Being Given A Chance: Kirsty’s Story
Elgar’s Birthplace museum is one of our small group of former family home cottage properties. Now renamed The Firs, the small cottage, cottage garden and visitors centre has been leased to the National Trust for 5 years after previously being run by the local council.
Elgar’s opened in September 2017, after a full refit and a revamp of the onsite cafe. We caught up with Kirsty Bothma, Visitor Experience Officer, about her plans for an interactive history experience and her own growth within the National Trust family.
When did you first start with the National Trust?
I started at Croome 2 days per week after finishing Uni, working as a Visitor Welcome Assistant. At the time, I was unable to do full-time work as I suffer from ME and found it too tiring.
How did your ME effect working with the Trust?
It was hard. There were days I just couldn’t get out and days I felt far too ill to continue and was sent home. I’m lucky that I had a very supportive manager who completely understood and supported me all the way. He would send me home if I looked unwell without me saying anything, that was really good because it meant I could recharge and come in again full of motivation without ever feeling like I was under pressure or putting my health at risk.
I’ve always felt very supported, and at the National Trust it feels like you’ve been given a chance.
What about where you are now with your health and your work?
I’m much healthier now! I took on the roles of both the raffle ticket team and the main contact for social media at Croome, that extra responsibility was great and allowed me to work my way up to working full time.
I’m now the Visitor Experience Officer at Elgar’s Birthplace Museum, The Firs, which I absolutely love and now it’s open, I can see all of our hard work coming to fruition!
What are your plans for Elgar’s Birthplace Museum within your role?
We’re a very ‘hands-on’ team here, we’ve got a big variety of people working with us and we want to bring Elgar’s to life.
Personally I love history, it's what I studied at university, so I’m making sure we have lots of interactive things for the guests and visitors to do and get involved in. We really want to make Elgar’s somewhere that families can come and enjoy the day in a relaxed environment.
What will that look like for visitors?
The cottage museum is being renovated right now and we’re busy collecting pieces to go in and really make it feel like a homely environment. We want our visitors to walk around the museum and see it as a home rather than an exhibit. We’ve got lots of pieces that have been donated or collected from all over, we’re hoping to hear lots of “Oh I remember those!” or “My granny had one of them growing up” as our visitors walk around.
What about the outside places of Elgar’s? Tell us a bit about the mural!
I love our mural! We really want the outside places to be relaxed. We’ve got the small cottage garden, which Katherine’s team is looking after, that’s been recreated from a 19th Century painting of the cottage.
By the café, we’re creating spaces where families can come and have picnics, play lawn games and enjoy the outside environment in a relaxed atmosphere.
Our mural was created by a local artist. Inspired by the now famous Banksy-style graffiti - of Elgar holding an iPhone in Malvern, we’ve had this mural created to showcase Elgar’s playful side! I love how it looks almost 3D at the right angle…
Finally, what do you love most about working here and for the National Trust in general?
At the National Trust you’re given opportunities. There are opportunities to progress and develop your career, but also the opportunity to be yourself and grow as a person, not just an employee.
The Volunteers here feel like part of the staff team, part of the family, and everyone is really close-knit. We all work hard but we support each other too, everyone mucks in where they can and everyone is valued.
Elgar’s is a special property. I wanted to work here and applied before I went to Uni, but I didn’t get a role (that’s ok, I didn’t have the right experience) now I’m here and I love it. It feels very peaceful and tranquil.