Hallelujah!, pizza, fashion and leaks

Venues and volunteers manager Julie Baxter
Venues and volunteers manager Julie Baxter

Julie Baxter is assistant and volunteer manager for Scarborough Museums Trust. Here she talks about her job and love of the town.

Here she takes part in our feature Five Minutes With ...

Please tell me about yourself

I was born in Bradford and have two children. I worked in Bradford for Crockatt Cleaner until we moved over the Pennines to Lancashire for four years in the late 70s before moving back to Yorkshire, buying a small hotel on Scarborough’s North Bay.

I spent every holiday throughout my childhood with my family along the East coast staying in the Scarborough area many times so it seemed a natural progression to move here.

After leaving achool I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college but always wanted to study fashion, so in the late 80s I gave up my role as hotelier and became a full time student at Scarborough tech studying fashion sesign. I qualified with a BTEC in fashion design.

While at the tech I met my husband Graham and we celebrated 30 years together this year. I set up my own business after leaving college using the then Governments Enterprise Allowance Scheme, which enabled small start-up businesses to build business while receiving a small weekly amount for a year.

I had my business for 16 years working closely with the tech taking in work experience and City and Guilds students. I worked in a variety of aspects of the fashion trade working with a local weaver/textile designer to help design and produce bespoke ladies suits, making children’s wear for companies in Scarborough and London and doing clothing alterations for many of the local boutiques in the town.

In the early 2000s I decided a career change was in order so I worked on a number of projects, running a boutique B&B with Graham for a summer season in Pitlochry, Scotland. We bought a pizza deli in the town where I learnt how to make a pizza the Italian way by tossing and stretching. I worked in a couple of jobs before moving into the museum world taking the job at Scarborough Museums Trust.

Tell me about a day in your job: I have a very diverse and varied role from looking after the Rotunda’s oldest resident to putting together an exhibition.

9am: down to the Rotunda with the collections team to remove Gristhorpeman from his case and clean all the glass and plinth from a leak we had in the roof.

Meet with Jennings, who look after all our IT, to sort out an issue with one of the interactives in Shell Gallery. 
Up to the Art Gallery and help my colleague Nigel and a group of volunteers take down the previous two exhibitions Winifred’s War and Wilfred Own.

This involves packing artworks and making good the walls ready for the exhibitions, ScarboroArt and Sylvia Pankhurst.

1pm: head to the office to help with setting up a new volunteer with a collections project. Mid-afternoon catch up on emails and paperwork until 5pm – the end of another day.

What inspired you to pursue your career: I became a volunteer in the early 2000s for the museum service. As a volunteer I was lucky to be able to study for an NVQ level 3 in Cultural Heritage through York College. This inspired me to look at a change of career and to join the museum service.

I started at Scarborough Museums Trust in 2008 with the newly-refurbished Rotunda Museum. I moved within the Trust from front of house to assistant facilities manager then to collections assistant and volunteer manager, developing the current volunteer programme to a now 70-strong volunteer team.

You have the chance to stage an exhibition anywhere in the world, with any theme you like - what would it be, where would it be and why: My love is fashion and textiles and history. I would get together an authentic collection of the best examples of period costume from all over the country from the early 1500s to the start of the industrial revolution showing how the fabric and garments were made and who would have made them. We see period dramas on TV with lavish reproduced costumes made with today’s equipment and technology but how were the originals made?

I would stage the exhibition at the V&A which holds one of the finest collection of costumes in the country.

Many of the practical skills used to make these fabrics and garments are diminishing with the technological age we live in today and it would be interesting to look at the complex processes our ancestors used to make something we take for granted.

For fun ...

Holiday – home or away?: I love anywhere in Britain. I also love Italy and France and would either opt for an activity holiday; cycling, walking and scrambling or a city break. This year my husband Graham and I cycled the Velo route in the Loire Valley in France from Orleans to Saumur.

The song that means the most to you: Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, it really moves me.

How do you switch off: I’m learning the ukulele so I love to sit in my spare room or in the garden playing simple tunes. It’s very relaxing and especially rewarding when Graham can tell what it is I am playing!

Three things you love about Scarborough: the beautiful historic buildings, and am lucky to be able to look after two of them. I particularly enjoy my walk into work along the esplanade, winter and summer, where the fantastic view can be different every day. It sets me up for the day. The castle – with its imposing presence and long history along the coastline.

How would you like to be remembered

As the person who liked to get things done.