Job vacancy – Head of Visitor Experience at Chiswick House and Gardens

Job title: Head of Visitor Experience
Job Reference HVE20
Location: Chiswick House and Gardens, London W4 2QN
Responsible to: Director
Responsible for: Marketing, Visitor Experience, Facilities & Operations, Volunteering, Community Participation, Learning and Work experience programme
Contract: Full time employee (some weekend working will be required)
Salary: £42,000 – £45,000 p/a
Funded by: Culture Recovery Fund
Closing date: 12noon Monday 23 November

Any appointment will be subject to a full Disclosure and Barring Service check.

Chiswick House & Gardens Trust (CHGT) has been awarded a Culture Recovery Fund grant to enable us to prepare Chiswick House for a Covid-secure reopening in April 2021. We can now recruit a Head of Visitor Experience to reimagine our visitor experience, and recruit and build the team to deliver it. This role will also be responsible for leading the development of our marketing and operations plan as well as overseeing our community, learning and volunteering programme. It is a fantastic opportunity for an experienced and motivated visitor experience leader, who wants to work with a small team to enhance the experience for existing audiences and help CHGT reach new audiences.

The onset of lockdown had a devastating impact on our income from private and commercial events, which meant we have focused our limited resources on essential maintenance to ensure the grounds and gardens remain open and that they are clean and safe. Our café is open every day, currently providing a takeaway service. However, facilities that are usually open are currently closed including the Conservatory and Chiswick House itself. In a typical year Chiswick House is open for four days per week from the beginning of April to the end of October.

We have been awarded a Culture Recovery Fund grant to carry out a rapid interpretation project – using low cost interpretative tools ready for the reopening of the House in 2021. The key driver is to ensure we are Covid-secure for re-opening, but this also provides us with an opportunity to rethink our visitor experience and deal with some of the known issues identified over the years. This role will be responsible for preparing the reopening of these spaces, and ensuring audiences feel safe and inspired to visit once they are able to do so again.

Chiswick House represents one of the first and finest examples of neo-Palladian design in England, whilst the Gardens are ground-breaking in their own right.

CHGT was established in 2005 jointly by the English Heritage Trust (EHT) and the London Borough of Hounslow, who previously managed the Gardens. Today, we provide dawn-til-dusk free access to our restored Grade 1 registered 18th-century landscape and ticketed entry to the Grade 1 listed House during open season.

Chiswick House is an early 18th century villa which helped to set the trend for the neo-Classicism that defined Georgian architecture. The Gardens are considered one of the birthplaces of the English Landscape Movement, one of the UK’s greatest contributions to European art and culture, and contain several garden buildings and statues. Both House and Gardens are the work of Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, and the architect and designer who was his friend, William Kent. They are considered a complete work of art. The House and Gardens are of international and national heritage significance and are a source of great pride to our local community.

We also care for and manage:
− A Grade I listed Conservatory designed by the architect Samuel Ware in 1813, substantially remodelled c.1930, housing the largest collection of heritage camellias under glass in the world
− A Walled Garden dating back to 1682, which was converted into a Kitchen Garden by a group of local volunteers in 2005, now an essential community outreach resource.
We are a hub for the local community, with 1,000,000 visits made to the Gardens each year, as well as thousands of visitors to the House. We are a popular destination for dog walkers, families, individuals and groups who arrive at Chiswick daily in pursuit of nature and culture. In a normal year, we host weddings, film and photography shoots, outdoor theatre and cinema, music and food festivals, family events and sporting activities which bring the community together.
Our Kitchen Garden is home to our community and education activities where our ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ award-winning volunteers cultivate and sell produce. Typically, 140 volunteers help us care for the gardens, along with students from horticultural colleges. In the past we have hosted weekly visits from nursery and school groups including Queensmill, a local SEND school for young people with autism.

In 2019, Chiswick House and Gardens Trust was awarded:
− Heritage Park and Garden of the Year, Gold and Overall Category Winner
− Walled Garden of the Year, Gold and Overall Category Winner
− Our Community, Gold for the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden Volunteers
− Our Community, Silver Gilt for the Goosefoot Volunteers
− RHS ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood Award’, Thriving for the Goosefoot Volunteers
− RHS ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood Award’, Outstanding for the Kitchen Garden Volunteers
− LIB Allotment Site Award
− RHS ‘IYN’ Certificate of Distinction for the Kitchen Garden Volunteers
− Green Flag Award 2019/20 and 2020/21

A key strand to our business recovery is to define and launch a ‘refreshed’ visitor experience to deepen our engagement in the traditional cultural heritage market, encouraging our daily visitors to do more than just take a walk and have a coffee, and reach new local audiences who do not currently visit. We need to also grow our visitor income through our ticket sales and secondary spend. We have initiated a programme of work reviewing and adapting our visitor route and interpretative assets to ensure we are Covid-secure. You will be working hand in hand with the project team defining how the experience will be delivered and then taking on the leadership of our future visitor experience, marketing, volunteering and community strategies. This will include:

Visitor Experience strategy
− Providing expert support to the project team to ensure the visitor experience will work operationally and developing the staff and volunteer recruitment and training plan to deliver for opening in April 2021.
− Lead the roll out and optimisation of the new visitor experience across every on-site touchpoint; tour offer, visitor welcome etc. to build our reputation and increase revenue.
− Work with the Head of Commercial to operationalise our new retail offering.
− Design the KPIs and structure for weekly reporting on customer service, visitor count, ticket, tour, group and retail sales and Giftaid.
− Work with our IT provider and our web agency to ensure our online visitor experience is consistent with our onsite visitor experience, and makes it easy for audiences to engage with us.
− Design and develop the ongoing visitor experience and interpretation strategy drawing on the learnings of the reopening plan for 2012 onwards, working closely with our English Heritage colleagues.

Estate and House Operations Management
− Be the senior management lead on the care of the collections in the House and Grounds. This will encompass collections managed by the English Heritage team and those on loan from London Borough of Hounslow. Ensure we are delivering our regime of regular surveys, checks and maintenance, working hand in hand with our English Heritage, London Borough of Hounslow colleagues and Estate Garden Manager.
− Manage our Operations and Facilities Supervisor in the delivery of our day-to-day House and Gardens maintenance and security tasks. Ensure we are carrying out our regulatory surveys and checks and disseminate to the wider team of the impact of these.
− Support the Operations and Facilities Supervisor in his role as Health and Safety Leader for the organisation. Ensure we have a robust regime of reporting and addressing risks, and working with the team to ensure accountability for health and safety in all areas of the organisation.
− Support the Visitor Experience Coordinator in delivering the efficient running of all visitor experience and commercial operations, including effective delivery of duty management, opening and closing of buildings, excellent presentation standards, health and safety, safeguarding, emergency and security management, visitor flow and support to the delivery of events.

− Support the Marketing Manager in developing our positioning, digital content and marketing plan to meet our refreshed vision, broaden our reach and grow our visitor income.
− Support the Marketing Manager in the development of our new membership offer ready for launch when we reopen in April 2021.
− Define the audience development and research plan to ensure measures are in place to monitor our progress against our targets.

Growing Together at Chiswick House
− Volunteering
o Support the Community Participation Manager in the development of our Growing Together at Chiswick House strategy to unify our volunteering, learning, community and families activities into a coherent plan. Guide the development of the performance framework across all our activities; Gardens, House, events and retail.
o Work with the Community Participation Manager to review and define any changes this will require in volunteer roles, recruitment, retention and volunteer skills development.
o Support the fundraising team in any funding applications for the volunteer programme.
− Learning & Communities
o Support the Community Participation Manager in developing local schools, community groups and families programme – particularly those that do not currently visit.
o Support the fundraising team in any funding applications for the learning and communities programme.

Public programme
− Design and implement CHGT public programme, working closely with the Head of Commercial and Estate Garden Manager to reach and engage new audiences.
− Support the fundraising team in any funding applications for the public programme.

You will have a strong and proven track record in leading visitor experience and volunteer teams to deliver a first-class experience that engages and delights visitors. In addition, you will need to demonstrate:
− A proven track record of managing visitor experience teams in a ticketed or paid for offer
− Good knowledge and understanding of historic buildings, art collections and interiors
− Good understanding of museum/gallery learning, curatorial and visitor experience approaches
− Experience and commitment to working with staff and volunteer teams in delivering an engaging and consistent visitor experience
− Good experience with visitor and commercial operations and systems e.g. ticketing, CRM, reporting & analytics, visitor evaluation and rota management.
− Excellent organisation skills, able to prioritise and work to tight timescales
− Strong written and verbal communication skills
− Expertise in management and fostering collaborative relationships between a diverse range of partners and audiences
− Ability to manage budgets effectively. Demonstrating a responsible attitude to available resources and using them efficiently and effectively.

We are looking for people who reflect the diversity of the country today to help us shape and change our approach and make it more relevant to the diversity of the people in our local communities. Disabled people, those that identify as being from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and people under 30 are under-represented in our staff and volunteer team so we particularly encourage applications from people in these groups.

You may be asked to carry out additional tasks as may arise, and which may be reasonably accommodated within the post’s salary level. You will be required to act in accordance with the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to take reasonable care for the health and safety of any person who may be affected by your acts of omissions at work.

Application is by CV (no more than 2 pages) and a supporting statement (no more than 2 pages) outlining the reasons for your interest in the post and why you believe yourself to be suitable, and how you would propose approaching the brief.

Please provide details of two referees who know your employment and your work. For shortlisted candidates, references will be taken up prior to interview unless you advise that you do not wish us to do so.

Please include your full contact details including daytime and evening telephone numbers.

Applications should be sent to please include the job reference HVE20 in the subject header of your email.

Deadline: Closing date for applications is midday Monday 23 November 2020

Interviews and Shortlisting: It is anticipated that shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview (online) on either Friday 27 November or Tuesday 1 December 2020.