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12 Nov 2019

Emma’s our Rising Star

Emma stands between two men and holds her award on stage at the ASVA Conference.
Emma receives her award at the ASVA Conference
Emma Sweeney, Visitor Services Supervisor at the Hill House, has been announced as the winner of the ASVA 2019 Rising Star Award.

Emma Sweeney, Visitor Services Supervisor at the National Trust for Scotland’s Hill House, has been announced as the winner of the ASVA (Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions) 2019 ‘Rising Star’ Award, which is open to people aged under 30 working in Scottish tourism.

The award was announced at ASVA’s Autumn Conference at the Crieff Hydro Hotel, Perthshire, and honours Emma’s significant contribution to the Hill House and the wider Scottish tourism industry.

Following stints with Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and Saint Luke’s in Glasgow, Emma began employment with the Trust in June 2017 as Events & Marketing Officer for Holmwood and Greenbank Garden. After 4 months she became Acting Property Manager for Greenbank Garden before taking on her current position as Visitor Services Supervisor at the Hill House.

In her role as Visitor Services Supervisor Emma is responsible for admissions, the visitor experience within the house and for the events programme at the Hill House and sister property, Geilston Garden. With this comes the responsibility for recruitment, training and line managing 10 staff and 50 volunteers. Emma also has duty management responsibility for the whole site on a rota basis with other members of the management team.

During the summer of 2018, the Hill House closed to visitors to enable the construction of the ‘Box’ to take place. This added dimension to the property presented the opportunity to review and change the way that the visitor experience was delivered.

Emma carried out extensive research, which included interviews with family members to get first-hand accounts of their memories, as children, of living in the house. From conducting these interviews, Emma has formed close relationships, leading to key items in the family ownership being donated back to the property and being an integral part of the interpretation. This research enabled Emma to plan and implement a new approach to how staff engage with visitors and the stories that they tell. This change of approach has involved Emma recruiting and training new staff as well as retraining existing staff.

A system of 10-minute talks has been introduced and is delivered on a daily basis by individual staff and volunteers in Emma’s team. All have been guided by Emma in conducting their own research in a subject of their choosing (related to the Hill House) and now, confidently and ably, present their talks to visitors.

Emma has also developed a programme of events throughout the year to engage with new audiences – a key objective of the Hill House. The Big Top Day in July attracted around 250 family visitors, many of whom then visited the house, making it the busiest day of the year, while many other events including an After Hours and Behind the Scenes event and murder mystery evening have sold out.

In July, the Hill House achieved Museum Accreditation from Museums, Galleries Scotland, an accolade for which Emma played a key role in the application process, providing information and working closely with internal Collections and Curatorial teams to implement systems and procedures.

In addition Emma has demonstrated an impressive commitment to personal development, involving herself in a range of activities outside of work that would enhance her skills in the workplace. She currently sits on the Board of Maryhill Burgh Hall Trust and is also a member of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Working Group.

Richard Williams, General Manager, Glasgow & the West said: ‘Since joining the Trust, Emma has taken on a number of roles at short notice, and has now found herself at the forefront of delivering the visitor experience at the Hill House. Emma has worked tirelessly with the team to re-build the entire experience from the ground up during the closure of the property to build the Big Box around it, and since it has re-opened, the reviews from visitors have been fantastic. Much of this is thanks to the fabulous work Emma has done.’

Carly Lamberty, Destination Marketing Manager added: ‘Emma has come up with a new, exciting and diverse events programme, with the National Trust for Scotland’s key audiences in mind. As well as participating in the Trust’s wider events programme of outdoor theatre, Easter and Halloween, Emma has created some events that are as unique as our approach to conserving the Hill House - she really HAS thought outside the box! Emma’s 1920s murder mystery sold out in advance and her Fright Night Halloween event is set to do the same. From pop-up planetariums to behind-the-scenes late night tours of the Hill House, Emma has curated an events programme that runs all year and that offers something for everyone to experience and enjoy.’

Speaking about her win, Emma said: ‘Receiving the Rising Star award from my peers is a tremendous honour. I am relishing being part of such a fantastic team here at the Hill House and the wider National Trust for Scotland and look forward to playing my part in developing the business in the future.’

In winning the award, Emma beat off stiff competition from runners-up Kayleigh Day, Designated Duty Manager at The Real Mary King’s Close, and Lara Peralvo, Development Assistant at Mercat Tours. Commenting on the Rising Star Award, ASVA CEO Gordon Morrison said: ‘Emma, Kayleigh and Lara are to be applauded for their outstanding contributions and achievements, which are all the more impressive given that they are so young. They are a credit to their own organisations and also clearly have very bright futures in the wider Scottish tourism industry.’