Wednesday, 19 July 2017

This Blog Temporarily De-Activated

Following a six month sabbatical from all social media I've decided to retire this blog.

I'll leave it available for posterity (and in case I change my mind!) but I won't be updating it for the foreseeable future.

Everything anyone could possibly need to know about my 'Remarkable Women' talks and performances, is available on my website, where there are also links to my Remarkable Women facebook page and twitter feeds.

My contact details are also on the website.

Au revoir!! 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

My New Year's Revolution

Elizabeth 1st’s Personal Branding, the 360 Degree CV - and surviving without Social Media

Recently, my freelancing business had its tenth birthday (yay, me!). I took advantage of this anniversary to update my website and have a think about my own ‘personal brand’. It led to an unexpected amount of head-scratching and heart-searching, and a quietly momentous decision.

Considered by some to be a never-ending act of navel-gazing vanity, in this digital age of 24/7 communication, one’s online image, content and interactions are open to scrutiny. They seem to have become a constant and essential part of day to day business. 

Personal branding is the steadier part of it; on the surface it’s crafting a glossy image with matching business cards and website. While those things are very useful and look professional, for personal branding to ring true it will reflect exactly who you are and what you represent, and it will offer your audience a shorthand guide to your business offer, personality, values and skills. Personal branding is not a new idea; the portraits of Tudor Queen Elizabeth 1st are a powerfully successful example, and one which has lasted centuries. 

The 360 degree CV, on the other hand, is not a still-life or portrait, but a living mirror. It comprises not only your traditional CV, but also Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, blogs… in fact all those social media platforms where you give evidence to prove the promises you made in your personal branding about Who You Are and What People Can Expect From You.  

To extend the Tudor metaphor, if the Queen’s portrait is her version of personal branding, then her annual Royal Progress- a trip to the provinces to maintain her power by showing the living, breathing, demanding woman in splendid action; and giving her audience an opportunity to interact with her- must be today’s 360 degree CV. 

If your personal branding has represented you at your best - and lets face it, it really ought to - then people’s expectations will be high. That means you’ll have to live up to your own hype. 

The 360 degree CV is available 24/7 and people can look at it from anywhere in the world. They expect to be amused, impressed, and have the chance to interact with recent updates. Just like Queen Elizabeth 1st did on Royal Progress in 1565 (film of re-enactment here ), you need to show today's prospective audiences, employers and competitors that you’re still live and kicking!  

Yet back then, Queen Elizabeth had courtiers and attendants operating between her and 'her public'. Nowadays, we mere mortals have to do it all ourselves, and I don't know about you but I find that thinking up endless different things to say that are amusing, insightful, intelligent and gently self-promoting on a 24/7 basis on multiple social media platforms is tough. Ok, not Junior Doctor tough or Firefighter tough, but tough enough, on top of the multiple demands of 3 jobs, my friends, home and family. And I worry, incessantly, that when I promote my work I'm annoying people. And it's exhausting.

In essence, finding the time and energy to be online and ‘on message’ in 140 characters several times a week is something I’m starting to feel that life might actually be too short to bother with.   

Some big questions bubble up: Who looks at it anyway? Does it actually lead to any more work? Does anyone even care? Am I just doing it because everyone else is? Because it’s expected of me?

It just plays straight into the hands of my inner approval-junkie. So as it's nearly Christmas I have decided this: After the cold turkey, I'm going cold turkey.

Next year, expect the unexpected. I’m just going to do my work and let the social media circus travel on without me. Radical, eh? 

My website is in place and my traditional CV is on LinkedIn. If anyone needs info on what I do, what I’ve done, or would like to employ me, everything they need to know is readily, glossily and co-ordinately available, thanks to the fruits of my own recent personal branding escapade. 

Other than that, from January 2017 I’m off social media for at least six months. If I was Queen Elizabeth 1st (which funnily enough I am, occasionally- check out my website!) I’d be issuing a decree cancelling next year’s Royal Progress. 

I know the world’s changed in the last decade, but the 360 Degree CV treadmill makes me run very fast to stay still. I’m switching it off for a while.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Rachel's Remarkable Rebranding

In 2017 I'll have been doing my 'talks' for ten years. 

Yes, really. 

So it's time to redecorate!! My rebranded, shiny, new and, let's face it, very PINK website launched successfully this week. It's called

I did the bulk of it myself using the web-building site, but no man is an island, so enormous thanks are due to the following talented experts for their part in it's rebirth:

  • Steve of for those excellent, crisp main images, and for coincidentally looking a lot like 007 Daniel Craig.
  • Tim Wheeler of for sensible i.t. advice on mysterious things like Meta Tags and Google Analytics.
  • Matt at for his logical thinking, and also his helpful remarks like 'it's a bit pink, isn't it?'
  • Lucy at for her words of wisdom on social media, marketing & PR (and her necessary extreme pernickety-ness while proof-reading).
In noble retirement: the QueenieLives website
 Sincere thanks are also 
 due to Cassie at
 who got me up and 
 running on the web 
 many years ago with the
 original Queenielives

Cassie passed me on to Tim for advice when she moved her services away from website design.This coincided with my ten-year anniversary, so it seemed to be the perfect time to freshen up my online image.

Please do pop over to the new website
and have a poke around! It's been updated with details on all six of my 'talks'*, my live interpretation and heritage education offer, and all the right contact details, recent photos, reviews and pricing.

For informal updates and behind the scenes gossip you can also follow me on my newly refreshed Facebook and Twitter pages- the links are all on the new website.

*They're really not just talks, you know. It's not your average WI slide-show on 'My Begonias 1985-1997'. It's really good stuff, properly researched and entertainingly presented.

Monday, 20 June 2016

"The Multi Award Winning Rachel Duffield" would like to thank ...

I'm really, really chuffed to have recently won an Outstanding Contribution Award (OSCA) for the category 'Excellence in Education'. I think I get an actual trophy this time. 

It's awarded by Norfolk County Council, chosen from nominations by unnamed peers, so to be recognised for excellence by my employers and colleagues is truly fabulous, and I am extremely grateful.

However, I was only doing my job (albeit brilliantly, obviously), and my job represents only the tip of an amazing iceberg. 

At Norfolk Museums I'm fortunate to be in a role which suits my skill set admirably. I like talking: I get to talk to people, loads of them, all different types, all the time. I love thinking through what my little corner of the heritage industry really needs, how it fits in with wider corporate goals, then inventing weird and wonderful ways to get others interested too. I love creating new projects and bringing people together to join in with them, I like presenting, being the public face of things, and of course, I do enjoy a certain amount of dressing up and showing off. 

I get to do all these things in my job, and somehow, people like seeing me do it, and for whatever reason, people do join in, and it's all lovely.

And then I get awards for it- but what about the rest of the 'amazing iceberg'?

For the last eight years I've worked in a small team of extremely talented, clever, conscientious, funny and kind people, from whom I have learnt to be more tolerant, more organised, more thoughtful and more hardworking. They have expanded my thinking, increased my knowledge and, when needed, shored up my confidence. The impact of their direct support cannot be underestimated. 

Our small team is part of the county learning department (also multi-award-winning) which is in turn underpinned by the wider museums service. Norfolk Museums regularly undertakes highly innovative and worthwhile work in conservation, collections, exhibitions, community and training initiatives and is recognised as a national leader in museum education.

It is only within this landscape of skill, experience and positive encouragement that I am able to do what I do, and I'm unspeakably, bowel-shatteringly lucky to have been given the opportunity. 

P.S: The trophy is still mine.

Click here for my Linked-In profile (day job) or here for my freelancing website (side-gig).

Monday, 18 April 2016

Fact: Diets Can Help With Research. Here's how...

"Did you lose any weight?"

That's the question I'm asked most when visitors to Norfolk's Farm and Workhouse museum at Gressenhall find out that I have not only tasted real gruel, but lived on it for three weeks. 

(They also ask what on earth was the point of doing it.)

Roll back to 2014 and Norfolk Museums were bidding for funding in order to redevelop the Workhouse bit of this wonderful rural life museum in west Norfolk. Staff were asked to think of publicity ideas for the project, which was to be named 'Voices From the Workhouse'; I thought a bit of experiential research wouldn't go amiss, and "Living the Workhouse Diet" was born. 

Research of all kinds informs and illuminates the interpretation of museums displays. To this end, at Gressenhall teams of staff and volunteers have transcribed documents such as census, letters of thanks, orders for food and fabric and the minutes of Workhouse Guardians' meetings. The latter discussed important questions such as the eyesight of the schoolboys, whether the unmarried mothers should be allowed Christmas lunch and even a scandalous liaison between a schoolmaster and a female inmate. These are all tiny snapshots of workhouse life, teasing us to find out more, and challenging us to tell these stories as faithfully as we can to a modern audience. 

Research has enabled the partial restoration of the site's Victorian steam laundry to take place. Research has traced and clarified the complex architectural changes to the Workhouse buildings, from the more communal Georgian House Of Industry, through its development into the tough regime of Victorian Workhouse days and into its twilight years as Beech House Nursing Home. We can now retell this story in digitised model form.

My own experiential research into the workhouse diets of the 1770s, 1830s and 1900s feeds into the engagement of our visitors on a visceral level. We all know about food, and bowels, and hunger. Little Oliver Twist's plaintive 'Please Sir, I want some more' is embedded into our consciousness and makes us feel sympathy. It's the rallying cry for the commonly held belief that the workhouse system was incorrigibly cruel and unfair: that in effect, to be poor was a punishable offence. 

However, the 'Voices from the Workhouse' redevelopment is all about finding out the real stories, and the real stories don't always match the Dickensian myths. For example, not everyone ate the same; dietaries from the time tell us that children, invalids and the elderly were given better nourishment than less deserving inmates. Nevertheless living on the standard (horrible) workhouse diet,   I wasn't hungry. None of us expected that.

My experience was that the food was weird (1770s:'frumenty'- whaaat?) and too bland for my salt-and-sugar-ready modern palate. 

It was very boring eating the same thing repetitively. The 1830s diet was thin gruel for breakfast, bread and cheese for most other meals, meat once, and soup once in a week, and it was all too stodgy for my comparatively sedentary lifestyle. 1901 was the best of the bunch; I got jam roly poly. 

The beer for breakfast in the 1770s diet was unexpected, and wind-inducing. The strict, meagre 'Scientific Diet' of the 1830s was the worst week. No surprises there, but I didn't expect liquid bowels (sorry to mention it), nor the oppressive bone-weariness that kicked in at day three. And, to repeat, I was never actually hungry. 
You can't find that out by just reading a document. 

Now in 2016 the project - funding successfully granted - is nearing completion.

In the old dining hall at Gressenhall, where Victorian inmates hunched over their supper of bread and cheese, sky-high glass panels, glossy text boards and digital projections now tell us their stories. Children can weigh out 'food' portions and see for themselves how much or how little was served. A wafer of perspex separates visitors feet from the newly revealed and restored original schoolroom floor and, throughout the galleries, 'ghosts' of workhouse inmates and staff appear to give their opinions or relive their most notorious moments.

Sensitively displayed objects, chosen from the vast collection, will gently nudge visitors towards considering attitudes to the poor 'then and now', and attest to the ways in which the physical, educational and spiritual welfare of the workhouse inmates were attended; bibles and hymn books, a nurses cap, some modest toys. A few surprises too; letters reveal happy memories of the place from former inmates, and we discover that early piloting of the progressive pupil-teacher educational system took place here. 

Tomorrow I am filming a short silent movie about the workhouse diet for the redisplay, and, in preparation , once again I have gruel boiling on my stove. 

So- what was the the point of it all? Living the workhouse diet unearthed more questions than it answered (historians love it when that happens): Was the diet designed to make inmates lack energy in order to increase obedience? Did I feel worse or better than inmates would have, considering my usual standard of living? Did every workhouse adhere strictly to the dietary? 

Two years later I don't remember the all the tiny details, but I'll never forget how I felt. 'Living the Workhouse Diet' gave me vastly increased insight and empathy into the lives of those in the workhouse, which is something I'll always remember. 

In simple terms, my experiential research added a layer of real, relatable, experience to the masses of traditional research underpinning our splendid new workhouse displays. 

And no, I didn't lose any weight. 

By day Rachel is currently the Learning & Engagement Officer for Voices From the Workhouse at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse near Dereham, in Norfolk. By night she is a freelance live interpreter and public speaker. 

Her 'Living the Workhouse Diet' blog can be found here and the official Gressenhall museum website is here.

Contact Rachel via her website here and if so inclined you can also follow her on Facebook (What Queenie Did) or on Twitter (@WhatQueenieDid).

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole: 8 Survival Tips

Don't get me wrong, I remain utterly delighted at being nominated by my peers for the 2016 Visit England Tourism Superstar Award. I was even more thrilled to make the national shortlist of only eleven finalists. 
But trying to win the contest by public vote was like someone throwing you a surprise party, then telling you it was up to you to ensure people came.

The situation: I found myself plonked in the middle of a campaign to get people to vote for me. I am competitive. It was public. I wanted to impress; I wanted to win. Failing that, I wanted to absolutely do everything I could to give it my best shot.

Flipside: I wanted to appeal to the broadest possible section of the public with amusing videos so they voted for me. 
I also desperately wanted people to understand that I do really good educational work with vulnerable people, school children and museum visitors, and actually, really and truly I'm not just a performing monkey who turns up, talks funny and pulls faces. Honest.

How did it go? Well, I'm still here! And I learnt a lot- so here are my 8 Survival Tips for Award Nominees!

Survival Tip #1 : When you are landed in the middle of something like that, the sooner you realise you can't control much -if any- of it, the better. Chill out. 

Survival Tip #2 : Let the marketing people do their thing. Whatever you might think should be happening, remember, they are the experts, not you. Let it go. 

Survival Tip #3 : Work out the areas you can have an impact on, and go for it, all guns blazing, full tilt. I concentrated on the social media end of the campaign: Moaning Martha's Facebook page,  @Moaning_Martha on Twitter, and Moaning Martha's YouTube channel

Survival Tip #4 : Work out what's in it for you. There might be a perspex trophy and a lot of back-slapping if you win, but try to think more broadly. What skills will you learn in the process? Will it be useful for your future career path? Or will you just sit back and enjoy the ride?

Survival Tip #5 : Work out what's in it for others. The outcome for my employers was a profile boost for a specific project, and to increase networking opportunities nationally. One outcome for the organising body, Visit England, was to help publicise National Tourism Week. An outcome for the hosts, The Daily Mirror, was to increase traffic to their web page...and so on. Understand it's not all about you! (sorry).   

Survival Tip #6 : Don't obsess about the competition. Yeah, right. Good luck with that one. 

Survival Tip #7 : Don't panic about annoying your friends on social media by going on and on about this one thing endlessly. Decent friends will realise how important it is to you, vote for you, interact when they feel like it and then let it all wash over them until the result is announced. Then they'll say lovely supportive things. Well, mine did, anyway.

Survival Tip #8 : Don't take it personally if you don't win. Weep, rant, go for a run, whatever- then refer back to Tips #4 and #5, and get back to work. There are people starving in the world for goodness sake. It's just an award. It was great you were nominated. You learnt stuff. Update your CV and move on!

Did I take my own survival advice? You might think so... I couldn't possibly comment...

Oh- and by the way- you know in a previous post I said about every vote counting? I came third in this particular competition; the person who came second only got TWO more votes than me. That's life!

PS Enjoy short, regular updates on Twitter- @WhatQueenieDid or on Facebook- QueenieLives. Do come and say hello!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

2016/17 Diary Dates Checklist

Please check the list at the bottom of this page if you have booked me for anything in 2016/17

Here's why...

You don't really understand the benefit of anything until it goes, do you? 

Two and a half years ago I started using a diary app on my iPad in preference to a paper diary. It was great. But just under a week ago, it crashed, taking with it my entire schedule of Norfolk Museums outreach bookings, freelancing appointments, Moaning Martha publicity stuff, childcare arrangements, Upper Octave and other rehearsals and concerts, social appointments, reminders and meal plans. It was a colour co-ordinated, at-a-glance, super-efficient scheduling tool... until suddenly, it wasn't.

So I have gone back to paper for the time being, and hopefully I have found all of my booked dates from emails, social media, and phoning people up and crying. 

Inevitably one or two may have slipped through the net, so this is about damage limitation!!

If you are someone who has booked me for talks, entertainment, museums outreach or ed sessions in the next 18 months or so please check the list below for your date. I haven't put names of groups beside the dates for obvious reasons. 

If your group's date isn't here, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH WITH ME ASAP!!!

Contact details
07760 661527 / 01508 570620

Dates currently booked:

Feb 2016
Bookings on: 24th, 29th.

March  2016
Bookings on: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 23rd, 24th, 30th.

April 2016
Bookings on: 5th, 7th, 11th, 12th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 26th.

May 2016
Bookings on: 3rd, 7th, 9th, 13th, 17th, 18th, 23rd, 25th.

June 2016
Bookings on: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th, 15th, 20th.

July 2016
Bookings on: 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 21st.

August 2016
Bookings on: 3rd, 9th, 11th.

September 2016
Bookings on: 1st, 7th, 21st, 26th, 29th.

October 2016
Bookings on: 5th, 6th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 18th, 20th, 24th, 27th.

November 2016
Bookings on: 2nd, 8th, 17th, 21st.

December 2016
Bookings on: 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 13th. 
No further bookings being taken for December 2016.

2017 Bookings:
10th Jan, 1st Feb, 22nd March, 18th April, 8th August.

..and just for good measure, there's still time to vote for me (should you wish to) in the Visit England Tourism Superstar Awards. Here's the link!

Thanks to all who've voted so far!