Opening up the grand Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery for events as a source of income generation

Museums and galleries are often situated in the centre of towns and cities, which means they provide an excellent location for after-hours events and functions and dramatic backdrops to boot. At Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery they have been offering event space for the past four years and have created a dedicated catering team to work on commercial events across the museum to boost revenues

Housed in a Grade II* listed building, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery offers an impressive venue for any event, from receptions and banquets, to parties and launches. Situated just minutes away from the main railway stations and in the heart of the city, the key factors in making events a success is to provide competitive prices, a high standard of catering and marketing to get the word out that the museum is available for functions.

The museum has opened up three main spaces for events including the Round Room, which stands as it did in 1885 with an ornate domed ceiling, colourful tiled floor and historic paintings on its walls and is its to wow venue for guests. Situated at the centre of the museum, the round room is a place that can inspire guests with a mixture of history, art and design. Then there is the adjoining Industrial Gallery, housing the decorative arts collection. The Industrial Gallery is an excellent example of Victorian architecture, boasting steel work, a glass ceiling and colourful tiled floor and offers a versatile space, ideal for all kinds of events. The third space is the museum’s Edwardian Tearooms – one of the grandest interior spaces in the city with its high-vaulted ceilings.

“We have unique and impressive spaces for evening dinners, receptions and standing buffets. We now have an in house catering team, who can offer flexible menu choices. The refurbishment of the Edwardian Tearooms in July 2014 had a big impact on our events offer,” says Gill Allen, Conference and Banqueting Sales Manager, Birmingham Museums Trust.

The main aim of the events is to raise funds to support the work of Birmingham Museums Trust and the profits made from every party, dinner, or drinks reception ensures the museum can continue caring for Birmingham’s unique collection and heritage, making sure it can be enjoyed for generations to come.

“The events are a crucial part of our commercial activity and the income generation for BMAG and the wider Trust. Our prices are competitive as we regularly price check against our competitors. Our venue hire business gives us the opportunity to show case our spaces to a potentially different audience and we do see clients attending functions in the evening and then returning as visitors during the day after a great event.”

BMAG caters for a wide variety of events, including launches, corporate events, networking, private parties, formal dining, weddings, and private views of our BMAG exhibitions and one company also hosted their wine tasting event in the Round Room.

Recently they hosted a celebrant wedding ceremony in the Industrial Gallery. As the museum is not licensed for weddings, the couple were married prior to the celebrant ceremony, but the reception at the museum provided a dramatic celebration.

“From inspiring the next scientists and historians through our learning programme to preserving our beautiful heritage sites which provide a fascinating glimpse into Birmingham’s rich and vibrant past, every booking throughout the year helps to ensure we can keep doing what we do,”  “Our other commercial activity includes shops, events and both restaurants and cafes. We are creative with our approach to income generation and recently we lanched a pop-up shop in a local shopping centre and we’re currently exploring opportunities for online retail too.”

The museum works with its clients to understand the type of event they want to hold and recommend the right space for them. For larger events the museum can offer clients all three spaces and they can move from one to the other as their evening progresses.

“We are lucky to have a range of spaces available at the museum, from our dramatic Round Room space to our elegant Industrial Gallery and the relaxed Edwardian Tearooms, so we have something to cater for a variety of event needs.”

The dedicated catering team at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery can provide anything from canapés and finger buffets, to formal dinners. Our team are happy to work with you to produce a menu to meet your needs.

The refurbishment of the Edwardian Tearooms has been very important to the venue hire offer says Allen. It provides a relaxed vibrant space which adds another dimension to the museum. It has more of a modern vibe than the Round Room and Industrial Gallery spaces so has allowed us to cater for different audiences.

“One of the challenges is raising awareness that the spaces within BMAG are available for hire at a competitive rate. Other venues, such as bars or dedicated event spaces, are a more obvious choice but we are working to raise awareness through advertising, PR and word of mouth. Once people hold an event with us they love it and we have many clients coming back to book with us again.”

The museum says it wants to continue to spread the message that Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is available for hire, along with its other Birmingham Museums Trust venues such as Aston Hall and Soho House. By hosting events the museum is not only bringing in much needed revenue as the council is considering cuts to its 2017 budget but also acts a great marketing tool for future visitors and benefactors.