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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.