Saturday, 28 June 2014

Return of the Rudeboy

Planning to go to the Return of the Rudeboy exhibition at Somerset House,
this was the first time I had ever worried about
what I was going to wear to see an exhibition about
"style, swagger and significance."
It didn't take long for me to reject the idea that I was never going to match, let alone compete with the Rudeboys, so I might as well go as myself, dressed in what I usually wear.

But I did have that haircut,
the one on the far right.
Quite a few years ago.

Return of the Rudeboy is not a retrospective, looking back at the Rudeboys of the 80s,
but contemporary photos of Rudeboy style today. 

With its roots in Reggae,
photos in vintage suitcases are reminders of the journey and cultural heritage of the Rudeboy, from the West Indies.

These guys know how to dress.
From top... toe.

If you visit feeling less than your best, in need of a bit of grooming,
this barber's shop will be open at selected times for
a bit of a trim or perhaps a new style.

That's what I call participatory.
Top visitor engagement.

How we respond to exhibitions can be very personal.
Things capturing our imagination.
For me, it was the textures I saw.
In the fabrics...

...and colours,

...and close ups.

An exhibition about Rudeboy style would of course, have to include music.
Every person photographed was asked to put together a playlist to be played in the exhibition.

It's not all photography...
 ...or men.
The lovely Pauline Black.
On My Radio!

Return of the Rudeboy celebrates the now, but referenced the 80s.
It took me back to Ska and 2 Tone. Wish I still had the badges.
I came home and made my own playlist,
my music from the early 80s.

I had all these tracks on 7" vinyl,
and if I didn't,
I spent Thursday nights with a tape-recorder held against the TV speaker,
the pause button pressed, ready to be released, telling my brothers to "shut-up", waiting for the exact moment when the Top of the Pops presenter stopped talking and the music started.
That's how playlists were made in the old days.

If you're interested...
Too Much Too Young -The Specials
Tears of a Clown - The Beat
Mirror in the Bathroom - The Beat
On My Radio - Selecter
Ghost Town - The Specials
Lip Up Fatty - Bad Manners
One Step Beyond - Madness

Return of the Rudeboy is on at Somerset House until 25 August
Free admission
Details on the website, here.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Museum of Water

The Museum of Water at Somerset House
is exactly the reason why I write about visiting museums,
it brings together my favourite things,
objects and stories,
especially stories told by members of the public.

I begin with the origins of the exhibition, a most important story about water.
Two years ago, Amy Sharrocks began the Museum of Water in Soho, London, opposite the John Snow pub to celebrate John Snow's discovery of the source of Cholera,
collecting and displaying publicly donated water.
John Snow's work led to the saving of hundreds of thousands of lives.

I love to tell stories about objects in museums and in this exhibition
every jar, bottle, tub of water comes with its own personal story.
Every donation has been carefully considered, chosen and collected.

Entering the exhibition, you wonder how different one bottle can be from another.
But when that water represents stories and ideas from over 300 people,
they can be very different,
yet also alike
as people share similar life events,
the good and the bad.

Pond water...   ...a thinking place.

A melted snowman.

Holy water.

Defrosted ice from a London freezer.

Washing up water...   ...'an act of devotion'.

Grief expressed.

If you turn up without water to give to the museum,
there is still space to tell your story,
'what you would have brought'.

Tell them about water that is special to you,
write on a piece of parchment and peg it up here.

The exhibiton is underground in the basement,
underneath the courtyard fountains of Somerset House.
They leak.

Amy Sharrocks is still collecting, in her words, 'hoarding' water.
She is asking people to consider water,
to think about their connections to it and the memories, ideas and emotions it evokes.
You can still donate,
chose water that is special to you,
give it to the museum and tell them why it is special to you.
Details here.

This is a brilliant democratic exhibition, every donation is accepted, recorded and  kept,
building a collection 'for future generations to enjoy'.

The Museum of Water is on at Somerset House underneath the fountains,
open until Sunday 29th June.
The collection will continue to grow and the exhibition is set to tour,
keep an eye on their website for details, here.

The water I would have brought
I didn't take water when I visited and when I was there I couldn't think what water I would have brought. Now having time to think, I know what I would have donated. Water from the Thames near HMS Belfast. Having been at home looking after four kids, it has taken quite a while, many job applications and a fair bit of volunteering and studying to move from teaching in schools to learning in museums. I started working again, nearly eleven years to the day that our youngest two were born. And my first day was on HMS Belfast. I was, and am, elated, it is a brilliant museum. I still spend a fair bit of time at home, so I think I would go with the 'act of devotion' above and mix the Thames with a little washing up water.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Brunel Museum

Babysitter booked, we headed here for a night out.
"A museum for a night out?"
I had it all planned, a perfect night out, appealing to civil engineer and museologist alike.
The perfect blend.

And it was...

We were welcomed with signs.

Road signs...

Heritage signs....

And refreshment signs...

With a Lavender Bees Knees in hand, we were invited into the underground chamber,
into the shaft that Brunel built in Rotherhithe to access the
"oldest tunnel in the oldest underground in the world, under the Thames."
That tunnel, since 2010, is now part of the London Overground,
and we could hear trains passing through underneath our feet.

Access into the tunnel was tricky.
Before you stooped through the 4ft high door,
you had to climb over a wall with small rungs set into it.
But our guide was on hand with top health and safety advice,
"Stoop low but believe! Left hand, right foot, spin, one, two, three, down."

Then descend into the chamber, "half the size of Shakespeare's Globe."

On the walls you can see reminders of times gone by.

Those grooves in the wall were where the stairs once were.
"See those two people in silhouette halfway down, that's where we are now."

Photographic evidence that the door really was small.

The story of the Thames tunnel includes...
This southern pedestrian entrance to the tunnel was built using the world's first caisson.
The tunnel was designed to take cargo under a very busy Thames,
accommodating around 3,000 ships every day,
but they ran out of money to build the shafts needed for the horse-and-carts.

...fundraising and marketing.
With only the pedestrian access finished,
they opened the tunnel as a visitor attraction to fundraise for the next stage of the build.

For the public in 1843, the idea of walking through a tunnel under the Thames was,
"science fiction, like walking on the moon."
Only those who had the nerve to pass under the Thames did so,
and bought souvenirs to prove that they had actually
been there and done that! 

 ... and years of manual labour.
Men in Brunel's Cutting Shield, each excavating in their own area by hand,
inching under the River Thames with short-handled spades.

This was all Marc's idea you know, he was the brains behind it,
his son Isambard was the resident engineer.

Back to our night out...

The Brunel Museum have created a beautiful roof-top garden on top of the shaft.

Which is open every Saturday evening during the summer.

For cocktails made using herbs from the garden

 With live music.

 And a fire to sit beside and have the finer points of engineering explained to you.
"They built that caisson above ground and by digging away underneath,
they gradually sank it."
I have to admit, I am impressed.

Pioneering engineering, museum, cocktails, garden, live music, history, food, marshmallows, stories of drowning, banquets, world's firsts and souvenir hunting.
What's not to love?
A great night out,
here in Rotherhithe, South East London.

The Brunel Museum is open every day
and has regular special events and late night openings.

As this dual-layer peep show shows,
the Brunel Museum tells the story of father and son, Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel,
who saw a busy River Thames...
...and set out to cross it by tunnelling underneath.

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