During the festival hundreds of museums, galleries and historic spaces all over the UK are opening their doors after dark to put on a fantastic array of special night-time events – gallery gigs, art happenings, twilight screenings, all-night sleepovers, nature walks, star gazing or simply the chance to experience some of the UK’s cultural venues, historic houses and museums in a new light.  

The October festival coincides with Halloween weekend so many museums will be putting on events with a Halloween theme from spooky sleepovers to the untold stories of mystery skeletons and clairvoyants contacting Victorian ghosts.  Art-led event highlights: 

‘Druids in the Deadhouse’ – Bedwyr Williams at Somerset House, London (Friday 28 October)

Druids in the Deadhouse is an approximation of what a Druid hipster event might have been like had things panned out differently. In the Deadhouse below the courtyard of Somerset House you will have the opportunity to don a white robe put on a fake beard, or use your own should you wish and cut loose Druid style. An open mic slot for have-a- go funny druids, tableau vivants competing against each other in spooky niches, non- lethal human sacrifice, pagan cocktails and heathen nibbles all compered by Bedwyr Williams, your Arch Druid for the evening. 

Working across a variety of media including performance, video, sculpture and text, Bedwyr Williams investigates the friction between the deadly serious and banal aspects of modern life. He often satirises the role of the artist and curator against this backdrop, creating cruel and absurd scenarios for them to appear in.

‘Questioning the Dead’ – Marcus Coates at Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol (Friday 28 October)

After spending the summer submitting questions to the deceased at Arnos Vale, visitors will call out the questions across the darkness of the cemetery, awaiting a response. The calling will itself be a chorus of voices, a ritualised collective projection of concerns, worries and the desire to ask out loud and seek resolution, where the need to ask is as important as getting a reply. The evening will include an exclusive opportunity to explore the cemetery at night.

Marcus Coates identifies a need in society to ask personal questions in public, but also to approach our answering in radically different ways. He is best known for his performances and installations that employ shamanistic rituals to engage with social and political questions, including School of Imagination, 2013, where Coates trained a group of participants to help answer questions for policy makers at City Hall, London.

Aowen Jin at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, Warwickshire (Saturday 29 October)

British-Chinese artist Aowen Jin will be taking over the beautiful and historic Compton Verney Gallery for Museums at Night. Working with the local community, Aowen will produce a stunning 3D artwork that shimmers and dances in darkness under UV light, adorned with imagery inspired by Compton Verney’s exceptional collection of Chinese Art. Viewers will be given UV torches to explore and interact with the exhibit during the Late event on the 29th October.

Caitlin and Andrew Webb-Ellis at The Nunnery Gallery, Bow, East London (one of 27, 28 or 29 October TBC)

The artist team Webb-Ellis will bring together people from the diverse communities surrounding the Nunnery Gallery to take part in an evening of ritual, sharing food and stories. A new audio-visual installation, made collaboratively with local communities, will be presented in the gallery alongside drawings, music and holy water collected by local ‘pilgrims’ from an ancient sacred well in Valentines Park. Inspired by Susan Hiller’s ‘Homage to Joseph Beuys’ series, which collects water from sacred or once-sacred sites around the world the event will be based on a 6-mile pilgrimage to collect water from the local well, exploring the layered memories and stories living in the landscapes we journey through.

Peter Liversidge at The Royal College of Nursing, London (one of 27, 28 or 29 October TBC)

Conceptual artist Peter Liversidge will respond to the Royal College of Nursing’s extensive network of thousands of nurses, their 100 years of history, and the fascinating stories held within their historic building on Cavendish Square to devise a thought-provoking participatory art experience for curious visitors. Peter Liversidge is a British contemporary artist notable for his diverse artistic practice and use of proposals, written on a manual typewriter. He has exhibited and worked with Tate Liverpool and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art amongst many other galleries across the world.

Tine Bech’s Rainbow Makers at The Whitworth Gallery, Manchester (Thursday 27 October)

Danish born, London based artist Tine Bech has created a team treasure-hunt type game called Rainbow Makers which will be the centre-piece of the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester’s Museums at Night event on Thursday 27 October. Rainbow Makers was originally produced by Tine for the Israel Museum, as part of Jerusalem Season of Culture, where it was enjoyed by hundreds of people but this is the first time it will be played in the UK. Players wear specially designed illuminated vests, their mission to find and illuminate iconic objects from the Whitworth’s collection to create a Rainbow projected on the walls of the gallery. A limited number of tickets will be available in advance from MuseumsatNight.org.uk

Halloween Highlights

Dickens After Dark: A Halloween Special at Charles Dickens Museum, London (Friday 28 October)

On the only night of the year dedicated to telling stories of the dearly departed and reading the fortunes of friends, experience Dickens’s beautiful townhouse as if the author himself had just stepped out the door. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the dimly lit rooms and experience what it was like to be in a Victorian home after dark while delving into the unseen mysteries of the future with the help of our clairvoyants.

Craven Street Bones at Benjamin Franklin House, London (Saturday 29 October)

In 1997, a chance discovery during conservation sparked an investigation at Benjamin Franklin House: how did human skeletal remains of up to 10 individuals come to be buried under the basement floor? Historian Braena Sykes explores the answer to this question and reveal the darker side of the 18th century’s pursuit of knowledge.

Spooky Sleepover at The Museum at The Novium, Chichester (Oct 28-29) 

Join The Novium for a special family sleepover with spooky torch-lit tours, fun games and activities for all ages to enjoy. 

Other Highlights

Sex, Scandal and Life Writing: The Experiences of Dr Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and Irish Courtesan, Peg Plunkett at Dr Johnson’s House, London Manchester (Thursday 27 October) 

Historian Julie Peakman explores the biographies, memoirs & autobiographical material of three very different 18th-century characters to reveal how their life experiences were skewed by gender. The reasons why they wrote, the subject matter they wrote about, and the way they interpreted the Georgian world were all quite different yet they overlapped in many ways, influenced by the morality around them. Julie Peakman is an historian in 18th-century culture and the history of sexuality. Her most recent book, ‘Peg Plunkett: Memoirs of a Whore’, draws on Peg’s original memoirs and the author’s extensive research to tell the extraordinary life of the Georgian era’s most famous courtesans. 

Osterley After Dark at Osterley Park and House, Osterley (Oct 28-29)

Starting from the Tudor stable block, be introduced to Osterley’s origins as Thomas Gresham’s 16th century manor before exploring Robert Adam’s architectural masterpiece with the lights down low. Learn about the sinister and the sad, the dark and the dreadful as we travel deep into Osterley’s hidden past with over 400 years’ worth of stories to share.
Museums at Night offers the chance to discover museums on your doorstep that you didn’t even know existed! 

The Museums at Night festival has experienced phenomenal growth during the past eight years. Museums at Night took place twice for the first time in 2015. The festival attracted 220,000 visits to 700 events in more than 500 venues across the country. The festival is designed to encourage new audiences into museums and galleries. 

Museums at Night is coordinated by Culture24, an independent non-profit company that exists to support the cultural sector to reach and connect with audiences.

For details of all venues, events and activities visit www.museumsatnight.org.uk, where listings information will be continually updated right up until the weekend itself.