Fort Ponderings

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Somewhere between a report and a tweet.

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I like working with young people. Everyone has a story to tell. Working with the young people, they’ve been really interested. We told them how we wore curlers in our hair all day and we had a set pattern, lunch at a certain time, tea at a certain time. They learn from us - my mum never did anything in the kitchen without a pinny, and my grandma had a wrap-around apron, and my nan would never go out without a hat on.
They were very nice students, very intelligent, very polite. You don’t hear about young people doing good, I’ve got to admire them.
I find that fashion has a circle. I can always remember having my first pair of pointy toe high heeled shoes. My mum went ballistic. You tried to follow it, with the teddy girls. I’ve been and done it and got the t-shirt.
Barbara (76), talking about fashions around the time of second world war and just after; and the work she’s been doing with second year fashion students.
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I gave an oral history about the Birmingham pub bombings. I enjoyed being able to think, and articulate my memories. It helped me to talk about it so I can continue being able to move on in my life. CP, Birmingham resident
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Early years artist, Manchester Art Gallery

I don’t often post job ads here, but this one is close to my heart being early years, Manchester and visual arts. 
NB I am not involved, please don’t contact me about it, I know nothing! Contact details are given below…

NB closing date Fri 17th June 

We’re looking for an artist with some experience working with 0-5s to help faciliate our monthly mini art club. You’ll be working alongside our lead artist to set up the session, welcome parents and children, faciliatate their interaction with our artworks and support creative play. It’s a lively and creative workshop that has built up a big following. We’re looking for someone who is enthusiastic, flexible and who wishes to gain experience in early years arts. 

Mini Art Club runs on the second Friday of every month (mornings). You will need to commit to each month for a minimum of 6 months. The rate of pay is £75 per session.

For more info contact Alex Thorp on a.thorp @ manchester.gov.uk

Deadline: Friday 17 June 2011
 

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Museum of Museums at the Trafford CentreThis is a long and thorough post, if you need a quick round up head to the photoset on Flickr.”In spring 2010 the Museum of Museums will open to the general public exhibiting the most comprehensive programme of multi-themed collections in the UK." According to the museums holding website.
“A breakthrough concept in cultural attractions, The Trafford Centre has brought together a wide range of heritage exhibitions form public museums and private collections to create a stimulating and unique experience" According to the new website.Background Context:Strangely, a brand new museum opening with little press and very little knowledge by anyone in or outside of the museum sector of what it might be.The holding website didn’t offer much clarification in the lead up - just giving an impression it would be a collection of things from other museums, but no information about who was creating this or why. Or who it was intended to appeal to.However the Museum has been created as part of the Trafford Centre complex, a mecca for consumerism, a mall so large they had to build a bridge across the road and carry on building space for more and more stores. And home to recently opened Legoland Adventure. The holding website, hosted on Peel Advertising’s site, shows it branded as Museum of Museums at the Trafford Centre.The Museum lives on land owned and managed by Peel Holdings who own significant amounts of Salford and Trafford. As well as the Trafford Centre they own sites housing The Lowry, Imperial War Museum, Trafford Park industrial site, and the new Media City including the BBC in Salford, for starters.All of that, the clear plug for touring exhibitions on the holding site, and the absence of any charity number on their website, leads me to believe there’s got to be a profit making business model to the Museum of Museums (sure enough signage inside the museum refers to Museum of Museums Ltd.). Both Peel and the Trafford Centre know how to make their sums stack up very nicely thank you. I also noticed the Museums Association logo on the website and wondered what the connection was, but hoped it meant things would be off to a good start.So I had assumed there could be only two ways to use the concept to generate income. Either use the space as a museum themed corporate hire space for a mix of exhibitions by other people. Or mount major populist blockbuster shows and charge high admission prices, hoping that the thousands of people on site every day might pour in. Getting There:The museum is close to Junctions 9 and 10 of the M60. Living close to the Trafford Centre I knew what to expect - masses  of traffic and many roundabouts. Signage on the approach roads is non-existent so it’s lucky we’d checked the map beforehand. But there’s always a parking space at the Trafford Centre and the museum has its own car park. The Trafford Centre site has plenty of bus routes though the main bus station for the site is a good 15-20 minutes walk away. There are no train or tram stations near by unfortunately. The website has a map.First Impressions:The Museum is housed in what was some sort of large metal industrial unit 9see image at top of post). There are no windows, which looked a little ominous but I thought might be good for being able to control the conservation environment for museum exhibits.The branding is prominent with black on white so it’s easy to see where you need to go. There’s a footpath in form the car park but we couldn’t find one from the main road where the bus stops, without having to walk all the way round the building and through the car park.The entrance was, as I’d expected, well presented. Good signage - cafe and toilets one way, exhibitions the other, and a well branded ‘pay desk’, though it was closed. There were a few leaflets relating to some of the exhibits. I would have liked to see something provided just for families and teachers, perhaps this will be there later in the week, though there’s no evidence of it on their website either so perhaps not. When we visited it was “free admission for a limited period” but I couldn’t see anything showing what the admission prices would be, and the security guard we asked said he hadn’t been told as yet.There was an admission policy mounted by the desk with a long list of things visitors musn’t do. For example wear hoods or behave in a way that might be annoying. I wondered who would be the judge of that - would my two year old skipping excitedly through the space and voicing his expressions loudly be annoying enough to get us thrown out for example? The friend I took was wearing a hoody though she got away with it. I wondered if she’d been a 16 year old local lad with a couple of his mates looking for somewhere interesting to stay out of the rain, would she have been so lucky? There wasn’t a list of things you could do (for example is it OK to take photos? can you hire an audioguide or borrow Braille version of text panels? Could you join a tour or hire any family activities?) And I couldn’t see any sign of a cloak room, though it’s possible there was one behind the closed desk.
As we walked in, a couple walked out expressing their opinion rather boldly, with some colourful four letter words and their appreciation of the lack of admission price under the circumstances. Oh dear, we thought.We opted for the cafe first, though sadly it was closed (on a Saturday afternoon). However the website says it will be run by Couture, the same people behind the cafes at Manchester Museum and the People’s History Museum. So that should be lovely, not cheap but not too expensive. It was a large, airy canteen style space and had all the buildings’ share of the windows. High chairs were available and there were recycling bins for sorting your rubbish (so either visitors will be expected to do that themselves, or they were heading for a behind the scenes space for kitchen staff, not sure).As far as we could see there was no museum shop.The exhibitions:From the cafe you head straight into the exhibition space, or as I felt, the inside of the industrial space.
A vast concrete and steel echoey space with, as it turned out, some old trams and buses in it. And a collection of ice cream vehicles. It was a lovely collection. There were a few small pieces of text dotted around the collection, though you had to look quite hard to find it. I loved the bus signage scroll laid out in full across the floor. Good use of the exhibit with the massive space available. Though it will only take a few people walking across it for it to be scrumpled and ruined.Spinning round to the right and many many metres into the distance was a beautiful, if lonely old Green Goddess.Somewhere back to the left over another expanse of nothing, was the shell of a space reserved for a Salford Reds (rugby team) heritage exhibition. And into another room...Half way down on the right, was a small installation looking at the history of the Robinson’s brewery. It was probably the best of the exhibitions so far. The walls and floor had been painted in different colours to mark out the space, a bar was placed in the middle for visitors to stand behind and pretend to pull pints. There were some barrels at the front, some exhibition cases and a big TV showing a film about the brewery. It was hands on, fun, gave a sense of the company’s heritage and felt like a small but almost perfectly formed exhibit, cosy even. It was a relief to see something multi-sensory and comprehensive amid the strange vast space everywhere else.From there looking round to the left, far away enough to have built a road between the two, were a series of temporary floor mounted walls. They housed a series of contemporary pieces of art. It was hard to tell but I think these were two different exhibitions.One was a display of paintings, filling one small ‘room’ of Star Wars characters from a commercial gallery whose permanent home is in Manchester city centre. it included information about each artist, with a label by each painting, and the price.The other display was two or three times the size, but with no information about where it was from; who the artists were; what, if anything, they had in common with one another. Which was sad, it was a mixed bag of work, not all my cup of tea but there were one or two artists I’d have liked to know more about.By accident almost, we found another display in a corner, fenced off and still being created. A medium sized ‘gallery’ full of World War II memorabilia. Mainly, but not exclusively, clothing.We saw a sign for the National Football Museum, which temporarily confused us, knowing that it was moving to Urbis shortly. It was the best part of what we’d seen by a mile. Carpeted floors, windows, objects in and out of cases, multi-media exhibits that enabled us to explore things for ourselves, information and interpretation at all sorts of heights and angles. Having visited the football museum in its Preston home I knew that it had always been an excellent quality collection and display and it was great to find some of it on show in between the old museum closing and the new one opening. Though I think that’s all credit to the Football Museum rather than the Museum of Museums who really just provided the room.Visitors:On the rainy Saturday afternoon we were there, there seemed to be a mix of locals and Trafford Centre visitors, a mixed demographic of all ages though not culturally diverse. In the space of the hour or so we stayed I’d estimate we saw around 100 people. A strange thing happened. I have rarely if ever been to a museum where complete strangers look at one another and talk about the visiting experience, until now. Everyone glanced at one other a bit perplexed, perhaps hoping for an explanation of what they were supposed to make of it all, or reassurance that they had accidentally snuck in a year too early. A few comments were exchanged about the surreality of it all. Information:I would have liked much more information, not just about individual exhibits, but also about the selection and arrangement of the exhibitions. What did the museum hope a visitor might gain from their visit, why would it be in our interests to see a huge space containing some vintage transportation in a room next to some mixed contemporary art and the history of a local brewery or rugby team?I would have liked a variety of information, not just small, sporadic pages of text, but some well designed demarkation of spaces showing me clearly where I was in relation to the last exhibition. Some background detail about where the exhibits had come from and more importantly why they were there. I would have liked more multi-media interpretation, there’s only so much text I want to read. Some recordings and films would have been welcome. Some 3D interpretation inviting me to peep, open, challenge, guess and conclude for myself.As a parent there wasn’t much in the way of family-friendly interpretation. To be fair I’m not entirely sure my child really needed it though. I think children can look at big buses and ice cream vans fairly happily without a story sack, especially given the amount of room there was for them to run around. Though they may have been a little stifled by the amount of things they couldn’t touch when there was nothing they could. They mightn’t have learned very much, but I think sometimes it’s ok just to have fun. Though I would have liked to have been informed enough myself to talk to my child about the objects, and I couldn’t have done that. In the Star Wars exhibition the paintings were hung very high so they couldn’t make much of those, which was a shame as its one thing my boy especially would have spent a long time examining.
The future:Because I wanted some questions answered and to check some assumptions, I looked for some staff to quiz. I had to look very hard and eventually we found a security guard who was very helpful. When I suggested perhaps the museum wasn’t finished and wondered when it would be, he told me Tuesday (3 days after our visit). By which time it was thought the World War exhibition would be open and the items ready for sale. They were from a private collection apparently, owned by a man who runs a museum in France. He said the Salford Reds Heritage exhibition should also be ready for the opening, and that a lot more stuff would be coming but he didn’t know what or when. He mentioned the museum was hoping a couple of very large and impressive exhibitions were on the way but nothing was certain and so he couldn’t say what they were. He added that the space is much much larger than is currently open. And that admission charges were due to begin next weekend, but that he didn’t know what the charges would be.
Conclusion:It’s fair to say it clearly wasn’t finished when we visited. It would have helped if this had been made clear either on the website, or somewhere in the entrance way, or if helpful troupes of stewards had been employed to give tours and explain what was where, why, and what was still to come. It could have been pitched as a secret behind-the-scenes sneak preview and expectations managed accordingly.I did enjoy most of the exhibits, the collection of old vehicles were beautiful, and I enjoyed getting up so close to the materials of the exhibits, and the fonts and typefaces on them all. The Robinsons brewery installation was fun and a welcome relief to the abstract strangeness of the place. The football museum exhibition was a great snapshot of the full collection. The art didn’t feel quite at home amidst the other heritage items, and it was a shame people were let in to see it before it was ready (assuming someone will be going in to provide information about the artists).When the security man told us more was to come and this was just a fraction of the full space, it didn’t excite me as he presumably supposed it would; my heart sank.Some clear demarkation of the exhibition areas would greatly improve things, alongside clearer and more details about who had provided the exhibitions. Perhaps the vastness of the space will diminish with more exhibitions inside and the exhibits, rather than the building shell, will start to dominate.Two things occurred to me:One - by siting this in the Trafford Centre complex it is possible that people who don’t normally visit museums might give it a try. There is a possibility some of them will like what they see and may start to visit other museums. Maybe. Two - the exhibits are enjoyable, it’s the way they are housed that lets them down. When I revisited the website on the homepage I noticed something that would have fit the whole concept and experience much better, “A new family visitor attraction." That held the key for me, as a tourist experience I have fewer qualms, it’s a place with some lovely things to see, good toilets and a big cafe. But in the North west we are spoiled with a plethora of museums who have spent the last 5-10 years getting on top of their game, setting out the things I have come to expect from a museum in terms of visitor experience. With Imperial War Museum North and MOSI just down the road there are seriously impressive museums to compete with. And as a Museum this doesn’t come close.Even as a tourist attraction the Museum has the Trafford Centre and Legoland on its doorstep, both expensive and massive enough to take up a full day on their own.I wondered why it was open before it was in any way ready for visitors and fear it hasn’t done itself any favours. I’d like to think that the plans it has to grow in the future will really improve the quality of the experience.However my instinct is that it will be closed before that can happen. It’s all set out as a commercial, income generating enterprise. There’s nothing wrong with that, but museums don’t seem capable of being the vehicle for doing so, god knows the museum world would be ecstatic if it were. But to survive as a tourist attraction, let alone a museum, it needs to feel a happier and more satisfying place to be. It needs to be value for money.I hope I’m proven wrong, that Trafford will finally have another cultural venue to its profile after years in the shadows of Manchester, and that a new model of how museums can attract high numbers of people on a self-sustaining basis without endless public subsidy has been discovered.If you happen to go, I’d love to hear about any updates and changes made to the museum, please feel free to add your comments below. 

Museum of Museums at the Trafford Centre

This is a long and thorough post, if you need a quick round up head to the photoset on Flickr.

In spring 2010 the Museum of Museums will open to the general public exhibiting the most comprehensive programme of multi-themed collections in the UK." According to the museums holding website.

A breakthrough concept in cultural attractions, The Trafford Centre has brought together a wide range of heritage exhibitions form public museums and private collections to create a stimulating and unique experience" According to the new website.

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Zine workshop leader wanted in NW

UPDATE: THIS ROLE HAS NOW BEEN FILLED, THANKS FOR YOUR INTEREST

Are you someone, or can you recommend someone in the NW who runs zine making workshops?

I’m looking for someone who can do the old fashioned cut+paste style with nothing but paper, photocopier, scissors and sticky. Would also need to include the book making / paper folding element, and be based on music (taking Joy Division as a starting point in this instance, but only as an example which will enable young people and other members of the public to create their own zine, maybe for their own band, or any other areas of interest)

Needs experience as this is paid work for a museum community programme, likely to be Saturday(s) or eves in July and / or August.

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Artists going into schools take part responsbility, part magic.
HN, Artist, Manchester
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These things make me want to go the other way. And so actually I did, and in fact I liked it the other way round.

These things make me want to go the other way. And so actually I did, and in fact I liked it the other way round.

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Teachers are trained to answer questions. Artists are trained to side step them HN, Artist, Manchester
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