Family Explorers

Culture Window 13 - A North East partnership

Family Explorers was a learning and research project which ran from June 2012-March 2014 in North East England.  It was developed and implemented by the Culture Window 13 (CW13) Partnership.  This regional partnership, led by Seven Stories, consisted of 17 cultural organisations (listed below), 18 primary schools (listed below), the Northern Cultural Ambassadors Network, Bridge North East, Arts Council England, Audiences North East (representative of former Board) and Juice Festival/Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and 229 families engaged as Family Explorers. 

The project was resourced through funding from Audiences North East and NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues, with a contribution to evaluation costs from Bridge North East.  It built on a successful pilot project called Culture Window, which had been run by Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues in 2011-12.

Going beyond the research - Family Explorers North East (October 2014+)

Building on the success of the research phase, a public initiative, Family Explorers North East, was launched in October 2014 and enables any families to sign up and benefit.  Family Explorers  receive a weekly enewsletter of top picks and recommendations about activities, as well as special offers.  They can share their opinions, feedback and recommnedations with other families through an open facebook group and also have access to useful information about travel and facilities through the website, as well as fun tools to make exploring more fun.  24 venues across the North East are involved in the initiative, as well as Juice Festival/NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Bridge North East and the Northern Cultural Ambassadors Network. Click here for information on our involvement in this regional project and click here to visit the Family Explorers North East public website.

Our research aims

The research aimed to establish whether collaborative communication and new engagement approaches would increase both the frequency of family attendance and the propensity of attenders to try new things and take risks across different cultural forms, thereby providing them with a broader cultural experience anddeveloping the audience.  The overriding objective of the project was to support organisations to embed and develop new practices, informed by the research, to better engage families across North East cultural venues and activities.  

Our research partners were Morris Hargreaves McIntyre and Flo-Culture

Families become Family Explorers

229 families were recruited through school workshops in February 2013, where they received an introduction to the cultural organisations. The workshops explored and assessed families’ relationship to risk and new experiences and signposted appropriate, accessible cultural venues for them to visit.  Families were invited to be Family Explorers for a year, travel to venues across the region and across a wide range of art and cultural forms and were asked to give each other feedback on their experiences, likes and dislikes over the 2013 year using social media and  email or face to face with other families and the Project Team.

Supporting communications and building relationships

A range of communications materials were developed as part of the Family Explorers project to provide families with basic information about the venues and activities on offer (Family Explorers Discovery Handbook), encourage them to go to different venues (Family Explorers Passport for sticker collection), gather and share feedback on their experiences (adult and children’s feedback forms, score cards and scrapbook).  These were handed out at the start of the project as a Family Explorers Pack, along with some information about ways to save and travel in the region. These are available to download on this page.

There was ongoing communication with 211 Family Explorers who signed up for the weekly e-newsletter, which provided bite size information and recommendations for activities across the region (collaborative marketing and cross promotion, edited and curated by the Project Team’s Communications Co-ordinator). Examples are provided on this page. 86 of the families also signed up to a Facebook group, where they were encouraged to share their experiences and recommendations with other Family Explorers across the region (this was out of a possible 159 families who used Facebook).    

Sharing findings and building on learning

There has been some useful learning from the project in all of these areas and a range of key recommendations have been made.  The findings and recommendations from the project are shared in a series of evaluation reports available to download from this page. Updates on future initiatives building on this work will be provided on this page.

Our cultural partners

The 17 cultural partners involved in the project represent 25 major regional cultural venues and heritage sites and a participatory arts organisation. They cover all cultural forms (visual arts, performing arts, music, dance, film, writing and literature, heritage, archives and museums and science communication) and are located across the North East region.

These are:  Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Beamish, Bowes Museum, Customs House, Dance City, Life Science Centre, Live Theatre, Northern Stage, Preston Park Museum and Gardens, Sage Gateshead, Seven Stories, Shipley Art Gallery (Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums), Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, The Forge, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Tyneside Cinema and Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives.

Our schools partners

18 primary schools from across the North East were involved in the project, helped recruit families and support their involvement. 

The schools were: Albany Village Primary, Washington; Bishop Ian Ramsey CofE Primary, Co. Durham; Corpus Christi Catholic School, Gateshead; Farne Primary, Newbiggin Hall, Newcastle ; Grange Park Primary, Sunderland ; Harewood Primary, Thornaby, Tees Valley; Hotspur Primary School, Newcastle; Kelvin Grove, Gateshead; Kingston Park Primary School, Newcastle; Moorside Primary, Newcastle; Montalbo Primary School, Barnard Castle, County Durham; Our Lady and St Anne’s RC Primary School,  Newcastle; Ouston Junior School, County Durham; St Patrick’s RC Primary, Dipton, Co Durham; St Peter and Paul’s RC  Primary School, South Shields; Shanklea Primary, Cramlington, Northumberland; Star of the Sea RC Primary School, Whitley Bay; Walkergate Primary, Newcastle


As a research project, the partnership is keen to share findings, learning and our communications tools.  These can be downloaded below.

Evaluation Reports and Findings

There is an overall evaluation report summarising key findings and a series of supporting evaluation reports and project reports:

Family Explorers Summary of Project and Findings (Infographics)

Final Evaluation Report - Flo-Culture March 2014 (all findings and recommendations) and Executive Summary

Families Summative Report - MHM, January 2014

Cultural Partners Report - Flo-Culture, March 2014

Schools Report - Carey Fluker Hunt, January 2014

Communications Report - Sallyanne Flemons, March 2014

Events Report - Carey Fluker Hunt, January 2014

Family Explorers Pack

A range of materials were provided for Family Explorers in a pack at the start of their involvement, as a pack handed out once they had signed up to help them explore the cultural offer across the North East:

Family Explorer Discovery Handbook

Family Explorer Passport

Family Explorer Feedback Form (Children)

Family Explorer Feedback Form (Adults)

Family Explorer Scorecards 

Ways to Save and Travel Information

Families also received a scrapbook to collect and share their experiences within the family, with other families and at school. 

Family Explorers e-newsletters

The majority of families received a weekly pick of recommended activities across the North East.  40 e-newsletters were sent to families between February and December 2013.

This was a very popular way for people to find out what was on that was family friendly and to try new things, with different kinds of activities and cultural forms  in different parts of the region. Some examples are provided below:

Family-friendly cinema and cool stuff for teens (7th March 2013)

How to earn your virtual sticker (21st March)

Goodbye Gruffalo, hello Spot the Dog and a treat for Thomas fans (28th March)

Where to explore this half term (23rd May)

Booking now for Father's Day and half term reviews (6th June)

Can you answer the question, plus Summer School places still available (25th July)

Ideas for a final summer fling - and what's new this autumn (29th August)

Never seen before reviews and Autumn markets this weekend (27th September)

Try the flying trapeze, bombers and mash (15th November)

Frozen, free event at Baltic and last chance for tickets (13th December)


Facebook group

People were also encouraged to sign up to a Family Explorers facebook group where they could share their experiences with other families and make recommendations to each other.  This was a closed group.  A qualitative analysis of the use of facebook has been prepared as part of the evaluation and a summary is included in the Communications Report, which is available to download on this page.