in terms of professionalism I recognised opportunities such as assisting with the activity and events programme, connecting with the local community, organising events while getting to understand the role and importance of heritage sites. So, at the end of July last year, I offered to start my placement early due to the uncertainty the current pandemic may have had on my studies and am very thankful to the team for being so accommodating. 

There are many, many things that I have learnt from my placement at the Mill and have been lucky enough to organise events and activities such as the Lockdown Open Art Exhibition, Hanging By a Thread Auction Week, Elf on the Shelf (Buddy the Elf), the Covid Secure Video  and more. A personal favourite of mine would be the Lockdown Open Art Exhibition, which took place in September. Despite the event being cut short due to lockdown restrictions, it was a real pleasure and achievement to plan, create, design, and hold this event at the Mill in such a short period of time, enhancing my event management skills.  I must thank and acknowledge everyone involved in this event, such as the exhibitors and the Mill Team for their willingness and understanding for the event’s quick turnover through such difficult times.  This particular event was my most memorable, it showcased artworks by local artists that were created throughout lockdown, it really showed the support and feeling of community togetherness, this was actually the idea behind the pink theme colour for the event, to represent and symbolise the idea of love and togetherness through this difficult period of time.  It was particularly interesting organising events in a particular venue such as the Mill as I was fortunate enough to learn about venue management skills such as the designing exhibition layouts/floorplans. 

Another event I organised during my time at the Mill was the Hanging By a Thread Auction Week, where I learnt how to communicate with trustees, volunteers and donors (Including international donors) from other organisations or other individuals.  Everyone involved was extremely generous when planning this event in order to raise funds for Whitchurch Silk Mill. This particular event however, I did find positively challenging, as like most event managers and organisations they are having to adapt and utilise new technological approaches during this time. This explains why this event, due to the unfortunate temporary closure because of Covid-19 was held online and it was decided to use mixed approaches of online interactions and timings. The week included many items from fantastic donors that were bid on through a mix of email entries, social media posts and Facebook live auction videos. Planning these events meant being consistently organised, timely, constantly communicating with those involved and understanding finances which have most definitely developed my skill set. 

Leading on from this I was fortunate enough to help with the Covid Secure video which was led by one of the Mill’s fantastic volunteers, whereby I learnt how to write a script and edit film, and was also given fantastic top tips I will use in the future. This really was a great surprise and addition to my work experience and although an unforeseen project, this task has given me great insight into this area.  I discovered it to be very enjoyable and interesting. I was even given the opportunity to feature in the Video!

As previously mentioned, a lot of organisations like Whitchurch Silk Mill have had to move a lot of engagement online due to temporary closures because of the 2020 pandemic, during this time I recommended the idea of using the ‘Elf on the Shelf’ activity, but adapted the idea and named the elf Bobbin (named after one of the weaving tools used at the Mill) and incorporated this idea with the Fairy Folk of Whitchurch Silk Mill, that live in the areas of the Mill’s Fairy Trail (children’s garden activity trail). Elf on the Shelf is used by many parents and organisations around the world, and I thought it would be a great way of showcasing beautiful scenes/areas of the Mill, bringing a little humour and joy to people at home throughout December. Bobbin would often get into trouble with the Fairy Folk!

Last but definitely not least, throughout February I organised the Whitchurch SIlk Mill Wellbeing Month.  This event concept was originally going to take place at the Mill, however due to another lockdown in 2021 the event/campaign moved online. The campaign aimed to enhance our followers’ wellbeing through daily posts on social media, including quotes, poems, mini activities, videos and more, that we researched and planned to increase mindfulness. It really was a pleasure to plan Whitchurch Silk Mill Wellbeing Month as our wellbeing has not often been seen as a priority to us as individuals, however, most definitely should be. Therefore, whether the social media posts are big or small, those few seconds/minutes taken from the day are well spent on yourself and your wellbeing, which is so important, especially through the current crisis. 

Although my placement at Whitchurch Silk Mill has been the best experience, I cannot ignore the detrimental impact of Covid-19, as it has meant, like many others, adapting to working from home, which can be difficult. Also, the movements to online events and activities was also a new area for me like many others, and I did not have much knowledge of online engagement. However, the team at the Mill have been extremely supportive, and this online/virtual adaptation of working has been a total benefit to my studies.

 Usually when people are asked ‘How could the placement be improved?’, many would answer, ‘Nothing’ or ‘It can’t’, but really they do have answers, they just do not want to say. However, I whole heartly and honestly cannot think of one thing that I would have wanted to be different about my time at Whitchurch Silk Mill and have genuinely taken so much from this experience. I have learnt skills such as how to communicate with others, how to use new technologies and software, venue management skills, how to document, organisational skills and much, much more.  All of these I will use throughout my career.

One particular highlight of my placement at the Mill would definitely be working closely with Zoë, the current Activity Coordinator, who has been so fantastic in guiding me through the event planning, offering constant guidance and support. But also showing me how to have confidence in my work and has taught me many skills I will use in the future. I am very proud and thankful for how much Zoë has helped me achieve throughout my time at Whitchurch Silk Mill. Even during these difficult times, my placement at the Mill has not been negatively impacted, in fact positively enhanced, which is why I must most definitely finish this blog with a massive thank you to the team at the Mill, it has been great meeting everyone. I have been fortunate enough to meet most members of staff as well as many others involved with this beautiful heritage site, who really welcomed me. Another thing I have learnt is really, how hard the Mill Team work to save and maintain this wonderful site, they really are a treasure to Whitchurch Silk Mill. 

Thank You!

Brittany Peckham

Whitchurch Silk Mill Event Management Placement Student 2020-2021

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