Q&A with Sally Reynolds, Chief Executive of Silverstone Experience

The Silverstone Experience opened to the public on 25th October 2019, at the home of British Motor Racing. The immersive attraction tells the ‘whole’ Silverstone story whilst also inspiring engineers of the future through the interactive Tech Lab. The Silverstone Experience takes visitors on a 2.5-hour journey, designed to inform, entertain, educate, and inspire, whilst stimulating visitors to anticipate the shape of British motor sport in the future. We revisit this attraction to talk to its Chief Executive, Sally Reynolds, to explore how things are progressing 12 months on:

  1. One year on since the opening of Silverstone Experience, how many visitors have walked through the doors? How has the attraction been received?

We expected 250,000 visitors in the first year but because of COVID the actual figure was 50,000 visitors. It has been a very challenging first year; due to opening late, we missed the momentum of summer and The Grand Prix. Silverstone Experience had to close the doors in mid March and did not open until July 20th due to COVID. However, on 6th March we had a visit from two amazing guests; Prince Harry & Lewis Hamilton – this allowed Silverstone Experience to reach national and international press. Welsh television presenter, Steve Jones, presented Channel 4’s Formula One coverage from Silverstone Experience and he also commented on the experience as being ‘achingly cool’ – which is amazing to hear!

  1. What kinds of audience does the museum attract? Is it varied?

Our audiences really do vary based on age, gender, interests etc. The experience attracts all genres of motor sport fans, non-motor racing fans, couples, children, schools and so on. A high percentage of our visitors quote that they are very surprised with the stories showcased at the attraction such as early history, RAF Silverstone, Tech Lab and social history. At Silverstone Experience there really is something for everyone.

  1. What tends to be visitors’ favourite part of the attraction?

This depends on each visitor and their preferences and interests. Our collection of cars and motorbikes showcase various racing eras including the 1940s- 60s – the large scale cars and bikes attract a lot of attention from visitors. Also, Louis Hamilton’s helmet turns many heads, which he gave to us to display when he visited on March 6th. The highly interactive Tech Lab is also a highly popular part of the attraction, allowing visitors to have fun and get involved.

  1. Does the Silverstone Experience bring visitors to Silverstone outside race days?

Yes, the Silverstone Experience does bring visitors outside of race days. October half term is fast approaching and we will be expecting around five hundred visitors per day.

  1. Has the venue been used for events?

Yes, as the venue is very large we can cater to various events. We have hosted a National Lottery drinks reception, corporate events for group meetings, and the venue was used for the Channel 4 Formula One broadcasting – which was amazing exposure of the Silverstone Experience.

  1. What was it like working with Mather & Co?

I first spoke with Chris Mather back in 2011; I typed ‘museum designers’ in Google where I clicked through to Mather & Co. Chris responded to me, then went through the tender process and the rest is history! Mather & Co are a very supportive and flexible company; they supported us through all the problems we overcame right up to opening day. The work and designs they produced are amazing and we still have a great relationship with them a year on!

  1. What measures are Silverstone taking going forward to ensure the Silverstone Experience is a COVID safe attraction?

Due to COVID it has been a challenging time for indoor attractions. Our strategy has been to stay safe but still have fun – we don’t want to remove the excitement for visitors otherwise they wouldn’t come! The measures we have in place are extra volunteers, taking people’s temperatures, hand sanitation stations, recording visitor’s personal details and masks must be worn throughout the experience. As we have a lot of space in the hangar it’s relatively easy to adhere to social distancing measures and the experience is on a timed system, which is now really working in our favour due to current circumstances. At Silverstone Experience, we have a lot of interactives – we now supply visitors with a stylus pen, which is then sterilised after each use. So I guess we are classed as a COVID safe attraction.

  1. What challenges / opportunities do you foresee ahead?

At the moment, COVID is still a challenge for our sector but we are confident that we can offer a safe environment for visitors. We were awarded £572k from the Cultural Recovery Fund and also the National Lottery Heritage Fund granted us £250k from the Heritage Emergency Fund. The grants will enable the museum to stay open, protect jobs, bring in new visitors and continue to deliver fun, educational and COVID safe experiences for our visitors.