Bringing a new aspect to some of the UK’s best attractions, Museums at Night gets into the Halloween spirit on Fri 30 – Sat 31 Oct. This after-hours festival of arts, culture and heritage sees hundreds of museums; galleries and historic spaces open up late for a dazzling array of special events.

Co-ordinated since 2009 by Brighton-based not-for-profit organisation Culture24, Museums at Night brings together the cultural and heritage sector around a single, simple campaign. “The venues themselves are so diverse, from smaller volunteer run places, right up to the national museums, galleries and historic sites,” says Rosie Clarke, Campaigns Officer for Culture24. “There are so many places, and just by opening a little later they can reach a whole new audience.” Tying in with the European campaign, ‘La Nuit Des Musées’, Museums at Night traditionally takes place on the weekend nearest to 18 May – International Museums Day. Museums at Night now welcomes over 500 participating venues, 700 events and 100,000 visitors.

Now for the first time, the festival becomes semi-annual, welcoming the autumn with a special Halloween programme of over 100 events. “Lots of museums say they love doing it, but it would be so much easier if it was dark.” So this new October strand of the festival will see some of the UK’s most celebrated contemporary artists and museums collaborate on some truly unique spectacles. “The events that happen depend on individual collections. Some events allow you to handle rare objects, where others will offer parties in their unique buildings.” From Turner Prize nominee Yinka Shonibare MBE hosting a 24-hour art happening at Chichester‘s Novium Museum, to artist Luke Jerram (best known for the ‘Play Me I’m Yours’ public pianos project) creating a miniature desert at Honiton‘s Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Museums at Night offers a chance to experience culture and heritage in unexpected ways.

Once again Brighton & Hove will play its part in this national event.  A Cabinet of Curiosities comes to Preston Manor as soon as the sun sets. This beautiful Edwardian country house is steeped in over 200 years of history, with grounds dating back to the 13th century. “There are quite a lot of people who haven’t been in Preston Manor. It’s well worth a visit.” Halloween will be ushered in with an evening of tarot readings, ghost tales, noir short film screenings and a magic lantern show. The event also offers a chance for the more adventurous to visit the spooky underground cellars of Brighton’s most haunted house.

The evening of Sat 31 Oct sees a Halloween Pub Quiz take place in the unusual splendour of the Booth Museum of Natural History. Founded in 1874 by naturalist and collector Edward Thomas Booth, its exhibits are an undervalued Brighton treasure.  Famed for its stacks of Victorian-style dioramas of British birds in their natural habitat settings, the building also houses a collection of 525,000 insects, 50,000 geology samples, 30,000 plants and 5,000 microscopic slides. For Museums at Night, teams of up to five will compete to see who can answer the most questions on wildlife and Brighton’s natural history collections, and probably enjoy a drink or three at the bar…

Arts and history are undoubtedly what the UK does best. Diverse after-hours programming is important is because many people have trouble fitting visits into their schedule, or simply feel disinclined. “When do you actually visit a museum? It’s hard if you’re working nine to five, or you have family commitments. You’re most likely to visit when you’re on holiday. So it’s a great opportunity for local people to discover what’s right on their doorstep.” A social as well as a learning experience, visitors can get involved, delve deeper into fascinating subjects, watch a circus performance, enjoy a cocktail or two with friends or even sleep over in their local museum.

When lights go down, the museums and galleries come alive. Whether you want to visit an indoor enchanted garden, check out some street art, participate in a Day of the Dead fiesta or be puzzled at a murder mystery evening, there’s bound to be an activity for you somewhere during Museums at Night.

Museums at Night takes place at venues across the UK, on Fri 30 – Sat 31 Oct.

www.museumsatnight.org.uk