Coffin Works


By Ann Evans.


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So many of our favourite tourist attractions could not survive without their enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers. Ann Evans highlights the winners at the recent  Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s second annual volunteer award scheme.


At the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s second annual volunteer award scheme for museums in the West Midlands the winners were revealed at an inspirational ceremony at Birmingham’s Hippodrome Theatre on Tuesday evening, 19th September.


The Volunteer Awards, part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums’ West Midlands Museum Development Programme, which is funded by Arts Council England, were created in 2016 to recognise and reward the invaluable role and significant contribution made by volunteers to museums in the region.


Volunteers generously give their time, amounting to thousands of hours of support per year and are credited as being the life blood of many museums. They bring energy, enthusiasm and expertise to all areas of museum life and the awards were a chance for everyone to hear their stories and to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements


The winners in each of the nine categories are:

(l-r)Sarah Bishop and Tudor House Museum Volunteer team, and Peter Phillips of Arts Council England

‘Above & Beyond, Individual’ – Gwynedd Roberts from the Lace Guild Museum, Black Country. Gwynedd was described by judges as having shown outstanding commitment, exceptional organisational skills, true dedication to the cause and tenacity. The judges felt this should be a ‘lifetime achievement’ award.


‘Above & Beyond, Team’ – Volunteer Team from the Tudor House Museum, Worcestershire. It was felt it would be harder to demonstrate a greater commitment to a museum, which wouldn’t be open if it wasn’t for them.

Sarah Bishop and Hayfa Sultan, Birmingham Back to Backs

‘The Project Award’ – Learning Team from Birmingham Back to Backs won this award because they demonstrated a scientific approach to collection, analysis and evaluation of information. They were deemed a proactive team who’ve gone all out.


‘Spreading the Word’ – Volunteer Visitor Services Team from Market Hall Museum, Warwickshire were chosen because of their inclusivity, they are always striving to improve the visitor experience.


‘Working Together’ – Millers from Sarehole Mill, Birmingham won this award because they have turned around the site to a proper working museum and demonstrated great teamwork.


‘Special Award: Audiences’ – Front of House Team at Newman Brothers at the Coffin Works, Birmingham picked up the award because of their outstanding work as a collective and for removing barriers that museums face.

British Motor Museum – Collections Centre

‘Special Award: Collections’ – Vince Hall from British Motor Museum, Warwickshire was successful in this category because the work he has undertaken has been timely and has a lasting legacy.


‘Special Award: Young People’ – Claire McGibbon from Blakesley Hall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Weoley Castle picked up this award because of her energy – she’s described as a dynamo, constantly on the go! Her hard work, passion and enthusiasm are clear.


‘Special Award: Young People – Determination’ – Hayfa Sultan from the Birmingham Back to Backs has overcome adversity, shown perseverance and determination. Reading her nomination gave the judges goosebumps.


‘Judges Award for Excellence’ – Volunteer Team from the Tudor House Museum were honoured with this award for showing a passion to save, resurrect and thrive.

(l-r) Awards host Sarah Bishop, Catherine Griffin of the British Motor Museum and Anna Brennand Chief Executive of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

Karen Davies, Director of Museum Development at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, said: “We were delighted to have received such high quality nominations for the second annual West Midlands Volunteer Awards.  The judging panel certainly had a hard task to select the winners.”


The ceremony, hosted by broadcast journalist Sarah Bishop, featured a host of diverse entertainment including the contemporary telling of the story of female soldier, Hannah Snell, by Talking Birds; magician’s Morgan & West and Break Mission Dance Crew accompanied by Brum 2 Brazil and attendees were treated to a feast of delicious food and drink.


The Awards are part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s Major Partner Museum and West Midlands Museum Development programmes and are funded by Arts Council England.