Learn English with Cultural Tourism

Here in Scotland, summer is officially upon us. At this time of year, most people’s thoughts turn to travel.

For many, visiting local museums and galleries is an essential part of any trip.

Because cultural tourism, including galleries and museum visits, is also part of a Blue Noun Immersion English Holiday, I thought we’d share this Art School English lesson plan with you.

For us, cultural tourism means that don’t just take our language learners to museums.

It means we discuss the collection, curation, and presentation – and question how it represents its communities (such as contemporary artists, female artists, minority groups) and social history.

You never feel like just a tourist on a Blue Noun holiday. Instead, you’ll get behind the scenes – and take part in all kinds of conversations that actively bring you into our culture.

ESL teachers, find below all the resources you need to present an art school English class about the Art Fund Museum of the Year, 2023


Immersion in English for Creatives 2024 cover with leaves

 English Immersion for Artists Week

About the 2023 Art Fund Museum of the Year Awards

Today’s lesson plan is an introductory guide to all 5 of the UK museums/galleries shortlisted to win the prestigious Art Fund Museum of the Year (2023) award.

There have been great pedagogic resources produced supporting & publicising this prize. I’ve embedded some here, there are many more online. Consider them for independent study activities. 

The Art Fund Museum of the Year (2023) award is a big deal for all involved – as winning the title will draw crowds and income into the respective cities for years to come. 

(You’ll see that Glasgow‘s Burrell Collection is shortlisted. It’s one of our favourite museums to share with our guests).

Art School English Lesson Plan | The 2023 Art Fund Museum of the Year Awards

This lesson plan is for Art School English Teachers – easily adapted by any ESL teachers who want to bring contemporary British culture into their lessons.

English level (intermediate-advanced).

Class time 2hrs. 

Teaching Notes

  • As well as learning English for Creative Careers, by looking in detail at this award, your class will get a great introduction to the UK’s top-class contemporary cultural institutions. This is a chance to learn what UK museums are prioritising in 2023.

    Discuss: How does this compare with your home country?

  • Advanced students can listen for the different regional accents each video has!

  • After reading & watching the sources, ask the class to vote on which institute they think should win, and why?
  • Divide the class into groups to present their opinion as consultant experts to the jury – or gallery representatives making the bid.

What’s the Big Deal?

Brainstorm what impact winning will have on the town.
(You can use both 1st & 2nd Conditional here – pick one to revise it).



Listing reasons why tourist flock to museums & galleries when on holiday.
Make a list of all relevant words & phrases the class can think of, relating to this list/topic & help them find more.

Museum Shortlist No. 1
The Scapa Flow Museum | Orkney Isles


Scapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. The nature of its geography has made it a watery grave for numerous boats and ships – both through accident and deliberate sinking (scuttling).

Few can see below the water’s surface, so the museum shows you what is hidden…

“In waters off Orkney a century ago, 52 German warships were sunk in one day – but this huge naval loss was not inflicted by enemy forces.

Instead, the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow was a deliberate act of sabotage ordered by a commander who refused to let his ships become the spoils of war.

It was the single greatest loss of warships in history and the nine German sailors killed that day were the last to die during World War One. The final peace treaty was signed just a week later.”

It’s not just German ships which line this seabed. The battleship HMS Vanguard, blew up through an internal explosion of its magazines on 9th July 1917 in Scapa Flow.

843 men lost their lives.

Discussion Topics

In your opinion, does the Scapa Flow Museum successfully share this underwater graveyard with its overground visitors?

Extra activity. What were the student’s opinions of the recent Titan Submarine accident? Are boat wrecks valid sites for tourism?

Museum Shortlist No. 2
The MAC | Belfast

The MAC is a contemporary art centre.

It is  “Belfast’s home of international art exhibitions, the best live theatre, top shows and events, and all manner of weird and wonderful goings-on”.

The MAC is a world-class venue for contemporary art in Belfast’s now fashionable Cathedral Quarter (The MAC has been a big part of the area’s gentrification).

The MAC is home to all kinds of exhibitions, theatre performances, experimental works and “endless goings-on”.

“The MAC is for everyone and when it comes to family fun, this is the place to be.”

Discussion Topics

Of particular interest to international art school English learners is the MAC’s website, which has a great archive of artist interviews and audio files. Check out this excellent Watch and Listen section here.

What is unique (ie: prizewinning) about this contemporary art centre?

Museum Shortlist No. 3
Leighton House | London

Leighton House is the former home and studio of the leading Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896).

This hidden gem in west London was reopened in October 2022 following a major redevelopment.

As well as hosting Leighton’s eclectic collection, it now has a pioneering programme of exhibitions exploring themes of identity and cultural interaction.

(I visited this museum before its revamp. What was singular about it them was the jumble and cluster of objects together – almost as if visiting an antique shop.

The sense of eclectic Victorian collector was strong and I liked that about it. It felt like travelling back in time – albeit in quite a claustrophobic way).

The new look Leighton House has expanded and become more accessible – including being stair-free, which is mind-boggling as I can remember the press of the visitors all using the small staircase.

This redesign is truly one for architects to admire how a small space can feel spacious.

Discussion Topics

In your opinion, how has this more spacious and organised Leighton House changed for the better?

Are there any disadvantages to the redesign?

Museum Shortlist No. 4
Natural History Museum | London

Home to over 80 million objects, this truly global museum contains what it describes as ‘the world’s most important natural history collection’.

The Natural History Museum is presenting itself as a competitor for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2023,  not just because of its physical collection and continual educational outreach – but because it “uses its unrivalled expertise to tackle the biggest challenges facing the world today”.

Its exhibition ‘Our Broken Planet’ welcomed 1.2 million visitors – and encouraged them to take action on climate change.

More than 300 scientists actually work from the museum.

It has also developed an index to provide the most accurate data tracking of ways human activity is affecting the world.

Much more than the spectacular fossils it was once famous for, this museum is rewriting the role of a museum collection including aiming for political and corporate decision-making. 

Discussion Topics

Should a museum & art gallery be didactic and try to change human behaviours? And should it be judged by this in a competition between museums and art galleries?

Museum Shortlist No. 5
The Burrell Collection | Glasgow

Part of the fabric of Glasgow’s cultural life, this renowned museum was reopened by King Charles in March 2022 following6-year refurbishment. It has subsequently welcomed over 500,000 visitors through its doors.

The Burrell Collection renovation is one part of the City of Glasgow’s commitment to a culture-led regeneration, taking Glasgow from a city in post-industrial decline to a creative, cultural force.

The Burrell Collection is home to 9000 art objects and – 6000 years of history.

Sir William Burrelll‘s collection is considered one of the greatest gifts to any city in the world.

The Burrell Collection is a destination on a Blue Noun English Immersion holiday.

We take our guests there to discuss how the museum practices inclusivity. It’s a shining example – from gender-neutral toilet facilities, tactile exhibits for the visually impaired – and even a lovely well-lit lunch area for pack lunchers (who more often get bunged into low-priority spaces).

The new look Burrell Collection doesn’t just offer major structural redesigns,  it offers contemporary sensitivity in pioneering, subtle ways.

Discussion Topics

What are the ways museums can make different minority groups both welcomed and culturally represented?

How important is this in the overall remit of a museum?

Practical Presentation Skills

I think that there are 5 very deserving contestants in this race. Do you agree?

Students can practice pitching their choice – or debating as competition judges.

Keep it Live

The judging of the Art Fund Museum of the Year (2023) award is currently underway, with local celebrities and artists adding to the hype by speaking out in favour of their local museums.

Winners will be announced soon (Sometime in July).

There’s a lot more going on over on social media. Students can check these out for an independent study activity.


If you enjoyed this lesson plan, do share it with your students – and other Art School English Teachers. 

At Blue Noun, we have different services specifically for international art schools teaching English, including our FREE Art School English Needs Analysis. 

Links below! 

Further Information

Blue Noun Language Hub

Learn more about how we can help you learn English for Creative Careers.

External links

(Great for independent study)

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/artfund Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtFundUK Twitter: https://twitter.com/artfund