Co-creating a cutting edge 21st century science and discovery centre. With Michelle Emerson

In this Skip the Queue podcast episode we speak with Michelle Emerson, Marketing and Development Director of Eureka! The National Children’s Museum.

Michelle Emerson is a senior leader in development and marketing in the UK visitor attractions and museums sector. Currently Director of Marketing and Development at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, working with a fabulous team of visitor attraction, audience development, commercial operations and marketing professionals!

We discuss the very exciting plans for Eureka! Mersey, and how they are co-creating a brand new science & discovery centre in Wirral.

“We are very lucky in Halifax in that 20% of our audience come from very disadvantaged postcodes, yet they still want to engage with us. We might be the only visitor attraction or museum or cultural engagement that they have in their lives, especially their young lives. And that is something we really want to continue to provide with the new Eureka! in Wirral, to make sure we’re reaching the people that can really benefit.”

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Co-creating a brand new science & discovery centre
  • Retaining and entertaining their audience through lockdown

To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.

The interview

Your host, Kelly Molson

Our guest, Michelle Emerson


Kelly Molson: Michelle, it’s so lovely to finally get you on the podcast. I think I’ve been trying for about a year. So thank you for coming on. I really appreciate it. As ever, I’m going to start off with my icebreaker question. What would your dream house be like? And where would it be located?

Michelle Emerson: I know this because I’ve already got the field in mind. It’s about 200 meters down the road from where I currently live. And lockdown has enabled me to play on a lovely free app called Floorplanner. So I actually designed it. I know exactly where it’s going to be located in the field just down the road. I just need to persuade the farmer to sell me the field.

Kelly Molson: Oh, I love this.

Michelle Emerson: And then I need to raise the money to build the house. But it’s a very rural, very low-key single-story, cedar roof, off-grid sustainable house in the countryside with a separate garage and art studio for my husband, and a gym room and games room for my son. And then I get the rest of the house.

Kelly Molson: Oh, that sounds absolutely idyllic. And raising the funds and getting the field, that’s just minor technicalities. Right? You already know what it’s going to look like. That’s the most important thing.

Michelle Emerson: And every time I take the dog on a walk through that field, it’s already there in my mind. I can see it. It’s already there. I just need to seem to put it into action.

Kelly Molson: How perfect. We love Grand Designs here. We do watch that quite frequently. Are you going to be comfortable living in a caravan while this all happens?

Michelle Emerson: Absolutely. We have a camper van called Woody that we’ve had for a number of years. All three of us. My son is 11 now. So he’s getting a little bit big, but all three of us, plus a Labrador dog, can quite happily co-exist in that space for probably up to about nine months, nine or 10 months.

Kelly Molson: Michelle, I feel like you’re living my dream. I feel like we’re quite aligned there. I would be all right in a caravan.

Michelle Emerson: What’s the worst that can happen?

Kelly Molson: I’ve got two dogs. To be honest, there’s a lot of bad stuff that could go down in a caravan with those two. So who knows. Right. Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales?

Michelle Emerson: Oh, my word. I think I’m going to say scales.

Kelly Molson: Ooh. Oh, I wasn’t expecting that.

Michelle Emerson: Well, I don’t really know why. I think because that means I could be a swimmer. So I would be an animal that could swim, but also be on land. Don’t like being too hot.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. It’d be really hot with a big old fur on you, would you?

Michelle Emerson: Yeah. Yes. I think I’m a scaling person.

Kelly Molson: Okay.

Michelle Emerson: Sounds good.

Kelly Molson: All right. Yeah, it does, doesn’t it when you think about it? But then the benefits of the scales, like swimming, would be good. I’m a swimmer. Yeah, but I was thinking furry because I’m a little bit furry already. So I was like, well, it wouldn’t be that much difference.

Okay. Next one. If you can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Michelle Emerson: Friends-

Kelly Molson: Oh, that’s nice.

Michelle Emerson: … an unlimited supply of good friends.

Kelly Molson: That is lovely. Oh, that’s made me go a bit warm and fuzzy. Because I was thinking, sushi.

Michelle Emerson: Yeah.

Kelly Molson: Friends is a good one. Okay. All right. Now, this is the bit that we do with all of our guests. So I hope you have prepared this one. What’s your unpopular opinion, Michelle?

Michelle Emerson: Oh, you know this one, Kelly.

Kelly Molson: I do. And I’ve seen photographic evidence as well.

Michelle Emerson: Crocs and socks. Crocs and socks. And I’ve worked at home for 12 months now, and my feet have not been in anything other than Crocs, walking boots, and Wellie boots, or bare feet. So the idea of putting office shoes back on is terrifying. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. And if my boss was to allow me to wear socks and Crocs to work, I would be very happy.

Kelly Molson: See, this is my question. Is socks and Crocs in public or just in your house? Because I think if it’s in your house or your back garden, that’s okay.

Michelle Emerson: It’s already in my house and back garden. And it should be in public. It should be an acceptable thing. And I know that’s a very unpopular opinion because I’ve been told by many people that should not be allowed to happen. But if we’ve learned anything from lockdown, can it be that we can just be a little bit more comfortable?

Kelly Molson: Okay. I’ll accept comfort, but I can’t accept the socks and Crocs in public. I just can’t, Michelle. And, listeners, tell me how you feel about this because I’ve seen this. Michelle has sent me a picture of her wearing these socks and Crocs, and I’m not going to lie. They need to stay in your house, Michelle.

Michelle Emerson: Well, even though the socks have cat pictures on them?

Kelly Molson: The socks were glorious. It was just the combo of them and the Crocs. That’s all I’m saying.

All right. Thank you for answering those questions. So just as a caveat, Michelle and I know each other. We’ve worked together for a number of years. But for our listeners, I’d love to know a little bit about your background, Michelle. So how did you get to where you are now?

Michelle Emerson: So this is quite a long and convoluted journey to Eureka! I never anticipated being in a visitor attraction sector or tourism or anything like that. I did my degree in political geography, and I had a desire at that stage in my life to be working in one of the large international humanitarian organisations. I wanted to be in Africa, in Asia, somewhere on the ground, digging wells, doing humanitarian work, working with people somewhere where it was needed.

And straight after graduating from university in 1991, I went and lived in Ukraine for 12 months. And at that time, Ukraine was newly independent from the Soviet Union. It didn’t have a currency. It was rations. And it was a fantastic experience. And in hindsight, one which I wish I’d done when I was slightly older and more able to appreciate, probably, but I lived with a local family, slept on their sofa for 12 months. And I taught English in the local school, secondary school, with no teaching experience whatsoever. But it was a brilliant experience.

And in fact, two years ago, my family and I went back to stay with the same family 25 years later.

Kelly Molson: Oh, how lovely.

Michelle Emerson: Yeah. And we did a lot of the same things. We went to look around the school. Absolutely brilliant timing in that Grandma and Granddad who lived in the house, it was a three-generational house, we’re both still alive when we went back, and have both since passed away. So we did get to see both of them as well. So 25 years on.

So I did that. And then I came back to Sheffield where I did my high schooling. Works for the University of Sheffield in an environmental consultancy role. And then only a few years later decided that I would be moving to Australia.

So then I lived in Australia for eight years, and I worked for a small charity that was looking after deaf children. It was called the Shepherd Centre. And it was the charity that enabled children who were born profoundly deaf to develop language rather than using sign language. It’s quite experimental, quite new at the time. It’s very common place now. But I worked for them in a business development capacity. And one of the sponsors that we got on board at that organisation was Microsoft. And eventually, I moved over, and I went to work for Microsoft in Australia, reporting into a regional head office in Singapore, managing what was called Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher Program at the time, which was about getting old computers, PCs, and hardware back from the big corporations, refurbishing them, re-licensing them, and sending them to schools and charities and so on.

So I did that for a number of years, and then long story short decided I wasn’t going to end up living in Australia forever. So I’d been there for about eight years at this point, packed up my stuff, put my backpack on, went and travelled around Southeast Asia for a year. During which time I decided I would make the decision as to whether I was going back to Australia or [inaudible 00:09:11]. And made that decision and arrived back in the UK back to Sheffield. And then started working for the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, a membership organisation called NAVCA. Did that for five years. And again, a business development role. And then the opportunity came up at Eureka! The marketing director role there. And I went for it, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been there 10 years now.

Kelly Molson: Ten years. So Eureka!, for me, is such a magic place. I know whenever I talk about Eureka!, I have a really huge smile on my face because there is just something magic about it. When you get there, the air just feels like it’s filled with excitement. It’s such a special place. What I always find is, when I say we work with Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, it’s amazing. It’s hard to describe what Eureka! is because you’ve got a museum in the title. There’s that assumption that it’s, “Oh, well, is it like the Bethnal Green Children’s Museum?”

And it’s like, “Well, no. Actually, it’s all about play. You can touch everything, and it’s incredible. They’ve got this massive nose, and you can shove your head up there, and there’s bogeys up there.” And it’s great, but it’s a hard concept to describe. How do you do that? Share with our listeners how you describe what Eureka! is.

Michelle Emerson: So the concept of a children’s museum is a North American concept. And if you go to North America, you will find a children’s museum in pretty much every town and city there. They are a very established part of community life. And that’s where the term museum comes from. That’s the term that they use. Our model is based on that. And therefore, that historically is the term that we have used as well. But a children’s museum is not a collections-based museum. There is nothing historical in the museum, as people might traditionally expect. It is a visitor attraction for children aged 0  to 11, and their parents.

We are all about family learning, family engagement, having fun together as a family with your siblings or your parents or grandparents, and developing a lifelong love of learning and visiting cultural attractions. And developing that pathway to further opportunities in more traditional cultural attractions, perhaps as they get older. Or developing a confidence in being in spaces and learning about things that they enjoy. And that is done through the medium of play.

At Eureka! there are galleries, but each gallery is very much based around something that’s very familiar to children. So our biggest gallery is called All About Me. And as most parents out there will know, children in any age up to 11 are absolutely fascinated by themselves. It’s the thing that is most familiar to them. They want to understand. And they’re fascinated by sick and poo and bogeys, and all of those things.

Kelly Molson: As am I still, clearly.

Michelle Emerson: As are a lot of adults. I can tell you, we get a lot of fun there in Eureka!. And so putting them in a space where they can play with exhibits and with interactives that explain some of these things in a very playful, engaging way, just gives them a little bit of an insight into themselves, how they interact with the world around them, how the world impacts on them and their decision-making and so on. So it’s all very playful. It’s all fun. You won’t find any curriculum-based learning. It’s all learning by self.

And a lot of people will come to Eureka! two or three times a year as the kids get older, and find something new each time as their understanding of the world changes with their age and what they’re engaging with at school. So there’s something for everyone, pretty much, from babies through to 11 years old.

Kelly Molson: Through to 43-year-old adults. I’m not going to lie. It was a while ago that I first visited. It’s probably about four or five years ago. But I can remember Paul and I coming up and being a little bit let loose. Have a look around, and see what you feel about it. And I just thought this is great. Because we were trying out all of the things. We were doing what was the longest jump. And I can remember putting my shoes into the world’s biggest shoes, and just doing all of those things. Like I say, it’s just such an engaging and a magic place. And it just feels like a really special place to be. So I can imagine working there every day is a really great feeling, with the people that you’re surrounded with as well.

Michelle Emerson: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a very fun place to work, even behind the scenes. You don’t create experiences like that for other people without having fun with it yourself.

Kelly Molson: No. Not at all. And I know you all are a very fun bunch. I want to ask. So there’s loads of stuff that I want to talk about for feature. So you’ve got some really exciting plans coming up, and I want to focus on that. But we can’t really talk about that without just taking a bit of a snapshot of where we’re at at the moment. So how has it been for you? It’s been a really challenging time. You’ve been closed down. You’ve been open again. You’ve been shut again. It’s really tough. How has it been for you through those lockdown periods?

Michelle Emerson: It’s been challenging. I think there wouldn’t be a single organisation in the sector that wouldn’t say that, you can’t use the word unprecedented because it’s overused now, but this has been something that is off the scale. And nobody could have predicted or planned for, perhaps, more so than putting something away for a rainy day kind of thing.

And in fact, Eureka! has been in an unusual position through this in that we are known as a museum. We have museum in the title, like we’ve just discussed, but we are not, for funding purposes, able to apply for any of the support for museums. Because we are not a collections-based organisation. We’re not a heritage-based organisation, although we do have heritage assets to look after on our sites. That’s just an accident of geography, really.

But we have found ourselves ineligible to apply for a lot of supports. But saying that, the furlough and the business support has been absolutely crucial to supporting us over the last 12 months. And it has made a massive difference to how we see the future. We are now looking at not being able to open until the end of May, which misses some key dates in the diary for us, as it does for everybody else. But we’re confident that when we do reopen we’ll have a successful summer. And that we’ll be able to re-engage, and depend on our loyal visitors, really, and the people in the North of England that know and love us, to come back. And it was incredible. As soon as the announcements were made about potential reopening dates a week or so ago, the number of people contacting us asking, “When can we come? When are you open bookings? When will tickets be available?” It was just phenomenal.

And it’s so reassuring. It’s lovely to have a whole bunch of people out there, families out there that are desperate. Their kids are asking when can we go back to Eureka!? And that is a lovely position to be in. And we’re very grateful for that. And we will do our very best to get open as soon as possible, and to provide those lovely experiences. People, families are going to need it more than ever.

Kelly Molson: Oh, for sure. People are desperate for experiences. We’ve been shut away in these four walls for such a long time. I do think that there’s going to be a huge resurgence in experiences and people wanting to visit attractions. But I think you noticed that last summer. You said about your loyal visitors. You have an annual pass scheme at Eureka!, which is incredibly good value. And I think when you opened again last summer, you were practically sold out every single day, weren’t you? The time slots were booked. And the people that were wanting to come back, it was pretty overwhelming, wasn’t it? But fabulous.

Michelle Emerson: Yeah, it was. It was unknown. Eureka! have never operated a pre-booking system. It is an annual pass model. So people have their free tickets that they can come back as many times as they want within the year. They don’t need to pre-book that. There’s no exclusions. They can come by holidays, half-term holidays, whatever. And we’ve been operating Eureka! for 28 years. So we know average to patterns very well. We know what difference the weather makes, and all those things, that we can predict at the beginning of the day what the day’s going to be like. We’ve never done a pre-booking or pre-ticketing system. And so that was an unknown. And obviously, the caps on the number of people able to visit every day are lower than they would have been previously.

So to sell out felt great, although we were still a long way below the numbers that would have come pre-COVID on that particular day, and with those particular conditions and so on. But it’s hugely reassuring. The difficulty being, really, that we have to ensure that financially repeat visitors on free tickets aren’t outweighing the new visitors who are buying their annual pass for the first time. And cultivating that new audience that we need to come through the doors every year to ensure that, financially, ticket sales and admissions are still our key source of income.

So yes, it’s a balancing act. But we were absolutely thrilled. And so reassured that all the work that we put in before opening last summer to making sure things were safe for visitors and to making sure the ticketing system works and all the admin behind that worked and that people were going to have a stress-free experience, rather than imagining it’s all very restricted and not everything’s open. And it was all one-way systems and all the rest of it. We got the balance right, we feel. And visitors reported back that we got the balance right on that.

Kelly Molson: Yeah.

Michelle Emerson: It’ll be interesting to see how we need to tweak that and change that going forward. And it’s too early to make plans, really, it feels at the moment. Because we just don’t know what it’s going to look like, even at the end of May. Even though it’s nice to have a date to it, too, but-

Kelly Molson: Yeah. That must feel really good that there is something to be working towards. It’s been so long that you’ve just been in the, “Well, we just don’t know, we can’t plan for anything. It might be a couple of weeks. It might be another three months.” But yeah, it must be really good to have that.

Michelle Emerson: Getting your front-of-house-staff team back on board after such a long time away, get retraining, re-engaging, re-motivating and all that stuff. You don’t want to do that in two weeks prior to an opening date, and then that date be shifted. And then have to do it again six weeks later. It’s very difficult to make sure that everything that you’re doing is in the best timeline possible when you don’t know what the end result is, what the end date is going to be. So yeah. But well pleased to have a date.

Kelly Molson: Good. Lots of positives to work towards. My observations from what you did brilliantly is that as an organisation, you reacted really quickly to what the situation was happening last year. So what was lovely to see is how much effort you were putting into actually engaging with your audience whilst the audience couldn’t actually visit the attraction. So there were some really brilliant things that you did. You already had an online shop. So you could already encourage people to buy gift certificates or make donations when they couldn’t visit the center. So that was a real positive.

But what I loved was the Eureka! At Home section. We threw that up really quickly, but there’s loads of parents and kids. And they’re stuck at home. We do all of these fun things. Let’s make it a recorded video series, and they can still engage with those fun things. And I think there was videos where people could make their own lava lamp and their own slime, and God knows what else. But it was brilliant. And I just thought, yeah. It’s so great that you’ve done that so quickly, and been able to almost keep your audience engaged with what the ethos of what Eureka! is all about if they, even if they couldn’t come.

Michelle Emerson: Yeah. I think there were a couple of really nice outcomes from that. Obviously, the audience engaged and really got something out of those activities. They’re all still there. So they’re accessible to anybody who wants them at any time. But it gave our front-of-house team something to do in that initial few months where we were all very, very unsure of what was happening and what was going on, how long was it going to last for? And we just basically sent a call out to our enablers saying, “Here’s the challenge guys. What can you do from your living room or your kitchen table?”

And they came back with a wonderful variety of things from storytelling to little chemistry experiments to drama activities and so on. And that was what we curated into our Eureka! At Home thing.

And the other nice thing to come out of that was that we work with a number of freelancers, freelance entertainers and children’s activity providers, for our main holiday periods where we layer on lots of additional events. And a handful of those are very local to us here. And obviously, their workstreams have dried up completely. And we were able to employ them to create content for us, which we shared on our platforms, obviously, which enabled them to have a little bit of an income stream as well back at the beginning. And I know they were very, very pleased to be involved with that as well. And it felt like the right partnership to forge ahead with at the time. And we got some lovely results out of it, as well as some fabulous, crazy science.

Kelly Molson: They stepped up, didn’t they, the enablers? [crosstalk 00:24:22]

Michelle Emerson: And some amazing music and stories from Gakko, from Ian Douglas. And it was just wonderful stuff that they created in their living rooms and garages and whatever. And it was really lovely that they were able to do that for us. And we were able to support them in giving them little bits of freelance work to do.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. We’ll pop the link to Eureka! At Home in the show notes. Because, like Michelle said, that the content that is up there is really phenomenal, I know kids are due to back at school. But look, there is so much good stuff in there. You will keep them amused for hours during the holidays. Trust me. So we’ll put that in the show notes. This brings me to something really exciting for Eureka! So Eureka at the moment is based in Halifax, a beautiful town. And there’s going to be a second Eureka!, isn’t there? And this is super, super exciting. So there’s going to be Eureka! Mersey. It’s going to be a cutting-edge, 21st-century science and discovery centre.

I’m really excited. Tell us about it. Tell us where should we start talking about it?

Michelle Emerson: Well, just make that noise again. That was great.

Kelly Molson: Urgh!

Michelle Emerson: So yeah. So Eureka! Mersey, the21st century science and discovery centre. We are aiming and on schedule to be opening in summer 2022. So this is a project that has been in development for a long time. 2014 is when we started discussing it in earnest, really. And there has been, since then, a program of, as you would imagine, the feasibility work and all those sorts of research aspects that you need to do right back in the beginning. And moving forward into fundraising capital campaigns and very in-depth process of co-creation with local children and stakeholders. So that’s been ongoing for a number of years now, and has resulted to the shape of the experience as it is now, where we’re at the point of contracting fabricators and exhibition designers and developers to actually deliver what the children have come up with to be the content of Eureka! Mersey. So yeah.

Kelly Molson: This is what I love about the development is that this co-creation process has been so incredibly engaging. I’ve been watching it unfold on your Twitter account and seeing all of the projects that you’ve been getting the children involved with that. That must have been so much fun to be able to say, “What do you want? What do you need? And how do we make this happen?”

Michelle Emerson: Yes. You don’t start with a blank piece of paper necessarily. Because one of the reasons why opening Eureka in Merseyside, in Wirral, is an exciting project for Eureka!, is that everything else falls into line. So the combined authority and the [inaudible 00:27:41] city region have been incredibly supportive right from the beginning. And their regional development plans and their focus and that energy and their drive and their money is being put behind a key set of themes. All of which we are able to demonstrate that we can deliver outcomes against with opening the new science and discovery centre for young people. So we know the themes and the industry in the area and the pathways to work that will be created through engagement with children at that young age that will be beneficial for the region as a whole.

And so working within those sorts of parameters, we’re able to then go out to schools and youth centres and young people in the area and say, “This is going to be your space. This is going to be about you. It’s going to be about your futures and what you want to achieve, and what you want to see. And the industry that’s around you, and the opportunities that are around you,” which for many of them were unknown, “how do we engage you? How do we get you to take your first steps?” Or maybe kids who were more engaged to take the further steps into developing that their knowledge and their experience and their passion for these things that can open up lots and lots of doors for them in the future. So the co-creation has been incredible in delivering some of those things.

It’s all done with the very Eureka! expertise and hat on. Obviously, the experience will be delivered in a very Eureka! way. It’s all fun and humour and surprise and excitement. But it is more so topics that children in the age range of six to 14, so older than we engage within Halifax, we’ll be thinking about, will be exploring. Climate change being one of the big ones that all kids of that age are really engaged with at the moment. And rightly so. And what do they see their place in the future in that sphere being? And what can they do? And what should they be doing? And what can they encourage other people to do? And so on. So there’s those sorts of things that you’re trying to unravel with children who maybe have very little engagement at school. They have families with multi-generational unemployment. What can we do with and for them to improve some of their life chances?

And that’s another one of the reasons why Eureka! is being located in Wirral, an area with a number of multiple deprivations in the local communities. Which is one of our strategic aims, is to reach those families. We are very lucky in Halifax in that 20% of our audience comes from very disadvantaged postcodes, and yet they still want to engage with us. We might be the only visitor attraction or museum or cultural engagement that they have in their lives, especially in their young lives. And that is something that we really want to continue to provide with the new Eureka! in Wirral, is to make sure we’re reaching the people that can really benefit.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. I’m assuming it will have the same ethos as Eureka! Halifax in that it will be learning through play and experiments and that thing. So it will be very hands-on centre.

Michelle Emerson: It’s all hands-on, I would say. The older age range in Eureka! Mersey, so the target audience, is slightly older. And therefore, the play will be slightly different. But it is that same ethos in that you won’t walk into Eureka! and be confronted with a panel of text that tells you something about A, B, or C. It won’t be like that. You will get a chance to explore, discover, experiment, push buttons, pull things, do some digital gameplay or coding. There’s a whole variety of things that are appropriate for that age range that will be akin to how they want to learn and how they want to engage and how they want to spend a fun afternoon with their family or their friends or whoever.

Kelly Molson: I guess the exact specifics are under lock and key at the moment, aren’t they, Michelle? You can’t give us any snippets into what’s going to be?

Michelle Emerson: It’s not exactly under lock and key, but we will be starting to reveal some of the content from April this year onwards. And we’ll be building our new websites and so on over the course of this year. Obviously, there is a website there at the moment that talks a lot about the co-creation process and a lot of our partners and funders and so on, and the involvement of local companies and organisations in getting us to the point that we’re at now, which has been incredibly valuable in supporting the work that we’ve done. So all of that stuff sits on the website, the Eureka! Mersey website at the moment. And we’ll be doing a lot of work in starting to reveal some of the exciting content.

Kelly Molson: We’ll put all of the links to that website in the show notes because you are definitely going to want to go and have a little look and see how the site is developed so far. And I am definitely going to be checking in after April to find out what’s coming next. Because I can’t wait to come and visit.

Michelle, thank you. I think this is such a positive, not only for Eureka!, not only for all of you that work there but for the industry itself. To know that there are these wonderful new attractions coming and that they can do such amazing things for the local communities that they’re involved with as well. So thank you for sharing all of that today. I really appreciate it.

We always end the podcast by asking for a book recommendation from our guests. So I used to say something that’s helped develop your career in some way. But now, I think it’s just a book that you really love that you’d like to share with the visitors, with our listeners, even. So it doesn’t need to be career-focused. Can be whatever you like.

Michelle Emerson: Okay. So I do read a lot. I am an avid reader. And I guess I read more for pleasure than I do for work. But I would say that the book I go back to more often than others is a book called Blueback, which is written by an Australian author called Tim Winton. It’s a short book. It’s a good Sunday afternoon book, if you’ve got nothing else to do. It’s less than a hundred pages. And it’s probably described as a modern fable. But it’s about a young boy, and it sounds a bit strange, but his relationship with a fish. And what that slightly magical relationship results in him developing a passion for the sea, and his future passion for conservation and looking after the ocean nearby where he lives in Australia. So Tim Winton has written a lot of lovely, lovely books. And that one is probably my favourite.

Kelly Molson: That feels like a really fitting book for what we’ve just talked about. A perfect fit for engaging with something, and it becoming your passion in later life. I love that.

So as ever, if you would like to win a copy of that book, if you head over to our Twitter account and you retweet this show announcement with the words, “I want Michelle’s book,” then you will be in with a chance of winning it.

Michelle, thank you so much for coming on and sharing today. I honestly can’t get the picture of Michelle’s Crocs and socks out of my head. So I might ask her permission to see if we can… Oh, she’s giving us a little flash. Oh, look!

Michelle Emerson: No socks today.

Kelly Molson: Oh, listeners. You have to head over to our YouTube channel so that you can see that, and not just hear me cackling about it. I was going to ask Michelle if she’d give me permission to share the photo that she sent me a few weeks ago. But she’s done it for me. So-

Michelle Emerson: That’s the real deal, though. You see, that photo had socks.

Kelly Molson: I might share that on our Twitter account. Michelle, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate. It’s been lovely to have you on.

Michelle Emerson: It’s been a pleasure, Kelly. Sorry, it’s taken me so long to agree.


Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at hello@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.




Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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