Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Tale of Moaning Martha and the Tourism Award

Crikey! Earlier this month I discovered I'd been shortlisted for a national award. That's pretty big news for this particular Terrible Worrier from Norfolk. But how to maintain enthusiasm and momentum (and not bore my friends) for the whole of the voting period?

Of course I am throughly flattered and delighted to have been nominated by my employer, Norfolk Museums, in collaboration with Visit Norwich. The award is in its fourth year and is run by Visit England - they used to be called the Tourist Board- as part of English Tourism Week. Voting began on the 16th January and closes on 28th February. I am one of eleven finalists, and the only representative from the East of England.

People get nominated for going above and beyond the call of duty to give visitors to their attraction and region a great time. My employers said a lot of lovely stuff about me, about which I am both grateful and slightly embarrassed:

"Rachel manages a wide range of activities at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, a 50-acre site in the heart of Norfolk consisting of historic workhouse buildings and traditional working farm. 
Why vote for Rachel?
  • As workhouse inmate, "Moaning Martha", Rachel engages and entertains visitors of all ages and abilities, sharing her passion for the rich heritage of Norfolk and the fascinating true stories from the workhouse. This summer, the grumpy ‘Martha’ led tours of the building for families, revealing its hidden histories, and she has created innovative games and activities to unlock more information.
  • Always up for a challenge and prepared to go the extra mile, Rachel has publically endured living on a workhouse diet, sharing the highs and lows via social media and her blog: This work has assisted the museum in reaching new audiences, introducing them to what life was like within the workhouse walls. 
  • Rachel is a great advocate for Norfolk as a tourism destination with a fascinating history, which she ensures is made accessible for all. 
  • Rachel firmly believes that every visitor to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, local or tourist, should leave having had a memorable day out which will have entertained, inspired and often challenged their preconceptions of life within the workhouse. Her creative ideas and enthusiasm for our museum is contagious, and we all love working with her."

But I also do other stuff in addition to the eating gruel in museums... 

Speaking about our county's heritage to hundreds of groups every year with my talks in character ...

Entertaining the more vulnerable members of Norfolk's society with the Pop Up Proms Project 

...and being an all round enthusiast and advocate for Norfolk Museums. 

I also help to raise lots of money for local charities by performing with my singing groups The Upper Octave and VocalScore.

I'm not the first person from Norfolk to have reached the final. In 2014, Buzby Allen of Potter's holiday resort in Hopton-on-Sea actually won it! Here's hoping I can bring the crown home to Norfolk again this year.

The six-week voting period is a very long time to keep momentum going. After the initial excitement of the announcement I am loathe to keep going on about it, yet I must in order to get the votes I need to win (or at least not come last!).

So there is a media campaign. This will raise the profile of the Voices From the Workhouse project at Gressenhall in addition to collecting votes for me. 

For social media I'm using a character well-known to Gressenhall regulars; Moaning Martha. 

Martha is a fictional workhouse inmate who enjoys nothing more than a good old grumble. Martha also talks in her native Norfolk dialect. Martha will be putting her 'workhouse diary updates' and stories on her Facebook Page and Twitter feed (@Moaning _Martha). She'll write them in a phonetic Norfolk dialect* so readers should hear her 'voice from the workhouse' loud and clear! 

Martha will also be posting a series of short videos to amuse her followers. Finding out 'Woss In My Baag' (see above for an example) should have people laughing- and hopefully voting too!

You can vote here: VOTE FOR RACH

*writing it how it sounds... afficionados may claim it's more of a Norwich accent than a Norfolk dialect. Dunt matters though do ut as long as thass not Somerset like they dew on the telly.