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Saturday, 27 May 2017

In Memory Of Roger Moore

This week we had the bad news about Roger Moore, who passed away at the age of 89. While he played many roles, including Ivanhoe on TV and Romulus in Romulus and the Sabines, Simon Templar in The Saint and Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders (all the while maintaining his authentic quoif and perfect British purr!) he will of course be remembered for his role as James Bond more predominantly than anything else he did.

He wasn’t everyone’s favourite Bond. To many, his acting style seemed limited to cocking an eyebrow, making a bad pun about the demise of a villain and always ending up in bed with anyone who passed in front of the camera sporting an XX chromosome.
However, for all his faults he was wildly popular in the James Bond role in the 70s and 80, something of a Golden Era for the franchise. Connery made the part a debonair cold killer, Moore played the part as a slightly comic, Boys Own adventure. He revelled in having gadgets, fast cars, even space shuttles to get the job done, and while Dalton and Brosnan tried to bring back the tough, gritty edge to bond, it wouldn’t be until Daniel Craig took on the role that James Bond would become the brutal spy who would do anything required, no matter how unpalatable, in the service of his country.

The great thing about the gadgets that Q was able to supply to Bond was that they were also perfect for making into popular toys for little boys all over the Western World. Every release would mean at least one new toy car, (Connery had the Aston Martin DB9, but who could forget Moore’s white subaquatic Lotus?) helicopter, plane or boat. And remember how only the cool kids at school got the James Bond digital watch which played the James Bond signature tune in an inimitable dissonant beep?

But why is it we associate characters so strongly with their cars in the first place? Bond has a couple of cars, as mentioned above, which are immediately synonymous with him. Starsky and Hutch would be nothing without a funky theme tune and the iconic ‘Striped Tomato,’ a Ford Gran Torino in red with a white chevron running down the side and over the roof. The Green Hornet had a Chrysler Imperial Crown which he dubbed ‘Black Beauty’ and The Saint had a beautifully reliable Volvo p1800 which he later traded in for an almost indistinguishable Jaguar in later series.

Today, when Disney release a new movie, McDonalds will invariably produce a range of characters and themed meals to go along with it. When spies ruled the silver screen on Saturday afternoons it was all about the cars. Anybody involved in the production of die cast or plastic model kits would jump on the bandwagon and try to cram in as many of the features that were shown on celluloid into the scale cars and other scale toys they produce.

The chase has always been key to driving the action in cinema since its inception. From foot chases and slapstick of the silent era to horse chases in the early westerns, now we have car chases, planes, boats and space ships all desperately trying to overtake one another or shoot it out. Of all of these the most relatable is bound to be the car, after all, we see millions of them on our roads every day, and dream of what would happen if, just once, we could put it in fifth, and slowly push our right foot as firmly into the floor as it will possibly go!

But until we can do that, we have to make do with pushing our corgis around the carpet, wondering, if it came down to it, who would win in a game of Chicken: You, or James Bond?

Happy National Volunteer’s Week!



Brighton Toy and Model Museum really does depend on its volunteers to keep it open and it’s nice to let our team of helpers know how much we appreciate them.

Its National Volunteer’s Week from the first to the seventh of June, a week where organisations who rely on people giving their time to operate recognise the contribution that these helpers make to keeping them running. The week is organised by the NCVO and it aims to show appreciation to all the volunteers who give up their time all over the country in order to help charities keep running, and without whom we’d all be the poorer.

Why We Need Volunteers


Brighton Toy and Model Museum opened 25 years ago as a way of preserving large collections of toys while also benefiting the local community. Today we still have those collections however, we don’t just benefit the local community. Each year we welcome volunteers not only from Brighton and Hove, but from France, Germany, Italy and Spain. These volunteers come to us as part of their learning programmes in areas such as hospitality, travel and tourism to see how an attraction in a tourist resort operates, and to perfect their English while they are also able to help our overseas visitors in their mother tongues. Along with students, we also provide work experience to people via the Job Centre. People who aren’t currently in paid employment are encouraged to come to the museum where they can get essential work experience and also add new strings to their bows. Working with the museum also means that you can get a current employer reference to add to your CV.

What Does Volunteering Give You?


We don’t just expect our volunteers to work and only receive a ‘thanks very much’ in return. Our work experience gives you the opportunity to learn real-life museum front of house and back office skills. Having these skills, which are of huge importance to the smooth running of a museum and are exactly the kind of practical experience that museums, galleries and heritage sites are looking for when you want to progress in the industry. Skills such as inventory, cataloguing, description, retail, marketing and hospitality are all attributes which any museum desperately needs. We need people who possess them too. We can teach them to eager staff who want to be prepared for a role in museums or archives, or indeed to people who simply have spare time and want to do something interesting in a warm, friendly environment surrounded by toys and games!

Brighton Toy and Model Museum is always looking for more volunteers to help. If you have time and you’re looking for a chance to improve your skills and experience, or you have expert knowledge of what it takes to be an indispensable member of a museum’s team then please get in touch! We’d love to hear from people equally willing to learn or share their own knowledge, so send us a CV with a brief note outlining what you would like to do and what you would like to get out of volunteering and we’ll get back to you.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Researching the museum: The Spedden’s, RMS Titanic and The History of Toys


During my time at the museum, I’ve found specific items in the collection that I’ve begun to research and have investigated where they are from and who might have owned them. I’ve also had the feeling you sometimes get in museums –  of the many items on display, there are some from the 1950’s that evoke a sense of a preserved time capsule. In particular, a children’s play size melamine set of dishes and a miniature stove.  Other items include the red Grand piano in the doll’s house and a silver ornate baby’s whistle, which I am informed, is the oldest item in the collection. 

I’ve also been looking through the reference library, one book in particular which stood out was Antonia Fraser’s A History of Toys. It detailed the historical record of artefacts and antiques from ancient civilisations to present day. I also read the museum copy of Polar the Titanic bear, which tells the story of the Spedden family’s international travels through the eyes of their son’s Steiff polar bear, named Polar. There are few of these bears in the world and one is in the collection here. The story was written by Daisy Spedden, in light of the unexpected end that their journey had and to help her son manage the trauma of the events that ensued.
Douglas Spedden playing with a spinning top on board RMS Titanic
In April 1912, the Spedden family arrived in the French port of Cherbourg, having travelled widely, from France to Egypt with their young son and having seen some of the wonders of the world. They boarded RMS Titanic, who had left England days before, on her maiden voyage. The family were returning to their home in New York. We are all familiar with the tragedy that ensued. In a few days’ time, on 14 April, it will be the 105th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Of the thousands aboard relatively few made it onto the limited number of lifeboats; the Spedden family was one of the only families that all survived. Douglas, their son, also clung to Polar in the bitter Atlantic air, under the pitch of a star-filled sky. I’ve been developing a story based on what the experience might have been like and will be continuing to draw on the collection pieces as inspiration over the coming weeks.

Biography
Louise Clement is a MA Creative writing student at University of Brighton. She is a poet and writer. She has run events in the Brighton Fringe, had her work displayed in a local gallery and published in avant-garde magazine Rag n Rock.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Volk's Railway Reconstruction: Peter Pan and the Car Sheds

In our last blog we mentioned that work was being carried out not only on the Aquarium Station of Volk's Electric Railway, but engineers are also rebuilding the Peter Pan station and Car Sheds. We didn't have any pictures at the time, so, in a sense of "better late than never" we have some shots of the work that Cheesemur of Lewis are conducting.
Of course, being big kids at heart, we have a special appreciation for deep holes and the diggers that make them so I'll just post pictures of the excavations and other atmospheric shots of the site for you to enjoy here.








Friday, 31 March 2017

Writer in Residence, Lou Clement onboard at the Brighton Toy and Model Museum!



I’m excited to be the writer in residence at the Brighton Toy and Model Museum. It’s a one of a kind place, with a historical collection of objects that span the Twentieth century and with some items that date much further back. The central display in the museum is composed of model trains, which move around imagined landscapes and are posed with figures. It’s particularly lovely to think that only a few metres above trains from Brighton's railway depart and arrive throughout the day, connecting passengers to the rest of the South East, and beyond.  It’s these types of connections, real life and imaginary, that I hope to draw on during my time at the museum. 
              
I’ve visited some esoteric museums in the past including the Fan Museum in Greenwich and the Museu del Perfume in Barcelona. I was fascinated by these collections because they gave an insight into design, culture and history.  But, as a writer, I’m also interested in the history of ownership, although information on the craft and production of an object may be available often little is known about the story of the object’s owner. What did it mean to that person? Or who was it owned by? For many, scents can spark those Madeleine moments and similarly whether thinking back to the items we played with as children or the stories that we can tell through objects, the Brighton Toy and Model museum offers a fascinating starting point for a writer. I’m enthusiastic to engage in novel ways with the collection.

During my first visit, an elderly visitor remarked to staff that there are toys in this collection that he used to play with as a child. You wouldn’t believe it, he said, and in his face there was something beyond nostalgia; the museum had triggered long forgotten memories. 

I spent some time talking to staff about the collection and looking at items on display. I was captivated by the Steiff plush-toy collection. My knowledge of the infamous brand comes from afternoon’s watching the Antiques Roadshow. In my memories, the presenter locates the button in the ear, which marks the brand, whilst the owner relates the story of the toy. One of the team tells me about a rare Steiff Polar bear in the collection. It's lifelike structure, belies the history of its Designer. But, I also learn that a similar bear was owned by a little boy who boarded RMS Titanic on her fateful voyage in 1912. The story of the family and the bear emerges through generations of the family in the Twentieth century. This, I think will be something to research and I will share my work in my next post.


I’ll also be inviting creative writing submissions from you using writing prompts which reflect on the collection and your own experiences. Look out for details of the Scribble challenge!

Biography
Louise Clement is a MA Creative writing student at University of Brighton. She is a poet and writer. She has run events in the Brighton Fringe, had her work displayed in a local gallery and published in avant-garde magazine Rag n Rock.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The First Train Running Day Of The Year!

Our first Running Day of 2017 will be on 22 of April!

Running Days are a much anticipated opportunity to see some of the rarest and most delicate model trains in our 0 gauge collection running as Marklin, Hornby and Bassett Lowke intended.

Our Running days are always popular with collectors and aficionados as well as the general public as they afford visitors the opportunity to see trains that are normally kept motionless behind screens going full tilt around our superb diorama without the impedance of Perspex.

The museum opens at ten thirty and remains open until 5pm, with trains running from 11 until 1pm, when the museum curators and collectors break for lunch. After their break, and they return at 2.30 and continue running the trains until 4.30. Admission on the Running Day is £10 for adults, £5.50 for disabled and £5 for children under 16.

While the experts break, the museum remains open to visitors, who can enjoy all the other exhibits we normally offer, including our recent dolls’ house addition, our huge collection of toy cars, stuffed toys, and construction kits and so much more.

If you want to stay informed about this, or any other special events that are put on by Brighton Toy and Model Museum, why not follow us on Facebook for all the latest information on our activities and other news and events in the Brighton and Hove area?

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Work On Volk's Railway Continues...

A little while ago, the terminus at the Aquarium end of the Volk’s Electric railway was pulled down as it was old and dilapidated and needed rebuilding. 


The Aquarium Station had last seen serious refurbishment and structural attention back in 1983, for the centenary of the opening of the world’s first passenger carrying electric railway. However, since then, besides running repairs and repainting, the station had received little in the way of renovations.







Part of Brighton and Hove's Rejuvenation
So, in the autumn of 2016 both the Aquarium station and the Car Sheds just next to the Peter Pan station, and the station itself, were brought down, Cheesemur, the contractors who have been tasked with the construction work, had to cut down the scaffolding which had been holding the building together for 15 years as many of the bolts were rusted shut. The sheds, and the scaffolding, had become a familiar sight for many visitors and residents, so it was almost sad to see it all go, however, thanks to the efforts of British Airways’ i360 and the local council’s many other endeavours there is a great deal of rejuvenation going on around Brighton and Hove, so a sparkly new Volk’s will be a welcome addition!

Since the Car Yards and Aquarium station were demolished, a programme of reconstruction has been undertaken from the ground up. However, because of the seasonal nature of the railway's timetable, there has been little interruption to the railway's timetable.  This being so, once the work has been completed by summer of 2017 the work won't interrupt the normal running of this popular seaside service.

Ravishing Rolling Stock!
And if you're wondering what happened to the rolling stock while all this construction work was going on and the Car Sheds are down, you won't be disappointed to find that they too are having a major spruce-up! The cars have been sent to Alan Keef Ltd, an engineering firm specialising in narrow gauge railways for industry, commercial, heritage and private coach and rail. So when they come back, we expect to see beautiful, fresh trains running in and out of equally trim stations.

(The photos here illustrate the construction work that is currently going on at the Aquarium station because your correspondent simply forgot that work was going on at the Car Sheds at the same time. This blog will be updated as soon as he’s been down to the site to get some photos of the progress of the work taking place there!)