So, we have established that London and I are getting on quite well at the moment. It hasn’t always been like this – and I’m not just talking about my rants on this blog about rude people, crappy public transport and a general lack of space. When I was a kid I visited London a few times with my family. I remember walking over one of the many bridges crossing the Thames and thinking that I would never get to the other side, and trudging for what felt like miles to see Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards – and being less that convinced that it was worth the exertion. Later visits involved museums – and lots of them. My sister was thinking about studying archaeology so a trip to the British Museum was inevitable. We walked around for hours looking at old coins, bits of broken pot and grisly mummies. I’m afraid to say, it didn’t float my boat – and, quite honestly, it still doesn’t.
I’m sorry, but I just don’t get looking at old things. Okay, so I understand that they tell us a lot about our ancestors and how human society has developed, but I’d much rather spend an afternoon in a gallery looking at things that teach me about the world around me through the means of artistic expression.
Last weekend I found myself at the British Museum once more. Greyson Perry’s The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen was showing, so I invited my mum down to the Big Smoke have a gander with me. I really enjoyed it. Not only was Greyson’s work thought provoking (he had plenty to say about contemporary culture, from gender issues, social media and the rise of surveillance) but his use and appreciation of ancient crafts bridged the gap between art and history seamlessly. It is on until the 26th February, so it you can, go and take a look – you won’t be disappointed.
After a spot of afternoon tea in the Great Court, we decided to wander over to the Foundling Museum. My primary reason for suggesting it was to see the exhibition by Quentin Blake. As a life-long fan of Roald Dahl, I have grown up with Blake’s quirky illustrations and was keen to see some of his more recent work. The images on show were copies of paintings commissioned by a range of institutions, ranging from clinics for those suffering from eating disorders to care homes for the elderly. The paintings of mothers swimming underwater with their new-born babies created for a maternity ward were particularly beautiful – and quite moving.
Whilst we were there we checked out the rest of the museum, dedicated to the Foundling Hospital opened on the site at the end of the 19th Century. It briefly told the story of how the charity now known as Coram was set up – and what it was like to be a child growing up in the institution. My work in Social Care has exposed me to the organisation before – and the important work they still do with disadvantaged young people. I firmly believe that by the time a child gets to their teenage years, damage done is almost irreversible – and charities like Coram are essential to steering them in the right direction.
Okay, so I admit it – museums are okay – as long as their subject matter is something that grabs my attention. Random bones and old cooking utensils? No thanks. The story of an interesting person, organisation or industry? Okay then. But, throw in a bit of social-commentating art, and I’ll definitely be there.