Rowena Riley CV

Artist, Writer & Illustrator, Museum Curator Interpretation & Learning


MA Museum Studies (Education), University of Leicester 1995-1997.BA Hons Arts, First Class, Open University 1984-1995: History, History & Philosophy of Art, Literature; Fine Art Painting BA Hons: Exeter College of Art and Design 1975-1977. Foundation Certificate, Falmouth School of Art and Design 1974-1975.

Museums & Heritage CPD

‘The Foundation Phase: Opportunities for Museums, Libraries and Archives’ CyMal Welsh Assembly Government, (Llanelli 10/02/2009). ‘Performance, Learning and Heritage’ Conference, Manchester University, Centre for Applied Theatre Research, (3-5 April 2008). EU Interreg IIIC Cultured Project ‘Making Culture work as an Engine for Regional Development’ – 6 European Workshops: Policy, Legislation, Technical, Added Value, Regional Issues, Best Practice (Brussels, Spain, Hungary, Ireland, Wales, Flanders, 2005-2007). Museums and Small Nations Conference, National Museum Wales, (Cardiff 2007). Art, Community and Context (Dublin 2004). Canada Tour Contemporary Art Society (2000): artists, museums, and communities. Cultural Diversity and Museums, Museum Association (London 1998). Interpretation and Access for audiences with disabilities, family learning: GEM. Professional Conferences: Museum Association and Engage. ‘Inspiring Learning for All’, Museum Association and CyMAL, Welsh Assembly Government. Wolverhampton City Council Management Courses: financial, personnel, staff development, recruitment, risk assessment, health and safety, media skills, disability awareness. (1999-2004)

Career Histories                                                    

7936611664_7307056d70_z (1)Researching rood screens at Thurlbear School 60%

Top: Andrew Varah desk commissioned for Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s Georgian Room to explore 18th century innovation; bottom: learning to design a roodscreen at Thurlbear CE Primary School.

Jan 2017 – 2018 Freelance Arts & Heritage Consultant

Helping museums, heritage sites & communities develop project concepts; researching subjects, devising interpretation and learning, writing grant bids and HLF activity plans, delivering projects.

Inglesham enter here

Saxon Mary & Child


For historic churches and communities, I worked on projects for conservation and interpretation; each with its own extraordinary history and magical sense of place. Inglesham with its Saxon feet by the River Thames or Isis, washed in the shadows of medieval mysteries and saved by William Morris.

Who once was

Weighing souls










Low Ham Church in the Field, built as a mortuary chapel for a Royalist family with two great vanished mansions, close to a Roman villa long hidden. Parracombe St. Petroc’s ancestral Exmoor home of R. D Blackmore (Lorna Doone). Cameley St. James with leering medieval jester behind the C17th pulpit. Broadhempston St. Peter & St. Paul home of the singing boot makers, and Hartley Wintney St. Mary’s built by Cistercian nuns c1200 displaying the Seven Deadly Sins on its hallowed walls.

web IMG_0001Seven Sins

Oct 2015 – Jan 2017 Torbryan Project Officer p/t The Churches Conservation Trust

The Torbryan HLF Holy Trinity ‘Hidden Secrets’ project developed interpretation by researching subjects and methods in partnership with the local history group and primary schools.

The work:  Researching, developing and delivering: interpretation, learning, and events, around the rich heritage of the medieval church of Torbryan.  Leading learning programmes for schools on archaeology, science, geography, history and art.  Leading local history volunteers in researching the survival of the church’s medieval painted panels. Distilling this into the interpretation scheme. Contracting and working with designers to create and install interpretation. Writing all text, sourcing images, and ensuring the design sensitively fits the 15th century site. Working with conservators to restore and secure the 15th Century roodscreen paintings.

Drawing Prehistoric Timelines

Primary school project ‘Widger’s Dig’: drawing prehistoric timelines of Widger’s finds back to the penultimate Ice Age in Torbryan Valley, at the end of the project.

November 2014 – October 2015 Heritage Interpretation Projects Officer West p/t The Churches Conservation Trust.  The CCT looks after the most valuable historic churches that are no longer needed for regular worship.

The role engaged the public with these ancient buildings and developed audiences.  Proposals for conservation, interpretation and education projects, were developed by consulting stakeholders and the community, researching the history of the sites and writing funding bids.  Primary projects were: the conservation and interpretation of Torbryan Holy Trinity Medieval Church, Devon; and for biodiversity and monuments in 18th C Portland St. George’s five acres of historic graveyard in Dorset.

Jan 2014 – Oct 2014 Heritage Learning Officer West (Maternity Cover) The Churches Conservation Trust.  

Projects developed learning partnerships between historic churches and local schools. Working with teachers and primary pupils we created and trialled innovative curriculum based schemes of learning, teaching courses, and creating resources for sessions and online.

The content ranged from the Science of Sound & Music, Creative Writing – Poetry and Performance, History, RE and Art & Design. Year 4 pupils used experiential learning on site to discover how sound works, through working the organ with pump bellows. Year 3 wrote their own poetry, reading from the pulpit and performing. At Tetbury, Year 5 learnt the geometry of design in a Pugin church and designed textiles; at Thurlbear Year 5 recreated medieval interiors for a Norman church and curated their own on-site exhibition. Year 2 created batiks inspired by Pugin’s designs in their C19th church at Tetbury.

Designing textiles St Saviours Tetbury Yr 2 pupil 40%

Year 2 designing batiks by drawing from Pugin’s Tetbury All Saints Church

2010-2018: Children’s Author and Illustrator, ongoing. My current picture books for the under 6’s tell the stories of ‘Toby of the ships’ – a boy growing up on a 19th century merchant sailing ship, on trade routes to the South China Seas. Words and images are created through research into primary sources.

2005-2009: Lifelong Learning Officer, Caerphilly CBC Museum and Heritage Service, Wales, developing the Museum Service’s Learning Programme, for historic sites and the new EU funded museum.

Principle projects:

‘Age of the Princes’ Welsh Curriculum medieval history sessions for KS1 & KS2 pupils using role play, object handling and creative activities in a dual sites partnership with Cadw’s Caerphilly Castle.

‘The Great Debate’ at Llancaiach Fawr Tudor Manor House – a dramatic role-play debate of the radical ideas of the English Civil War by Secondary and ‘A’ level history students. They researched radical groups and then debated in costume and character improvising their words. ‘The Great Debate’ was a research and development project and formed a case study in the Manchester University’s, Centre for Applied Theatre Research, ‘Performance, Learning and Heritage Project’ 2005-2008.

Environmental Design Course Project to introduce a new subject into the 14-19 Curriculum, leading to careers in architecture, landscape and urban design, heritage management and related fields. The project researched and designed a prospective course through a wide national partnership of Heritage and Education organisations. With funding from CyMAL, we ran pilot courses for 16 to 19 yr olds for Construction Diploma, and A Level Design students. As a result, the course was accepted for development by the awarding body WJEC for roll out across England and Wales.

Welsh Baccalaureate Project researched and advised how the museum, art gallery, heritage, library and archive sector can support Welsh Baccalaureate students, developing pilot sessions with Welsh Bac colleges.

EU Interreg IIIC Cultured Project: How to use the Built Heritage and Regional Identity for Regeneration. Led by Ghent University, this European project had 11 partners from 9 countries, and I was a partner for Wales. We researched and developed best practice and demonstration projects, through a series of workshops held in six countries; and wrote guidelines for the EU.

2002-2005: Senior Lifelong Learning Officer, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Museum Service, developing the Lifelong Learning, Access and Interpretation service for the Art Gallery and museums, building a team of nine through a mix of project staff, student volunteers, and Secondary Teacher secondments. Services included a wide range of projects from infants Animating Portraits to A level Glass Design projects, and Young Curators; a research project on using digital art in special education for pupils with different disability profiles, and an Art Gallery Digital Art centre for schools, with MA and PGCE student placements from Wolverhampton and Birmingham Universities.

With Renaissance in the Regions funding, we developed the Education Programme Development Plan with the West Midlands Hub of Museums, reaching some 550,000 pupils and teachers. As part of Wolverhampton’s plan, I ran outreach Artists in Residencies in schools for 2 years.

1999-2002 Access and Interpretation Officer, Wolverhampton Art Gallery for the Art Gallery’s rolling exhibition programme, creating two new permanent exhibitions. The first developed interpretation for families to Eighteenth Century Art in the Georgian Gallery, through themes. The second was a Sculpture Education Gallery for students with visual impairment. These exhibitions involved commissioning new works of sculpture, costume, audio drama, and master craftsman furniture inspired by the 18th century to enable exploration. ‘Sensing Sculpture’, the sculpture education gallery was shortlisted for the RNIB Simply the Best Awards 2004 but pipped at the post by the BBC R&D.

1998-2000: Access Advisor and Consultant: National Curriculum for Art 2000, for QCA: the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. 

1996-1999: Volunteer – Project leader: Heritage Education for Teenagers with Severe Learning Difficulties and Challenging Behaviour, Acton Scott Historic Working Farm.

1989-1992: Art Teacher, MacIntyre, Womaston House Secondary Special School for students with severe learning difficulties, Powys, Wales.

1981-1997 Art Tutor teaching art & design to learners from the ages of 4 to 84 years. This included teaching very young children observational drawing skills; painting courses for adults; portrait and life drawing classes; and textile workshops.

1977-1999: Artist and Designer. Freelance. Painter of commissioned portraits, and large figure paintings, exhibited in sole and mixed shows. Theatre set design for local theatre.  Ceramic designer for Glazed Expression Pottery.

2016-2018 ongoing: Writer Currently writing an historical novel about shipwrecks, wreckers and political rebels in 1867-1871 in Ireland and France. The 19th century was truly globalised and everything was connected through the sea.

Higher Education, Professional Development Work, and Talks:

2016 December 6th, St. Cuthbert’s Reredos Project Concluding Seminar: talk on developing interpretation and learning ‘Case Study: Interpreting Holy Trinity Torbryan.’ 2015-16 Public talks on Mysterious Case of the Survival of the Roodscreen, and the Torbryan project to local history groups, parish councillors and village residents.        2015 Portland living Landscapes Day, DWT, talk on developing learning programmes. 2008 Teacher Training for Cardiff Advisory Teacher for History: ‘The Age of the Princes in Wales’.  2008 ‘Performance, Learning and Heritage’ International Conference, Manchester University Department of Applied Theatre, presented ‘Case Study: The Great Debate’.  2005 – 2007 EU Interreg IIIC Cultured: Workshop ‘Policy’, Ubeda Spain: Presentation on the Environmental Design Course Demonstration project; Regional Workshop, Brussels: Talk on Environmental Design Course project to European Universities and Heritage Organisations. Development of published Guidelines for Europe. 2003-2004 Visiting lecturer University of Central England to PGCE students.   2004 ‘Touching Audiences’ Conference for Museum Professionals, Wolverhampton Art Gallery. 2004-2007 ‘Inspiring Learning for All’ MLA cross sector training. 2002-2005 ‘Writing Workshops for Curators’, Wolverhampton Arts and Museum Service. 2000 DfES and Engage: Introduction to new National Curriculum for Art for Museums and Galleries. 1998 National Conference for Special Educational Needs: talk on ‘Thinking through Objects’ using visual and sensory memory in SEN in museum service education for pupils with learning difficulties. 1996-2005 Museum staff training in working with pupils with learning difficulties, WAMS and GEM. 1989-1992 Special Educational Needs teachers and Care staff training in how to use art in SEN.

Advisory work

  • Advisory Board for ‘Performance, Learning and Heritage Research Project’, Centre for Applied Theatre Research, Manchester University.
  • ‘Inspiring Learning for All Network’ CyMAL, Welsh Assembly Government Wales.
  • Channel 4 ‘OrigiNation’ community web design project.
  • ‘Making Meaning in Art Museums: Visitor’s Interpretive Strategies Research Project’, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, Leicester University.2001.
  • QCA Development of National Curriculum for Art Programmes of Study 2000, and Art and ICT 2002.

Historical and Professional Publications

‘The Wrecking of the San Francisco’ & ‘ The Joseph Sprott’ Ardfield Rathbarry Journal 2017

‘Empty Old Churches and New Education,’ article in English Heritage Conservation Bulletin 73 November 2014.

‘Age of the Princes: The Welsh Prince’s Court’ Teaching pack for Primary School Teachers in Wales. The Winding House, Caerphilly CBC 2009.

Hard Targets’ article on the ‘Environmental Design Course’, CyMAL Welsh Assembly Government Magazine, Spring 2008.

Touching Audiences: Designing for Interpretation in the Art Gallery’, editor, Wolverhampton Art Gallery 2004.

The Creation Research Project: ICT in Art for Children with Special Educational Needs’, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 2002.


Tom’s Studio copyright Rowena Riley

Artist / Writer author, illustrator, research and interpretation

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