Search This Blog

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Save Mareira Arches! How Can You Play Your Part?

Brighton has many landmarks, all of which will bring back particular memories to any of the people who live in, or have visited the town since it became a popular tourist destination, thanks to George IV, all those years ago.

Some of those landmarks are permanent, such as the Corn Exchange and Pavilion. It’s hard to imagine Brighton being anything like the town it is without that Sussex take on Oriental and Indian architecture. The Georgian buildings, designed in a regency style that lent so much to the classical  Roman and Greek architecture that the great and good would have been familiar with from The Grand Tour.

Brighton is Famous for its Piers


Other attractions have turned out to be less permanent. Brighton’s first pier, the Royal Suspension Chain Pier was built in 1822 and thanks to its construction, Brighton became the busiest cross channel port in Britain. When other harbours along the coast became more popular Brighton became less important for shipping, but pleasure cruises and seaside excursions still kept people coming back.

The Chain Pier suffered significant damage in the 1860s and thanks to the attractions such as a bandstand and entertainments provided by the West Pier, it became less and less significant as a popular attraction. Finally it succumbed to the elements in the 1890s when it was blown down in a violent storm.

The West Pier is itself now a popular tourist attraction, despite having been wrecked by storm and fire over the years. It started falling apart in the 1970s and what was left of the timber was burned in a fire in the 1990s. The skeleton of iron still remains an iconic image of Brighton, and despite its continued decay, still attracts tourists. And starlings.

The Antique Sits Alongside the State of the Art


Other newer attractions continue to bring people from all over the country and beyond to Brighton. The i360 takes visitors hundreds of metres into the air to look down on the city, and we’d just got used to the Brighton Wheel when it was taken away to a new venue and replaced with a zip line which opens this year.

Two other structures, each dating back to the Victorian period, stretch along the seafront toward the marina. These being the Volks Electric Railway, the oldest serving electric railway in the world which has undergone significant reconstruction over the past years and the Madeira Arches. The Madeira Arches are often overlooked and underappreciated by visitors and resident alike, however they offer a unique service. Giving a shaded covered walkway under which it’s possible to watch the many rallies and motor events which take place along Madeira Drive while also supporting a raised platform upon which it’s possible to stroll along its half mile extent from the Aquarium along to Concorde 2.

These arches are painted in the familiar green that all iron street furniture in the city carries, but it also has latticework in cream which reflects the architectural features of the Pavilion. Each arch is decorated with a head at its apex, alternating between representations of Neptune and Aphrodite along its entire length. Today it looks as if the arches could be going the same way as the Chain Pier and the West Pier. After many years of being taken for granted, several sections of the terrace have become unsafe and the iron used in their construction has suffered badly from the action of the weather, accelerated by the salt air.


Save the Madeira Arches!


For the past year the arches have been fenced off while their decay is monitored. There was a plan to demolish a large section, if not all of the arches, however, another construction firm said they could rebuild the damaged sections for less than the cost of demolition. But that was some time ago and not much has been heard of any progress since.

Which is why it’s so pleasing to see a crowdfunding campaign begun to save at least three of the 151 arches. Saving the entire length of the arches will cost £24m, however, to rescue three of the arches, to preserve them for future generations and to show what could be done with the infrastructure investment, the crowdfunding campaign aims to raise £432,484. At time of writing, the campaign has been going for 3 days and £110,053 has been promised by 366 backers.

If you’d like to become a backer, and donate as little as £2 to the restoration project then follow the link to the Visit Brighton’s Spacehive Save Madeira Terrace Campaign to keep a little bit of Brighton’s history alive.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Brighton Toy and Model Museum is playing with science!


Over August we'll be hosting a number of Wednesday afternoon events where we will be looking at the science behind many of our toys and seeing how we can apply those principals to finding solutions to other challenges.

If you're interested in construction, physics, maths, energy conversion or engineering, then why not come along to see what we're playing at?

On August 2nd we'll be building spaghetti towers, researching the engineering principals behind construction.

On August 16th we'll be making kinetic carousels, exploring how chemical energy can be turned into potential energy that can be turned into kinetic energy when needed.

And finally on August 30th we'll be making balloon racing cars recycling and repurposing common household objects into zippy machines that we will eventually race against one another.

Each event comes at no additional cost other than regular admission, but booking is required. To book a place, just pop in to the foyer next time you're passing or give us a ring on 01273 749494

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Zip Down to Brighton For Thrills and Excitement!

The latest tourist attraction is taking flight in Brighton!
Design courtesy of @BrightonZip

Leaping!
Now, we thought that a zip wire along the seafront was a gag, rumour like the waterslides we read about and the fast lanes on Oxford Street, a fun idea that would never happen. But we were wrong! Walking past the bottom of The Stein your intrepid correspondent saw the tower through the mist and murk of a June afternoon.

The tower appears to be completed, and it must have gone up in a matter of only a few days at the most as I had been in the area the previous week and seen nothing but the workmen clearing up the last of the Brighton Wheel, which has trundled on to pastures new. But now there is a tower, and soon to be a landing pad adjacent to the Steve Ovett statue some 300 metres along the seafront.

It’s great seeing so many new and exciting adventures opening up in Brighton. I must admit, I had become used to the Wheel and was rather disappointed to see it go. The i360 has garnered a lot of attention and different points of view. Some love it while others prefer to scoff. The revamped Volks Railway will be re-opening soon too, with its new visitor centre, refreshed rolling stock and conservation workshop at Peter Pan Playground. It does seem funny, walking down to the Marina in summer and not having the trains trundling by, making their incongruent ghost-train like wails!

Brighton Zip, it is said, will be open from 10am until 11pm all year round. While we can see a ride
Landing!
being fun and exciting on a summer’s afternoon, we’re a little more dubious about how we feel about going down in a gale in the depths of a winter’s night!

The spiral staircase leading to a zip wire isn’t an altogether new idea. We found pictures of a similar amusement that was installed in Gorki Park in the 1930s. And we were shocked at how much fun, and ridiculously dangerous it looked! Russian thrill seekers didn’t so much ‘zip’ down the line though, they leapt from the top of the tower in a semi-functioning parachute which was directed to the landing point, and prevented from blowing away, by a line. The tower also had a helter-skelter to slide back down on for people who got to the observation deck and decided that they didn’t quite fancy leaping from the top of a spiraling column, notwithstanding the parachute they were equipped with.

I’m looking forward to the opening of the Brighton Zip very much and can’t wait to go on it!

Paddington Author Michael Bond Dies

This week saw the passing of another children’s favourite, author Michael Bond. 

Anyone under the age of 50 will remember the opening theme tune of Paddington and the tones of Michael Hordern narrating the bear’s latest adventures on TV. And while Paddington was his most famous creation, Bond was also responsible for other characters beloved of children and adults including Olga da Polga and Monsieur Pamplemousse, the detective cum restaurant critic with his long suffering bloodhound, Pommes Frites.

At the time of his death, Mr Bond was 91, and had been writing children’s books right up until the end, his last Paddington book, Paddington’s Finest Hour, being published in April 2017.

He was born in Berkshire in 1926, and, like many of us here at Brighton Toy and Model Museum, he had a love of trains which developed from a young age. Once he was an adult, having served in the RAF and in the army in Cairo, where he discovered his love of writing, he never moved far away from Paddington station, and it continued to inspire many of the bear’s adventures.

While Paddington Bear is undoubtedly his most successful creation, appearing in at least 27 Bond authored books, several animated television series and movies, there were other strings to Bond’s bow. Olga da Polga was a guinea pig who lived in something of a fantasy land like that of Walter Mitty. She had no time for the mundane or banal, so everyday events would be elaborated into exciting adventures which would unfortunately be contradicted by Olga’s owners, the Sawdust family.

Monsieur Pamplemousse also featured in many books and stands alone as being both a main character who is human, and is principally aimed at an adult audience. He is largely unknown today as he diverges so far from Bond’s usual work, but he is an entertaining, put-upon character ably supported by Pommes Frites, his trusty bloodhound who offers dogs’ eye view sardonic asides when called for.

But it’s Paddington Bear for whom Michael Bond will be best and most fondly remembered. Alone and lost when he arrives in Paddington train station, having left his Great Aunt Lucy behind in Darkest Peru, he’s taken in by the Browns. They look after him, treat him to marmalade sandwiches and come to the rescue in many of his adventures.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Bring Your Dad to the Museum to Win a Free Family Ticket

Bring your father to Brighton Toy and Model Museum on Saturday 17th June, enter our prize draw, and you could win a free family ticket.

People of all ages love Brighton Toy and Model Museum, it’s a hit with kids, seniors and everybody in between. And so, for Father’s Day we’re offering you the chance to win a family day ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children).

That’s it. Just turn up and buy your tickets next Saturday, fill in a couple of details and, as long as you’ve got your dad with you, you could win a ticket entitling the whole family to come along for free next time.

If you have any questions, ask one of our team members, call or email for more. 01273 749494 info@brightontoymuseum.co.uk

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!)






Saturday, 14 January 2017

We're Going To Be On TV Again!

Yesterday, as a favour to our chums at the BBC, we closed our doors unusually early.
They brought down a film crew and made themselves free among our many exhibits of toys and models. They interviewed Chris Littledale, curator and founder of Brighton Toy and Model Museum, about all things model train and model for a few minutes and then got on to the real interviews.

Theo Pathitis was interviewing Giles Chapman for The One Show, BBC 1’s flagship teatime talk show, about his latest book on Corgi cars. And what better place to carry out such an interview than in front of our huge collection of Corgis, Matchbox and Dinky Cars. Glenn Butler, owner of the collection that Brighton Toy and Model Museum hosts was also on hand to give a few extra details on the finer points of the history of British made toy cars and trucks.

We’re always happy to play host to any TV companies who need a
venue to record interesting TV shows about toys and models. Chris and his collections have appeared in several TV shows about the Golden Era of models and toys, and being an expert in this field, he’s always happy to chat about the subject with more authority than just about anyone. The interviews were filmed between 2pm and 4pm with the crew finally finishing filming all the cutaways and establishing shots at about 6.30.

Even if you’re not a with a TV production company you can get that VIP experience. While Chris won’t always be on hand to give a lecture, we do offer free guided tours of the museum. If you’re in a group at the museum on a Thursday afternoon, all you have to do is ask. One of our trained members of staff will be able to take you around all of our displays, talking about the history of the items and maybe bringing back many of your own memories of the playthings you had as a child.

At the time of posting this blog we don’t have the precise airing date for the segment that was filmed with Messrs Pathitis and Chapman, but we’re told some time in February.