Edition number 17; dateline 6 March 2009

Announcing your engagement

April may be the cruellest month for some but here at TLR Towers we have found February quite testing. What with various deadlines to meet, clients’ end-of-season budgets to account for and the first hint that there may just be a last spring after all, we’ve been busy which has caused the March issue to emerge rather later than we would have liked. My apologies and thanks to anyone that has been tapping their fingers on the desk waiting for us.

Without the editorial team really noticing a theme seems to have crept up on this issue, that of engagement. Tara Dillon explains how and why she wants to engage the facilities management sector on behalf of the Institute of Qualified Lifeguards. Kay Adkins muses from the tub about mentoring and how mentors might best engage mentees. Florence Orban looks to how the industry might pursue the engagement of apprentices to the mutual benefit of employer and employee. Helen Rose, one of TLR’s most sporadic but most talented correspondents, tells of a whole community engaged in their thousands by a persistent mystery.

My moment of engagement came at the National Gallery. Having climbed the stairs from the Picasso exhibition with the aim of finding the prints on display near the entrance to the main building, I passed a large group gathered around a member of the gallery’s staff who was, I think, leading that day’s eleven o’clock tour. To me this attentive group and enthusiastic tutor succinctly illustrated that people are more than willing to be engaged and how much there is in the sport, leisure and culture sector able to engage them.

For my money (although I confess I paid none to get in) engagement is one reason why the death of the blockbuster exhibition cannot come quickly enough. It is most obvious that the charge dissuades a lot of people from attending who might otherwise have found such an exhibition interesting, thought-provoking or valuable – free access to galleries and museums has proved that –  and the closed door promotes atavistic concepts of exclusivity best laid to rest. But the big show in town also suggests that the permanent collection is somehow less worthy of our attention and time; if the material behind the turnstile is grabbing the headlines and all the promotional space perhaps the stuff left for the rest of us is less than the best that the world of art has to offer?

It is not the case at the National Gallery, which is, of course, one of the world’s most celebrated and successful galleries with a collection to rival any museum. The popularity of the National Gallery’s daily tours, lectures and presentations also shows that they have an audience that is keen to be engaged. The gallery staff put a huge amount of effort into making such magical experiences and moments happen throughout the long days that the gallery is open. They also demonstrate the best way to engage people is to talk to them: stand up, look them in the eye and tell them something you think they might want to know. The leisure sector is as good if not better at this than any sector of the economy and at this point in the economic cycle it may prove more valuable than we know.

Jonathan Ives



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“For my money (although I confess I paid none to get in) engagement is one reason why the death of the blockbuster exhibition cannot come quickly enough.”

Taking it to the streets in the name of art

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