In the first evening event at BCIMO, the team had the pleasure of hosting delegates from the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) for an informal reception ahead of their annual conference at the neighbouring Black Country Living Museum. 

The conference was an opportunity for individuals and teams within with the museum and heritage sector to meet and network, and to access a broad array of practical advice and inspiration. Over the course of the two-day programme, AIM delegates discussed a range of key topics, with a focus on engagement with communities, and the challenges and opportunities this brings to their organisations.

Scheduled talks for the first day included the experiences of organisations in identifying and engaging with specific demographic groups, building a business case for community, the link between community and conservation, the power of storytelling, and online heritage. The second day included community-centred governance, museum advocacy in times of change, and staff and visitor safety and wellbeing. Each day encompassed talks, workshops and discussions.

Their evening at BCIMO began with a welcome from Andrew Lovett OBE, AIM Chair and Chief Executive at the Black Country Living Museum, including to Dudley, which itself has a rich cultural and industrial heritage. BCIMO staff were also on hand to talk to visitors about the history of the site, originally Dudley’s train station, which opened in 1860 but closed a century later as part of the Beeching cuts.

Original features from the station, such as the retaining wall with a series of arches and the bridge at the lower end of Castle Hill, still remain; but the most significant feature is the famous Dudley Tunnel, opened in 1850 to allow the Oxford-Worcester-Wolverhampton Line to pass below the eastern side of the town. The building of the landmark Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre – BCIMO’s home – on the exact site of the old station, pays both homage to the rail history of the Black Country and host to rail innovation for the future.

Alongside the Black Country Living Museum, the VLRNIC is also adjacent to the estate of Dudley Castle, originally built as a wooden motte and bailey structure in 1070, shortly after the Norman Conquest. It was rebuilt in the Tudor period and remained in occupation until a fire in 1750, becoming home to Dudley Zoo in 1937.  To the north of the Centre is Dudley Canal, opened in 1792 to carry coal from Tipton and limestone from Wren’s Nest Hill, under which it extends. The hill is now a protected nature reserve, and the most diverse and abundant fossil site in the British Isles.

Respecting our natural and cultural heritage, and protecting it for future generations, was high on the agenda for discussion at AIM’s evening reception, with experiences shared amongst delegates and with the BCIMO team. Their reflections were on the importance of capturing stories from older and dwindling generations, the essential role of living museums and historical interpreters in really engaging visitors, and the potential for new technologies like augmented reality to explore sites remotely and thus with less environmental impact.

Amongst the conversations, delegates also had the opportunity to sample a rather indulgent Mediterranean menu from Wolverhampton-based caterers, From Our Kitchen – including served canapes – and an array of drinks from Worcester-based Savva Bars, who provided a pop-up bar and bartenders for the evening. With music and bespoke lighting in the Exhibition Hall, the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable, and the perfect start to a busy conference.

As part of the Meeting & Event Spaces portfolio, the Exhibition Hall and adjacent Auditorium are ideal for a range of different formal and informal events throughout the day and into the evening, and provide real flexibility to accommodate clients’ needs. In addition to spaces – which can also be combined for larger or multi-purpose events – the choice of seating and equipment arrangements, the use of light and audio-visual elements, and a literal menu of tempting catering options, creates the perfect environment for guests.

Events Manager at BCIMO, Helena Davies, said:

“It was great to be chosen as the host venue for the new-format welcome and networking event to launch AIM’s annual conference, rather than as a closing event as it has been in recent years. There was a lovely atmosphere in the Exhibition Hall, with a buzz of greetings from those who hadn’t seen each other in some time. With the support of my colleagues Helen and Gary, the evening was a relaxed and informal affair and a real pleasure to facilitate.”

Christine Andre, Programme and Events Officer at AIM, said:

Thanks very much for having us – it was a great start to our conference. Brilliant service all round from the BCIMO team, bar staff and caterers – we’d highly recommend to others looking for event space in the area.

To view and book your next daytime or evening event please visit BCIMO’s Meeting & Event Spaces. Eligible bookings made using the new Online Booking Form will also receive a FREE mocktail (T&Cs apply)!

For more information on BCIMO and the VLRNIC please visit the BCIMO website or Contact Us to make an enquiry.

BCIMO is a not-for-profit Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) and operator of the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), a unique, world-class centre for rail innovation based in Dudley in the West Midlands.

BCIMO Project Funders

Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre
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