Lois Barnett, English BA (Hons) student, shares all about her recent work experience in the arts and heritage industry.

It is challenging to commit to a single career choice, especially when an English degree opens the door to a range of varied career prospects. The ‘Future Directions’ module is therefore perfect for undergraduate students as it includes a work experience opportunity which gives a taste of the day-day of a particular role. I initially struggled to know how to go about obtaining a placement, but as someone interested in a career in the arts and heritage sector, I found the best approach was to email local organisations such as museums, libraries, and galleries to gain experience. I was surprised at the number of heritage and arts organisations (including local councils) that were open to offering student work placements.

On my work placement I supported the ‘Climate. Emergency. Hope’ exhibition at The Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, which gave focus to the current climate crisis and sustainable solutions through different mediums such as photography, video and 2D art. Created by young people, the exhibition allowed for reflection on the climate crisis to prompt sustainable change. This idea of sustainability was the focus of the community workshops I helped to facilitate, such as the Family Planting Workshop, in which local gardener, Liz, led activities such as planting and making biodegradable plant pots. These activities were environmentally friendly and allowed people through creative activities to be more sustainable. I loved the experience this workshop provided me as running group sessions within the community was something with which I had no prior experience. This allowed me to grow in confidence and connect through the activities with the public.

Another workshop I helped to facilitate was held in partnership with local charity, SWAP, at Kingsleigh Methodist Church Community Centre. SWAP is a local charity based in Wigan which provides a range of support – through casework and educational guidance – to refugees and asylum seekers. The workshop by artist Beena from Sheba Arts, another local non-profit art group called Creating Place, provided a range of art activities in line with the exhibition to support and bring together the local community. For example, in the photos, you will see me getting ‘stuck in’ with some mud-making houses created from sustainable materials or trying and completely failing at weaving or origami-based activities. Overall, the workshop allowed me to see the impact that local workshops have on the community and connect with people in fun and innovative ways. Before my placement I never would have thought I would have the confidence to help run or participate in such activities, but my work experience at the gallery has allowed me to see this.

Ultimately, finding a work placement may fill you with a sense of dread as a student but it shouldn’t. It allows you to develop new skills and find interests you never thought to pursue!

Lois Barnett, third-year English student