Attracting and engaging an audience is one of the primary concerns of the heritage sector. Young and enthusiastic visitors are vital to the survival and prosperity of our heritage.
There are as many ways to attract an audience as there are brilliant books in the Bodleian. The only limiting factors are imagination and courage. Packwood House, a charming National Trust property in the heart of England, has imagineered a new attraction that engages and enthrals with whimsy and wonder. Færie houses peek out from the ornamental garden, a princess's bed proudly peruses the lake and a winsome witch's cottage waits in the wood.
The #PackwoodFollies were created by Hilary Jack, an artist from Manchester who has worked from Brooklyn to Budapest. I interviewed Hilary about her work and inspiration.
What inspired you to create the Packwood Follies?
I work across media often using reclaimed broken objects which I use in site referencial installations and sculptural work. While I was researching the background for my proposal for Packwood Follies I became aware of the quotation by a visitor, “a house to dream of, a garden to dream in” which sums up the uncanny, dreamlike experience of visiting Packwood, the fact that all is not as it seems. Graham Baron Ash the last inhabitant of Packwood House had salvaged a large quantity of reproduction and antique Tudor furniture, fixtures and fittings. He used the reclaimed furniture to create an evocation of a Tudor mansion House albeit in the twentieth century, effectively turning back time fort he visitor. I wanted to reference these facts in the artworks I made, the choice of materials and the differing scale of the works.
It is noticeable that the Follies engage and enthral all visitors to Packwood. Did you consider the potential audience for your follies?
It was part of the brief for Packwood Follies that the artworks should be accessible to all age groups. All three follies can be experienced at different levels, simply as spaces to be explored and as conceptual contemporary art which references the history and particularities of the site at Packwood and enhances the visitors experience perhaps highlighting aspects which have previously gone unnoticed.
Packwood Follies are constructed primarily of up reclaimed furniture and have a limited lifespan displayed outdoors. What plans or dreams do you have for creations in brick and stone or cob, wattle and daub?
Most of the structures I make have already been discarded and have a limited lifespan, my intervention extends the life of these objects which I've selected because of their histories and purpose. Packwood Follies is made to last for about three years and I believe the installations will change over time and become more embedded in the landscape and the history and mythologies of Packwood.
Packwood is in the geographical centre of England. Where else in the country or the world can people see your projects?
My next commission is for Barnaby Festival in Macclesfield nr Manchester in June. I'll be making another InsideOutHouse using reclaimed office furniture. The theme for the art festival is Industry and the structure will be positioned outside the town hall.
Exploring Packwood Follies
We discovered the follies courtesy of a photo tweeted by Packwood House @NTPackwood - love at first sight of a mysterious cottage in the woods. Choosing to explore without guidance, we started our search in the ornamental yew garden. Three petite palaces, perfect for pixies, prettified the parterre. Their diminutive size was delightful to the younger visitors who were eager to discover the residents. Attractive architecture and audacious artifice, on a small scale, were equally attractive to heritage geeks, grandparents and garden-lovers.
Beyond the pale and the pond, a princess's bed enticed visitors to explore the lake and woodland walk. Carved from a fallen oak tree and upholstered with turf, anachronistic and anatopismic yet utterly right in execution and location. The craggily carved pillars whisper Delphic dreams and the turf-mattress entreats Tudor secrets. From 'the Princess and the Pea' to 'Beauty and the Beast' this was not aloof and esoteric art but a playpen for the imagination.
From the verdant lakeside pasture we passed into the tulgy wood, searching for the cottage that had first enticed us to visit. Hansel and Gretel, Vasilisa and Snow White, our imaginations had been visualised by Hilary Jack in this amazing inside-out cottage. The outside is clad in salvaged Tudorbethan furniture whilst the inside contains an enchanted glade. This is the Wendy House that everybody has always dreamed of. All the visitors were enraptured and entranced by the sylvan sorcery.
All was quiet, save the choirs of birdsong in the branches, yet our innocent wonder was challenged by the wicked witch who claimed ownership of the folly.
Packwood Follies are a wonderful attraction that I encourage all to visit, to play in and enjoy. The brand new visitors' centre at Packwood House is excellent, with an comfortable tea room, free wifi and most importantly, a warm welcome from staff and volunteers. Please visit the National Trust website to plan your own visit.
More than four and a half centuries of history abound at Packwood. Now blessed with the wonderful whimsy and the witch, of Hilary Jack's follies.
Thank you to Hilary Jack for discussing her inspiration. For more information about her work, please visit her website.
A journey into fear, brutalising the boundaries of theatre and theme parks.
The Facility is a horror maze built in Birmingham but constructed in the consciousness of the customers. Imagine a twisted hybrid of The Twilight Zone, Crystal Maze and Shawshank but with dizzying disorientation and in your face frights. People arrive as happy customers but are dragged into a sadistic scientific experiment and become the lab rats in the cage. A cage welded together from nightmares and insanity, emanating from the brilliantly twisted minds of the creators. Queuing to be processed in The Facility unsettles the punters. Initially chatty, a skirling soundscape soon stuns their innocent insouciance. Screams from processed victims and howls from within the walls sows disquiet in their bones. Knowing they are about to be processed but with absolutely no idea what that means, they could walk away, they could choose to leave. But then the steel door opens. Like lambs to the slaughter, they file in fearfully. No longer punters, they are now experimental subjects.
And then it begins.
Ordered by anonymous military and medical personnel, subjects are selected, numbered and told to obey the strict rules. Resistance, in the best Vogon tradition, is futile. Any subject foolish enough to revolt against authority is guided, in no uncertain terms, back on to the painful path of processing. The disorientation and psychological pressure increases inexorably. There are no safe spaces within The Facility or the swirling psyches of subjects. Computer-driven effects amplify and enhance the true special effects; the staff and permanent patients of The Facility. Played by an excellent team of actors, they expose the subjects to madness, not at arms' length but barely at nose length. They know the secret ways through the maze, enabling them to appear from every unexpected direction.
All sense of time and orientation is taken from the subjects, and the only way out is a harrowing descent into the darkened depths of The Facility. Contorted patients scream from the cells and writhe in their shackles. They are the victims of the sadistic scientists, now merely statistics of medical failure. Like irradiated incubi and savage succubi, they want to share their infection with the processed subjects, enticing, entreating and excoriating. I thought I was protected by rationality as I analysed The Facility. When the walls moved and patients roared, I recalled the classic Psychology experiments conducted by Zimbardo and Milgram. My sang-froid was swiftly shattered by a psychotic patient wielding my personal phobia and I ran from The Facility with the other screaming subjects.
If you are brave, or foolish enough to be processed, you can book your journey into fear on twistedattractions.co.uk
Standard ticket price is £8.50 with special deals for groups and extreme experiences. Every single subject that I interviewed thought it was fantastic value and far better than any horror movie or theme park.
Please do read the warnings on the website very carefully and take heed. This is not a journey for the young, the infirm or faint hearted. Don't wear high heels and glamorous clothes. Even I dressed down for the occasion. Leave your bags and hats safely at reception and don't even think about taking a camera or phone. There are no opportunities for photography in The Facility. I only managed to smuggle out two photos.
Despite the psychological terror, The Facility is physically safe. Subjects are closely monitored and there are escape routes, so the only real danger is within the mind. You have been warned. Will you be processed in The Facility?
The Deputy Prime Minister said, in a speech at Oxford this week:
'Isolationists. They are not thinking about Britain's interests. They shroud their narrow nationalism in the language of patriotism. They mask their hostility towards Europe as British bulldog spirit. But these are false patriots.'
I spoke with Adrian Goldberg @RealADGoldberg on BBC WM @BBCWM in a discussion about Nick Clegg's headline-grabbing comment.
Adrian chaired an on-air debate and passionate views were expressed on both sides of the argument. One lady recalled her childhood during WW2 when the skies of Europe were dark with bombers, and declared she is against positive engagement with our partners in Europe.
The bombers darkening the skies of Britain during WW2 were not only Dorniers and Junkers from Germany but also Wellingtons and Lancasters, flying from here to bomb people in Europe. My parents witnessed this two-way traffic during their wartime childhood and members of my family were killed and injured. When I was a child, the skies were still dark with bombers. I remember the way my school-mates would cheer when 'Concorde' flew over our school. I didn't cheer because I knew it wasn't Concorde but a delta-winged Vulcan bomber. And it was armed with a nuclear bomb.
Avro made both the Lancaster bomber of my parents' childhood and the Vulcan bomber of my childhood. Both aircraft threatened friend as much as foe. Our Lancaster bombers killed French and other allied people during WW2 in what is now cruelly dismissed as collateral damage. They also killed thousands of German children who were utterly innocent of any crime and were not responsible in any way for Hitler and the Shoah (Holocaust). The Vulcan bombers I witnessed on a regular basis were threatening the very people who had sacrificed so much to defeat Nazism - Russians, Poles and Czechs. These people were not our enemy. NATO may have been locked in conflict with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact but the people of those countries remained our friends. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet power, people from Eastern Europe were able to renew our friendship and in some cases, became new neighbours.
We only survived WW2 because of the selfless service of brave people who joined us from all over Europe, from the Commonwealth, and from other allied nations. Mian Khan was barely more than a child when he was killed aged just 17 in 1944. This brave young man, a Muslim from Punjab, gave all his yesterdays so we may all have a peaceful and prosperous tomorrow.
The central inscription on Mian's gravestone says 'He is the forgiver'; the lower is a verse from the Qur'an, 'We are from God, to Him we shall return'. Thank you to Riza Ünal @runal70 for kindly translating the beautiful Arabic script into English.
Out of the dreadful maelstrom of WW2, a dream was born. A dream of a Europe of peace and unity. A dream that the continent would never again be scarred by the cruel claw of war. This is the dream upon which the EU was built. This is the dream that has ensured that we, the people of Europe, continue to solve our conflicts with negotiation and diplomacy and not with bullet and bomb.
I am grateful to Khan and his friends, including my grandfather, for saving us in WW2.
I am grateful for those who built the peace after the war, especially Clement Attlee who also helped to found the UN.
I am grateful for leaders like Angela Merkel who have prevented the division of Europe and the return of war in the chaos following the financial crisis of 2007/2008.
Winston Churchill was an inspirational war leader but he campaigned equally vigorously for peace after 1945. He famously said in 1954 that 'jaw-jaw is always better than war-war'.
A peaceful, united Europe is the embodiment of that sentiment and I always vote to support it.
I am avowedly politically neutral and am personally middle of the road and centrist. I value politicians of all parties who work for unity and prosperity for all. I know many excellent Councillors, MEPs and MPs from the Conservative, Green, Labour and LibDem Parties and also many good independents too. I wish them all well in these elections.
Please vote in the local and European elections on 23 May 2014.
Please vote for a candidate who will work diligently to serve the people.
Please vote for a candidate who supports positive engagement in Europe.
Please vote for peace, prosperity and unity.
Please vote against hatred, division, racism and discrimination. Politicians that promote these views are not only cruel and dangerous but are traitors to our forebears who won the war and built the peace.
Matthew Ward, 21.05.14
The Industrial Revolution began in Britain, in part, due to an accident of geology. All the essential materials could be found together, unlike in other counties with advanced scientific and technical abilities. The pioneers of modern industry combined these essential raw materials with their inventiveness to produce prosperity. The Industrial Revolution only thrived because of railways, enabling the rapid, low-cost movement of materials, people and finished goods between manufacturers and markets. It was this combination of Brains, Steam and Speed that supercharged the Industrial Revolution and made Britain the workshop of the world.
For 63 years, the industrial heritage and history of steam locomotion has been preserved and celebrated by the Talyllyn Railway. Slate from Snowdonia clad the roofs of the world. Where dusty stone-laden wagons once trundled and clattered, visitors from every continent now delight in the glorious landscape of North Wales.
I'm selling this suit of armour, all steel with a real war-worn look. I'm also selling the St George's Cross shield and helmet, perfect for any would-be dragon slayer.
Please contact us for sizes, costs and delivery information.
I'm selling my armour because it is time for me to hang up my spurs and move on. For many years my core activity was performing as a wide variety of costumed characters on TV and at live events. I acted in three series of Horrible Histories and portrayed many rogues including William the Conqueror. My work now is mostly about teaching history and advising TV productions and museums so I rarely get into character. Like a rolling stone, I've gathered much kit and caboodle from working on hundreds of productions. I'm now selling it to get some much-needed space and, I hope, so that a new generation of performers can use it.
Templeton's Carpet Factory in Glasgow is an industrial building yet was built in the very grandest style. Modeled on the Doge's Palace in Venice, it is a stunning example of industrial optimism.
Thank you to @LoveArchaeology for sharing the great building with us.
To learn more, please visit the website of @rcahms
Further information is in the archives of @GUArchives
If you have a favourite building, please write a guest blog so that everybody can learn from your enthusiasm.
Ukraine and Crimea are deeply rutted by the wheels of war-wagons from countless wars. These ruts are once again being gouged ever deeper, blighting the lives of the long-suffering people.
All four horsemen of the apocalypse have scarred Ukraine, especially the radioactive pestilence of Chernobyl.
I have created these images so that we may never forget the suffering caused.
A glamorous French chef called Alexis Soyer was an unlikely hero of the Crimean War. He heard the PBI were suffering from appalling conditions in the front line. Cold and dysentery were killing more men than shot and shell.
Soyer designed a simple but brilliant stove that could use any fuel and cook any food. He also created recipes for cooking hearty food on a massive scale using his eponymous stove.
Here's Soyer's recipe for a huge stew to feed 100 men:
Food for 100 men, using two stoves
Cut or chop 50Lbs. of fresh beef in pieces of about 1/4Lb. each; put in the boiler, with 10 tablespoonfuls of salt, two tablespoonfuls of pepper, four tablespoonfuls of sugar, onions 7 Lbs. cut in slices: light the fire now, and then stir the meat with a spatula, let it stew from 20 to 30 minutes, or till it forms a thick gravy, then add a pound and a half of flour; mix well together, put in the boiler 18 quarts of water, stir well for a minute or two, regulate the stove to a moderate heat, and let simmer for about two hours. Mutton, pork, or veal can be stewed in a similar manner, but will take half an hour less cooking.
Note. A pound of rice may be added with great advantage, ditto plain dumplings, ditto potatoes, as well as mixed vegetables. For a regiment of 1,000 men use 20 stoves.
The Natural History Museum has created a very special exhibition called 'Britain: one million years of the human story' describing the long journey of humanity in the area that is now the UK.
Our journey together starts with the earliest evidence of human habitation here, a collection of flint tools that are one million years old. The exhibition has brought together, for the very first time, all the important archaeological finds of early humans in Britain. These finds are both delicate and priceless, so the curators have ensured there are plenty of replica skulls and tools for visitors to handle, enabling us to meet our ancestors.
The Butchers of Boxgrove are featured with human bones, their tools and butchered animal remains on display. Please do read the excellent book about this archaeological investigation that describes how these people socialised, lived and ate together.
Our ancestors have been brought to life with uncanny accuracy with realistic life-sized models and photos on the walls. Standing face to face with our forbears is a very moving experience and brings home their similarities to us rather than their differences. They appear not as primitives or savages but as our family. A deep mirror of history in which we can see ourselves.
Please visit this excellent exhibition at the Natural History Museum and do heed the wisdom of the curator, our journey together of #1millionyears has only just begun. History is a journey not a destination.