Episode 9 – Marge Ainsley

Notes on Cultural Peeps Podcast Episode 9: Marge Ainsley

Hello and welcome to Episode 9 of the Cultural Peeps Podcast. Today’s guest is the Freelancer, Marge Ainsley.

I’ve known Marge since high school where we bonded over a love of 2 things – Art and Vic Reeves and we’ve been in touch with each other ever since.

Since going freelance in 2008, Marge has worked with a huge range of Museums, Galleries, Libraries and Theatres, helping them build in-house expertise, better understand their audiences, and evaluate projects and practices. Marge has previously been voted one of the top 50 Freelancers in the UK and is a Fellow of the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning, Member of the Market Research Society and the International Association of Facilitators.

The first half of the conversation is about what it is like to work as a Freelancer across the Museum, Gallery, Heritage, Theatre and Library sectors. We discuss working practices, the pros & cons of working as a Freelancer and how to balance the running of your own business with maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

We also talk a bit about temperament and personality, and whether anyone can really be a Freelancer or whether you need a particular outlook or skill set to pursue that type of career.

A key theme of the conversation is around definitions and job titles, and how difficult the presentation of skills is within the sector. This is something that’s fascinating to listen to, as Marge is essentially trying to balance attracting clients with specialist descriptions of her own skills. and experience There are some particularly interesting discussions here around the use of the word/ term ‘consultancy’.

We then go on to chat about Marge’s career pathway, from her English and Art History Undergraduate Degree at Lancaster University, through a difficult period after graduation (which I think a lot of people interested in developing a career in the cultural sector go through) through to her decision to undertake an MA at Sheffield – primarily as a way of breaking into the sector.

We then talk about the value and issues around both MA Courses and Volunteering, the latter being something Marge did quite a bit of alongside her Postgraduate studies at Sheffield Museum Trust.

After a brief stint at the University of Salford, Marge then worked at the Harris Museum in Preston before making the decision to start building a Freelance portfolio.

Marge currently co-runs the Museum Freelance Network, which is a network that aims to give independents across the cultural sector the opportunity to meet and share ideas. So if you are interested in working as a Freelancer or even thinking about it, it’s well worth checking that out and making some connections there.

You might also want to look at Marge’s Blog. In there she shares her day-today experiences as a Freelancer, so that gives a really nice oversight of the work she does and how she approaches things.

In addition to those also sites already recommended above, I have put links to as many of the other organisations and projects we cover in the Podcast description, so if there is anything you’d like to look up, that we cover in our discussion, then that’s a good starting point.

I hope you enjoy our conversation and find it useful.

For further information about Marge Ainsley, please visit:

Marge Ainsley:

Marge Ainsley’s Blog:

Marge Ainsley (@margeainsley) on Twitter:

Freelance Cultural Consultant, Professional Facilitator & Trainer – AMA:

Museum Next:

Links to the Podcast content:

Museum Freelance Network:

Sheffield Museums:

Harris Museum:

University of Salford:

Museums Association:

Silverstone Heritage Experience:

Arts Marketing Association:

Visitor Studies Group:

Association of Independent Museums:

Don’t forget you can follow the Podcast at: