A partnership between the County Durham open-air museum Beamish and Go North East continues to thrive, based on a mutual passion for sharing the region’s heritage. Mark Lane finds out more

Beamish Museum

Go North East

Beamish, the largest open-air museum in England, is long-established as one of the North East region’s foremost cultural attractions. Situated in County Durham on a 300-acre site, the museum tells the story of the people of North East England from 1820 through to the 1950s, and its annual audience has grown from 300,0000 to almost 800,000 over the past ten years.

Few would doubt the importance and relevance of such an attraction. But how can we get more people there? Indeed, how can we make Beamish more accessible to people who do not drive or to young families on low incomes?

The obvious and highly successful solution can be found in the far-reaching partnership between Beamish and Go North East.

These two organisations – both long- time North East England Chamber of Commerce members – have worked collaboratively for many years to ensure there are regular bus routes running to the museum, providing comprehensive accessibility for the whole region. Indeed, visitors to the museum receive 25 per cent off the entry price if they have travelled by bus.

In addition, Go North East has also recently leant support to the Northern General Transport Bus Depot. The depot and workshop, which is part of the £20m Remaking Beamish project, is home to the museum’s growing fleet of buses and allows visitors to watch engineering work on historic vehicles.

As ever, there is a vital educational component here. The depot includes a range of learning activities in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) as well as offering apprenticeships to ensure heritage engineering skills are passed on.

To find out more about the partnership between Beamish and Go North East, I recently spoke with Sally Dixon assistant director partnerships and communications with Beamish and Stephen King commercial director with Go North East.

Sally says: “We’re hugely proud of the partnership with Go North East.

It is a fantastic organisation to deal with – you couldn’t hope for a better working relationship. Their team is hugely passionate about preserving the company’s heritage and it’s been so developmental and positive for both organisations to work together to create innovative ways of making this happen.

“Stephen King has really gone above and beyond to support our work at the museum and is a much valued member of our Business Friends Leadership Group – a group of Beamish board members and others close to the museum who work closely with the Partnerships Team to extend the museum’s network of business relationships.”

The Business Friends scheme offers a wide range of benefits including Corporate Passes (each one being completely transferrable and admitting groups of up to five any day the museum is open), access to Beamish exclusive partner events programme and PR and profile, as well as acknowledgement that’s visible to Beamish’s fast-growing annual audience.

Elaborating on the scheme, Sally says: “Business Friends has grown from six to 56 partners over the past four years, which we’re hugely proud of, and we are targeting 100 partners by the end of 2020. Members come from a wide range of sectors and include charities keen to use the passes for the client groups they work with, to businesses looking for distinctive new ways of developing their staff benefits offer.”

Of his company’s involvement, Stephen King says: “Go North East is the longest standing business friend of Beamish having joined the Business Friends scheme when it first started over ten years ago. The company has actually been working with Beamish in some way shape or form from the very early days of Beamish, operating bus services to the main entrance.

“The partnership has developed between the two organisations and features joint projects around accessibility to the museum, best practice around engineering, communications and training through to the remaking the Beamish Northern General Transport Company bus depot.”

Asked what it is about the Beamish project that appeals to him and his organisation, Stephen says: “Like many of us in the North East my first memories of Beamish was a school visit which just inspired me to be proud of the region and our heritage. Somewhere in that visit was a wow moment of being able to step back in time in the North East and to be proud of it. The museum just brings our culture and our history to life in such a unique and inspiring way that is so important.

“I am always amazed at the synergies between Go North East and Beamish in terms of the pride and energy that exists within our teams. It’s a regional pride, a pride that we do something important for the region and a pride that we have a long-standing history and heritage. By working with Beamish we are not only supporting this but we are also turning this into action in terms of developing our bus services for the people of the North East and our business which is really powerful stuff.”

Stephen says services to Beamish by Go North East continue to grow, and he can only see the relationship between these two like-minded organisations going from strength to strength. He adds: “We now have more services to the main entrance than ever before. Beamish is a great organisation which we are hugely proud to work in partnership with. There is a lot of synergy between the two organisations along with a great sense of pride within our respective teams who are immensely proud of our relationship which I think really brings the partnership to life.

“For our company centenary celebrations in 2013 for example, we chose Beamish as the place to celebrate with as many people from Team GNE as possible along with friends and stakeholders.”

He concludes: “We have a very close working relationship with Sally and the whole team at Beamish which creates a wonderful forward-looking, creative thinking and genuinely collaborative relationship. It actually provides an exciting way of working which is great fun! I suppose you could sum up the relationship of the two organisations as being best friends who share honesty, support and laughter.”