New director at Norwich’s Dragon Hall

Angela Graham, the new director of Dragon Hall. Picture: Denise Bradley

Angela Graham, the new director of Dragon Hall. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2013

After spending her childhood visiting museums and exploring stately homes, it was no surprise that Angela Graham carved a career in the museum sector.

Her first job was a role play actor at a museum in Stoke-on-Trent and, after management jobs in the sector, the mother of two was appointed director at Dragon Hall in November.

The medieval building is one of the jewels in Norwich's crown. Nestled in Norwich's King Street, Dragon Hall, which is also a registered charity, welcomed 17,000 visitors through its doors last year.

'My job involves a bit of everything. It's about looking at the museum as an attraction and I'm trying to increase visitor numbers. I would like to see more groups and families and hold more events,' Mrs Graham says.

Another thing she aims to tick off the list this year is to apply to become an accredited museum.

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'We really want to become accredited and recognised by Arts Council England. It would open up some more funding streams.

'The application is in the early stages at the moment but we are hoping to submit it in a month or two. It will take at least a year to get accredited.'

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Mrs Graham says she hopes more items associated with the museum – including domestic items and a pair of shoes – are displayed.

'My predecessors have done a fantastic job,' she added.

'I think Dragon Hall is popular. We are going to be looking at special offers for families throughout the summers months. The financial climate is difficult at the moment, but we want people to come here and enjoy the buildings and events.'

More activities for children will be held with the chance for them to take part in crafts and dress up in costumes.

'We have a Sherlock Holmes-style detective trail where children can wear a cape and find clues around the building. My plan is to increase the number of interactive things for families.'

Despite being new to the city, Mrs Graham has already started exploring what Norwich has to offer and cites the Assembly House and Norwich Cathedral as two of her favourite places.

'I love Norwich, it's a fantastic place,' she says. 'It's not too big and there are lots of attractions and beautiful buildings. I had only been to Norwich four times before I got the job.'

Mrs Graham lives in Weybread, near Harleston, with her husband, David, 52, who works as a supply teacher, and their two sons, James, eight, and five-year-old Thomas.

They moved to Norfolk in January 2011 to be closer to Mrs Graham's family.

'My mum and my sister live in Eye and I decided that I would like to be near them. It's good for the children because they have cousins who are around the same age.'

Mrs Graham went to school in Ilford, Essex, before studying history of design and visual arts at Staffordshire University. She carried out a PGCE in English and media at Nottingham University.

'My heart was in the arts and I fell in love with museums. My first job was a role play actor at Gladstone Pottery museum in Stoke-on-Trent.'

She then managed the award-winning Ford Green Hall museum in Stoke-on-Trent from 1999 until 2008 when she became support and development manager at Stoke-on-Trent Museum Service.

Talking about her new job at Dragon Hall, she says: 'It's a very creative job, you're always thinking about events. Part of the job is about making sure visitors enjoy themselves and that they take something away from their visit.

'Dragon Hall is the fourth museum I have managed and nearly all of them have been listed buildings.

'The best part of my job is that I have always worked in wonderful buildings. I have worked in buildings through the centuries including a Victorian mill.'

Dragon Hall is a Grade 1 listed medieval trading hall dating from around 1430. It was built by a merchant called Robert Toppes and was at the heart of his international trading empire. In its heyday it would have been filled with wool, cloth, timber, spices and pottery.

Dragon Hall is a licensed wedding venue and last year performed 41 ceremonies, double the number from 2011.

Also last year, more than 2,500 school children came through its doors.

A team of 80 volunteers ensure the smooth running of the attraction by holding guided tours, maintaining the garden and carrying out performances.

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