With a whole array of online talks and tours covering everything from Bonfire Night and the historic furniture of the Palace, to The National Caribbean Heritage Museum and guided tours of Westminster; we spoke to Elena Talmon, Partnership and Events Manager at UK Parliament, about the online events you can get stuck into, where we can learn more about UK Parliament and why it's so important that this information is easily accessible to all.
Some of your upcoming talks include a special Bonfire Night talk with David Prior and an Evening with National Caribbean Heritage Museum founders Catherine Ross and Lynda Louise Burrell. How do you choose, out of so many potential and possible topics, who and what to do talks on?
It's actually extremely difficult! It was important to us that the talks were current and so we looked at recent audience feedback to understand which topics people find interesting. A lot of people want to find out more about UK Parliament's history and collections, but equally there are many people who want to learn about how Parliament and democracy works – with this programme of online tours and talks there should be something for everyone.
What are you most looking forward to finding out in the upcoming talks?
I'm really excited to hear Catherine and Lynda from Museumand, The National Caribbean Heritage Museum talk about how past legislation made by UK Parliament has impacted their lives and their ancestors. It's always great to work with external partners and it was good fun making this piece! ('In conversation' with Catherine Ross and Lynda-Louise Burrell of Museumand, The National Caribbean Heritage Museum is on tonight, Thursday 29 October, at 6pm and is available to watch for 24 hours)
You also offer Online Guided Tours of the Palace of Westminster. Who would you recommend these tours are for and what can audiences expect?
Our online guided tours are a great introduction for people who have never visited the Palace of Westminster before, or who want to know more about the history of the building and how the spaces are used today to support the work of UK Parliament. One of our expert guides will take you around some pretty impressive rooms (virtually of course!), that will include some lesser known spaces as well as some that will be more recognisable, such as the Commons and Lords Chambers. There's also an opportunity to ask the guide plenty of questions at the end.
It's not just what goes on at UK Parliament that matters, but also what's inside! Your upcoming Furnishing the New Palace of Westminster talk with Emily Spary looks at some of the 10,000 fascinating objects inside the Palace. Could you tell us about one of these fascinating objects? Do you have a favourite – and why?
There are so many pieces that Emily is going to talk about but my favourite has got to be a beautiful oak chest of drawers, which I think would look great in my flat!
It's a Pugin design, like a lot of the furniture in Parliament's historic furniture collection, and was made in 1852 by Gillows of Lancaster and London. It’s an interesting piece as it has been signed in pencil by the craftsman who made it in the workshop, 'T.Barrett'. To hear more about this piece sign up to the 'Furnishing the New Palace of Westminster' talk which takes place next week.
From guided tours of Westminster to specialist subjects, all of UK Parliament online talks and tours are currently free to book and attend. How important is it to you that this information is accessible to all and widely available?
Engaging the public with the work of UK Parliament is the very core of what we do, so making sure that Parliament is accessible so that people can get involved wherever they are in the UK is essential.
Introducing online tours and talks was initially a response to the Covid-19 crisis, however it has actually opened up a world of opportunities, enabling us to engage with people all over the UK, which is fantastic.
Do you think it's important that the public learn about UK Parliament and how it works? If so, where can we learn?
100% - we want people to actively engage in the work of Parliament and take action on things that matter to them, so understanding how it all works is the first step on that journey. The 'How UK Parliament Works' online workshops are a great way to discover more about how you can get involved and because they are interactive sessions there are plenty of opportunities to ask any burning questions. By the end of the workshop everyone will have a clear idea of at least one way they can get their voice heard about the issues they care about!
What has been your most-loved or memorable talk/tour at UK Parliament to date and why?
That's a difficult question as there have been so many! I love working on the online talks as there is such a range of topics which enables me to collaborate with new people and learn so much.
I think the online guided tours delivered by our expert team of guides are still my favourite though – purely because they offer a bit of everything; history, heritage and politics and every guide tells the stories in a unique way so I never get bored of listening to them! They're a great first step into UK Parliament before delving deeper and signing up to one of our other more specialist talks such as 'How UK Parliament Works'.
Can you give us a clue about any upcoming talks and tours in the future?
Our audiences love going behind the scenes and seeing spaces they're usually unable to see or hearing previously untold stories and anecdotes, so we’re hoping to bring in some of those elements into our online tours and talks programme in the coming months. If you want to be one of the first to hear about new talks and tours at UK Parliament you can sign up to our newsletter.
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