It was good to break up lockdown with a Content Development Report on Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings for designers Mather. The research for this £20m project was fascinating. The Flaxmill was the world’s first iron-framed and therefore fireproof building. It later became a Maltings for beer and housed light infantry in the Second World War. But English Heritage want more than a standard story of mill owners and poor workers, so it was particularly interesting to dig into the work the Friends of SFM have been undertaking on the real lives of local working people – and the influence they had on factory reform.
The new exhibition in Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament, `Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament’ has opened to excellent press coverage. Designers Metaphor have created an evocative structure, with recreated spaces, wonderful objects from the Parliamentary Archives and private collections, clearly told accounts of the women who fought for the vote (and a few who fought against it), and thought-provoking questions for the visitor. It was a privilege to be part of the team that researched, wrote and moulded these stories.
The photos show the final `Chamber’ set, the exhibition in Westminster Hall, Lady Peers and MPs and the infamous `Cage’, the Victorian viewing gallery for Ladies.
2018 is the centenary of the first women gaining the vote for the UK Parliament. I’ve been helping research and write this interactive exhibition at the Houses of Parliament for designers Metaphor, using the collections of the Parliamentary Archives. The stories range from the banned women watching the Commons through a ventilator in the attic, to the assaults of the suffragettes and the struggle for equal treatment – and a decent sized room – once in Parliament. And the stuff is great – that’s the banner the suffragettes unfurled from the Commons Gallery, a waitress on the terrace, and a police note about Emily Davison breaking windows – she was a serial offender! The stairs wind up the Victoria Tower, built for the Archives. The exhibition opens in June in Westminster Hall.
Poole Museum has some great buildings and collections and it’s been really interesting visiting, listening and writing a feasibility study for their future, along with colleagues Stephen Greenberg and Kara Dickinson from Metaphor Design. Scaplen’s Court and the Town Cellars are grade 1 listed, and you can see the harbour from the top floor of the warehouse building. The pottery is great, of course, but the wreck remains are the big stars. This can be one of the south’s best museums.
top left to bottom right: Poole Museum warehouse building and atrium; View to harbour across Town Cellars; Scaplen’s Court: Anthony Caro’s `Sea Music’; C18 Swash wreck rudder; 1950s Poole dish; the Sea Planes at Poole.
It’s great to be back with the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery team. Plans for the new hub of museum, library, adult ed, tourism and community services are coming together quickly and I’m working with museum designers Metaphor. Tunbridge Wells’ excellent collections are going to populate the whole building, and I’m researching and writing lots of content on those collections for the project. Metaphor are turning the often surprising stories of Tunbridge Wells into a fresh and exciting way of enjoying all that stuff.
I’ve been helping out the recently established KCCC Heritage Trust with curatorial advice on their collections. Care and cataloguing are the priorities and they have a great collection to share more widely. It was a privilege to handle material like the original 1876 scorebook for WG Grace’s 344 against Kent – the first ever score over 300 and his highest. There are many memories of the 1970s glory years to bring a tear to the eye of us Kent fans, but also an eye on contemporary collecting.
Mather are designing the new 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sport Museum in Doha and I’ve been helping with the content development. That’s meant researching the story of different sports from all around the world, some familiar and loved (probably a bit too much cricket in there), others less known. Camel racing, anyone?
My latest research work at Silverstone has unearthed the story of Luffield Priory, the abbey complex on the site. It’s a fascinating tale of medieval life – and monastic misbehaviour – largely lost under the plough and the JCB but coming to life from the records and the digs. And I took an excursion into circus history to track down the elephant who visited the circuit in the 1950s!
I’m enjoying more work on the Silverstone Heritage Project, this time researching and writing up just about everything that’s happened at the circuit. It’s involved revisiting many years of watching sports with the F1 story, but new ground for me with motorcycles and production cars. This great picture is of Sheila Van Damme with her Sunbeam at Silverstone in about 1955. Her racing team partner was Stirling Moss.