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!

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.

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