Behind The Scenes, 3 August 2017: Working together to create a splash

by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

By now hopefully those of you who follow us will know that we have launched a new name and brand for what was previously known as the Plymouth History Centre (working title). As a marketeer I can’t tell you how great it is to now be working with a definitive title and visual identity for this exciting project and to finally be able to ditch those brackets!

The Box logo - July 2017

Our launch took the form of a teaser campaign and ‘top secret’ volunteer call out in the local press and social media, followed by a reveal on our promotional leaflets, construction site hoardings and website on 22 July. This was backed up with some great press coverage and two fantastic performances in the Drake Circus shopping mall. The performances were commissioned from the Barbican Theatre and featured a number of local performers, choreographers, artists and musicians.

Our new name has generated a great deal of debate which we really welcome. There are a number of reasons why we chose it. These are outlined in our official press release which I’d encourage anyone who would like to understand more about the development process we’ve been through and the rationale behind the brand to read.

Photograph of the front of The Box leaflet - July 2017

I’ve been involved in a number of branding projects and launch events during my career and they all bring their own set of unique challenges with them – especially when there’s a great deal of interest and expectation in the project or organisation they represent. There are three things that really stand out for me about this particular launh.

The first thing is the great teamwork that took place. Getting ready for the launch required a number of people with a wide range of skills to collaborate. Along with myself it involved contributions from colleagues in public art, events and audience development, digital engagement, volunteer coordination and business support. We also had to engage with a range of suppliers from graphic design, web development, film and video production, to photography, public relations, merchandising, printing – even air filling for balloons!

The second thing was the amount of help we received. We had a lovely group of enthusiastic volunteers assisting us throughout the day. We were also lucky enough to benefit from a great deal of support and cooperation from the local media as well as the team who manage Drake Circus and the mall’s retailers, especially Marks and Spencer and Yo Sushi. We are very grateful to everyone.

The third thing was the quality of the performances devised and directed by the Barbican Theatre which were pieces of global contemporary dance combined with street theatre, rap and folk music.

Curious ‘choruses’ of walking boxes wove their way around the shopping mall before aerial dancers and performers gathered to open and unwrap a series of objects. Our new strapline, ‘Where the greatest explorer is you’ was referenced, with Polynesian-influenced moves inspired by our world cultures collections, and the discovery of a character representing the female mountaineer Gertrude Benham in a packing case. Huge thanks and congratulations to the directors, choreographers, designers, artists, performers and musicians involved.

As our CEO Paul Brookes said: “Like our architecture, ‘The Box’ as our title is a brave, contemporary move. As the launch performances from the Barbican Theatre team showed, although at first glance it may appear simple it actually holds a multitude of meanings. The performances also illustrated how Plymouth’s cultural sector can work with the businesses and facilities within the city centre to showcase the artistic journey we are all on together.”

Greg Lumley, Drake Circus Centre Director said: “A massive congratulations to The Box team. It looks like it will be an exciting and welcome addition to the city. The Drake Circus team look forward to working with The Box to ensure we continue to create a compelling visitor offer that positively impacts the local economy.”

I’ll leave you with the links to our official launch video and the images from the performances. Until next time…..

Main performance images:


Curious chorus images:


Official launch video:


History Centre Heroes: Jamie Lawson

Jamie Lawson was born in St Budeaux in 1975. He went to school in Plymouth and continued to be based here for much of the time afterwards, but shot to the heights of pop celebrity in 2015 with the single ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’. This was an appropriate title given that he was already in his late thirties and though an established singer songwriter, had not necessarily seemed destined for stardom.

The song was a very much in the tradition of English folk ballads, telling of a romance ending shockingly in death by cancer, so his success can be seen as a testament to the value of genuinely meaningful content in pop music. His is a dream realised through sincerity as much as ambition, and is all the more deserving of respect for that.

By the time of his first great hit Lawson had performed at local venues for more than twenty years, including the B-Bar in the Barbican Theatre and The Hub; so close to the Pavilions, known for its gigs by nationally renowned bands. He had already completed two albums of his songs: Last Night Stars (2006) and Pull of the Moon (2010), the second achieving some success in New Zealand.

A photograph of Plymouth-born singer Jamie Lawson

His third album came out in Ireland in 2011 where his music’s simple-hearted directness met with widespread appreciation. It reached eleventh position in the Irish charts. The song that was to become so famous was its title track: its hard-hitting lyrics, starting out as a cloyingly perfect tale of romance, marriage and parenthood twisting sharply near the end when the idyll is interrupted.

Its potential mass appeal was noticed by Ed Sheeran while they were both performing on London’s folk circuit. Sheeran, a now internationally established singer in his own right, was moving into production and on the lookout for music compatible with his own work to release under his new label – The Gingerbread Man.

A photograph of Ed Sheeran and Jamie Lawson

Sheeran’s folk rock deals with the life cycle and serious social issues (for example prostitution in ‘The A Team’, 2011), and he has said Lawson’s hit inspired his song about the death of a relative (‘Affire Love’, 2014). Never was a friend so well repaid. Their success perhaps shows a growing need for authenticity in UK culture.

Lawson’s third album became The Gingerbread Man’s first release on 3 April 2015. It rose through the charts. ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’ eventually reaching sixth place in the singles charts, third in Australia and taking the album to the top of the UK charts by the end of October the same year. He is the first musician Plymouth born and bred ever to achieve this.

His name now appears alongside such international stars as Elton John – in Hyde Park, summer 2016, and at a festival also featuring Paul McCartney in the Netherlands. He is a role model for children at his former schools, Barn Barton Primary and Tamarside Community College, and for all struggling musicians, writing out their lives in music, and singing to small gatherings of faithful fans in pubs and clubs of the South West. His song has turned a neutral phrase into a cultural meme, and even spawned a game of improvised rhyming on Radio 1, just showing you never know what fortune awaits you.

Watch a clip of Jamie performing at the Museum’s 2010 ‘Gig in the Gallery’ event.

Written by Rosemary Babichev.