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Saturday, 5 November 2022

Friends 29th AGM on 26 October 2022

 It was wonderful to hold an in-person AGM after the last two years on Zoom. We have become used to virtual and hybrid meetings while convenient, they don't have the excitement and interest which can be generated in a room by people sitting together. We were very fortunate to be able to hold the meeting at Artsite in Theatre Square in the former Post Office which has been converted into a main gallery and meeting space and artists' studios. The exhibition of works on display was by Carmen B Norris. There was a very good turnout, approximately 30 Friends and the committee members, all keen to know where we are in the journey towards reopening Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

We approved the report I'd written on the year and approved the minutes of the 2021 AGM, both of which can be found on one of the pages on the blog. We approved the accounts and thanked Brigid Harkness for keeping track of incomings and outgoings, and also thanked Rosemary Savage for reminding people to renew their Friends' membership and writing minutes of meetings. We also thanked vice chair, Barbara Swann for her wonderful monthly newsletters, sent out to all Friends via email each month and available on the website. David Hughes, committee member kindly put together a Power Point Presentation summarising the year. 

After that, Councillor Matty Courtliff, Cabinet Member for culture, heritage, leisure and town centre experience talked about the conversion of the first floor of the Civic Offices into Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, which he anticipates will open in spring 2023. He is very positive about the new location, there will be 40% more space at the new venue than the previous one, with plans to encourage school children to visit, there's also room for a library and research area, as well as 3 art galleries and a large museum space. There was a good response to the new plans, and quite a few questions which I'll collate and publish under FAQs in another post. I've included three photos of the AGM, as I walked from the back of the room to the front.



It just remains for me to thank everyone for coming, and those who continue to support the idea of a museum and art gallery in Swindon. Our four AGM thoughts were:
  • It's great to meet in person
  • We're looking forward to 2023
  • Great news the Civic Offices will be opening as SM&AG
  • Looking forward to celebrating our Pearl Anniversary in 2023


Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Public Engagement Event 19 October to Share Plans

 The public engagement event held at the Civic Offices on the 19th of October, advertised in the previous post, was very well attended, so much so that it was moved into the Council Chamber where the Power Point presentation could be seen with great clarity. The slides can be seen here, and also below. Frances Yeo, Museums Manager gave the presentation and answered questions afterwards. She was joined by Cllr Matty Courtliff, and Claire Andrews. There was a BBC news article covering the evening, and an Adver article with more quotes from Frances Yeo, and an update on the Gharial which won't be ready in time for the opening. And yet another article saying much the same thing.

I think it's fair to say there was a real buzz that evening around the plans to house the museum and art gallery in the Civic Offices, it's a wonderful building, and will offer much more space for the art and museum collections, as well as storage on site. Frances Yeo gave a very professional presentation and took on board comments made by those attending.

Here are the slides:


In order to see this slide properly, you will need to see the original slide by clicking on the first link above


It's wonderful to think that schools will be able to visit, there will be room for research and a library.


Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Public Session at Civic Offices 19 October 4.45pm

 A chance to see what the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery will look like at the Civic Offices. Do go along on Wednesday 19 October from 4.45pm to find out more about the plans. Cllr Matty Courtliff, the councillor in charge of bringing this forward, is shown in Committee Room C where there is a small exhibition of paintings and ceramics in three cabinets. This has been copied from Facebook and I can't remove the thumb!! It's also a bit wide for the page.

There's a good summary in the Adver: Plans for Swindon's new museum and art gallery going on show | Swindon Advertiser   unfortunately I can't remove the brown box below




Now is your chance to find out more about plans for the new home of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. 🎨
Last December, the Council’s Cabinet agreed to use the entire first floor of the Civic Offices in Euclid Street for the museum and art gallery. This will create additional space for permanent and temporary exhibitions, and ensure schools can benefit from new learning programmes.
A change of use planning application for the new facility has been approved and a Listed Building application is currently being assessed.
A public session is being held on Wednesday, 19 October at the Civic Offices, starting at 4.45pm, for anyone who would like to hear more about the new venue.
There will also be an opportunity for people to contribute to the development and use of the new exhibition spaces that are planned. As well as the chance to view the current ‘Highlights from the Swindon Collection’ and ‘A Celebration of Colour’ exhibitions, which are currently on display. A separate session is also being held on the day for local schools.
With the Civic Offices providing 40 per cent more display space compared to its previous home at Apsley House in Old Town, the new venue will also provide improved working conditions and additional areas for staff, volunteers and researchers, presenting an opportunity to restart the museum and art gallery’s volunteer programme.
A space will be developed as a school learning and lunchroom, which will also be used to host museum events, especially those aimed at families and focusing on the extensive collections.
The first phase of the new venue is aiming to be open to the public in the spring.
This temporary home, which is close to the town centre and will have dedicated coach parking, will be used as a medium-term solution for the museum and art gallery while plans to build a purpose-built facility as part of Swindon’s proposed Cultural Quarter come forward.

Saturday, 8 October 2022

History of the Museum Friends

 With the Pearl Anniversary of the formation of the Friends next year, I thought I'd type out a piece of paper titled The History of the Museum Friends given to me about 10 years ago by Paul Ricketts who many of you will remember as a Chair of the Friends for many years. It details 10 years of Friends' activities from their inauguration:

1993 Launch of the Friends on July 6th with a talk by the Friends' patron, Desmond Morri, attended by the Mayor, Doreen Dart, and 160 guests. First issue of the Friends' Journal in the Autumn. The talks included the history of the cinema in Swindon by Keith Saunders, a visit to Longleat and Jurassic Discoveries in Wiltshire by Dr Neville Hollingworth.  

1994 The Friends now numbered 128. A survey of the members showed 95% were interested in talks on art, 75% liked the idea of trips to art galleries and places of historical interest, 54% were committed to the idea of fundraising events and 95% found the Journal interesting. The 1994 talks featured Dr Julian Sallabrass on the Henry Moore Foundation, Justine Hopkins on the artist Michael Ayrton. George Melly on Richard Hamilton and the '60s art scene, the broadcaster Johnny Morris on Pigs and Picasso, Michael Leber on LS Lowry and John Hoyland discussing his own art.

1995 The Friends were involved in choosing the pictures out of the whole art collection to be displayed in an exhibition entitled 'The People Choose'. The Friends were able to get involved in the practical museum work to handle, annotate and catalogue items for the records.

1996 Friends' trips included going to see Blake and Reubens exhibitions at the National Gallery as well as tours of the Georgian architecture of Bath and of the ancient heart of Oxford. The Friends became a registered charity (Charity number 1050267) There was a presentation by Basil Beattie to coincide with the acquisition of his painting 'Witness VI'

1997 Friends' trips to Christchurch Picture Gallery, Oxford. Friends were invited to take part in interviewing and compiling information for the Railway Village Oral History project. Talks included Neville Hollingworth on geological finds in the Wootton Bassett mud springs, John Cooper on 20th Century painting and portraiture. The Friends became involved in their first purchase for the museum, an earthenware quart jug, c 1860, from the Eagle Tavern, new Swindon, purchased at auction for £131.

1998 Talks were by Alan Holden on 'Molly Holden, Swindon's forgotten poet'. Anthony Frost, son of Terry, talking about his paintings, 'Brunel's Legacy in Swindon', Bryn Walters on 'Roamn Archaeology' and Paul Gough talking about his work to coincide with his exhibition.

1999 A guided tour at the National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff. Talks were Bernard Thomasen 'Surveying for the Time Team', Bill Wimbledon on 'The Geology of Swindon Hill', Barley Roscoe on 'The Ceramics of Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie', Sarah-Jane Arbury on 'Performance Poetry' and a talk by the artist Maggi Hambling. In August there was a wine tasting held in the Art Gallery, The Friends made a grant towards the purchase of a hoard of Civil War coins from Wroughton and a second grant to pay 50% of the cost of new chairs for the Museum- to help pay for these, the Friends introduced the practice of running a draw at all their events.

2000 There were talks by Paul Robinson, Curator of Devizes Museum on Wiltshire folklore and Paul Danks from Swindon College on the student exhibition now on in the Gallery.

2001 There were talks by Dr Alison Taylor on 'Hilda Carling', by John Webb on 'Talking Brass' and by Fred Baier, one of Britain's top furniture designers who was commissioned to design the front desk at STEAM. The Friends contributed to the purchasing of the painting 'Head (1999)' by Tony Bevan.

2002 This year's Friends talks were Teresa Squires on 'Holy Rood and Christ Church, Swindon, the County Archaeologist for Wiltshire, Roy Canham on 'The Archaeology of Swindon Hill', the painter Tim Hyman on the work of Stanley Spencer, Dr John Taylor from the British Museum on 'Mummies and Mummification' and Paul Murdin on 'The Moon Pictures of Samuel Palmer and others'. The Friends contributed to the purchasing of 'Girl Selling Flowers by Desmond Morris and a Tudor silver dress fitting found at Wanborough.

2003 This year's talks included Linda Lambert on 'Ceramics from a publishing perspective', a conducted tour of Swindon Reference Library, Graham Ellard on photographic cycloramas, Sam Moorhead from the British Museum on 'Roman Coins in Wiltshire and Neil Dowson from the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust on 'Swindon's canals'

To bring us up to date, I'm going to include a photo from our most recent talk, September 2022, when Lucy Abel Smith held a favourite from her ceramics collection, a piece by Hans Coper



Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Lucy Abel Smith on Collecting

 For years I have been fascinated by the gardens at Quenington Old Rectory with interesting layout of different rooms and surprises round the corner as more sculptures appear. Rare Plant Fairs are held on the lawn, last year in spring when the Darmera peltata were flowering along the riverbank, they looked fantastic.  Lucy and David Abel Smith have lived in the Old Rectory for 37 years have developed not only the exterior, but also the interior as well in their own style. Lucy a self-confessed collector, is also involved in many projects, some outlined in the fascinating Guardian Interiors article in 2019. We have visited two sculpture shows as a Friends' group, and looking forward to visiting the 2024 show Lucy is preparing already. I was thrilled when Lucy agreed to give an illustrated Friends' talk via Zoom and having just returned from a book festival in Transylvania, the timing was not ideal. I took photos from the screen as Lucy talked and will try and fill in with some of the things covered.

Born in Scotland, Lucy was very aware of the Scottish colourists' work and her Father's collection of snuff boxes, seen above, and enjoyed handling them.
Above is a photograph of their east facing dining room in Quenington Old Rectory where the first thing they commissioned was a table designed by Fred Baier and chairs designed by William Burgess. Below the design of the archway fresco is based on the wonderful stone arches over the doors at the nearby Quenington Church, depicting the first coronation of the virgin.
This flatware set, below, was designed by Lucian Taylor
Lucy is a great collector of glass, and began collecting it aged 21, she mentioned Sam Herman, the great glass collector who talked to us in 2016: Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery: Sam Herman in conversation with Graham Cooley  below you can see one of Lucy's pieces designed by Simon Moore
This bangle was designed by Wendy Ramshaw and held together with magnets, which must make wearing it quite difficult
This stained-glass piece is by Antony Newell and depicts Lucy and David, I think
Below is a photo of the drawing room where there is lots of inherited brown furniture
Here below is more of the glass collection
and then Lucy talked about the garden where there's a Loutro Bateman split bridge and the beautiful round library seen on the right of the photograph below designed by Michael Gold.  

Above is a photo of one of the seats in the garden, and below a tribute to Esme Bradburne who joined the gardening team aged 79and used her organic principles in the garden. The lettering says 'The soul of man resembles the water, the fate of man resembles the wind'. 
There are some lovely water sculptures in the garden, like this one below. 
My favourite is the large one in the centre of the river which I try and photograph every time I visit:
Lucy finished off by showing us some of her favourite small pieces:
Below is a glass piece by Angela Thwaite
and this ceramic piece is a Hans Coper
Thank you once again Lucy Abel Smith for such an extensive tour around your collections, looking forward to visiting the next Rare Plant Fair and of course the 2024 Sculpture show.






Sunday, 2 October 2022

David Thackray on the Mechanics

 We were really pleased to welcome David Thackray, Chair of The Mechanics' Institution Trust to give our August talk on the updates about the Mechanics building, situated in the centre of the Railway Village, now designated a Heritage Action Zone. I took some notes during the talk and also photographed many of the slides, so will include a mixture of both of them. Firstly, the point was made that the positioning of the Mechanics in the centre of the village has symbolic and aesthetic value. Like the nearby church, the northern facade of the Mechanics was designed by Edward Roberts so it could be seen from the railway, at that time it was a theatre, reading room and a library. The history of the building dating back to the very beginning is presented in such detail that I'll refer you to the website for that.  Finding a way of restoring the Mechanics Institute would be a very positive step for Swindon, reasons why this should happen can be found under the Myths section of the website which gives a wonderful amount of detail.

I have added some of the slides David used in his presentation, but to read them, I have made them extra large which probably means they will spill over into the right hand side. I hope they can still be read.








Artist Tim Carroll produced these watercolours of the railway Village a number of years ago:





And last, but by no means least, please consider joining the Mechanics Institute Trust:
Finally, David showed us some of the plasterwork still in evidence. photos courtesy of English Heritage National Monuments Record.
Food for thought from the talk, it's a tremendous responsibility to restore the building and bring it into use again. 

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Plans for the first floor of the Civic Offices

 

Plans have been submitted by Swindon Borough Council to convert the first floor of the Civic Offices to Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. I appreciate it's not easy to see what is written in the boxes in the plan below, but it's probably easier to go to the planning link here: https://pa1.swindon.gov.uk/publicaccess/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=RGG7PKPT0PB00&activeTab=summary).

You can see that the planning application asks for stud walls to be allowed to be removed to enable larger spaces to be created for displays. There will be disabled access via a lift which it is planned will be sited behind the current main reception area in the Civic Offices, which is currently a cafe, no longer used because so few staff work in the Civic Offices. It is hoped that the facility will be open from March-April 2023 for visitors.
Before then, we are hoping that Friends and members of the public will be able to look round the first floor, and then we will have a workshop where we can be involved in the process of deciding how the spaces will be used. Community involvement is important in the process as stressed by the Arts Council who are keen to stress involving communities in their latest guidance:
Expectations of National Portfolio Organisations in relation to Let’s Create 
Public funding entails public accountability, both for Arts Council England and for the organisations in which it invests public money. It follows that we have certain expectations of organisations in which we invest. All our investment is made to help us achieve our strategy,  Let’s Create. 
Let’s Create focusses on three Outcomes: [more detail here https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/outcomes-0 ]
•  Creative People: Everyone can develop and express their creativity throughout their life  [this is about ACE wanting increase participation in arts and culture]
•  Cultural Communities: Villages, towns and cities thrive through a collaborative approach to culture [this is about ACE wanting to support community involvement in their culture]
•  A Creative and Cultural Country: England’s cultural sector is innovative, collaborative and international. [this is about ACE wanting to support investment in arts and culture practitioners]
Each Outcome is important and will work together with the four Investment Principles[more detail here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/our-investment-principles ]
•  Ambition and Quality: Cultural organisations are ambitious and committed to improving the quality of their work
•  Dynamism: Cultural organisations are dynamic and able to respond to the challenges of the next decade
•  Environmental Responsibility: Cultural organisations lead the way in their approach to environmental responsibility 
•  Inclusivity and Relevance: England’s diversity is fully reflected in the organisations and individuals that we support and in the culture they Produce
Under the four Investment Principles guidance:
"In future, we will judge organisations for the way in which they reflect and build a relationship with their communities, as well as for the quality and ambition of their work."


Wednesday, 24 August 2022

August: Friends' Trip to Rabley

 The Friends last visited Rabley 7 years ago, and was very much looking forward to making a return trip, however, best laid plans etc. It turned out I caught Covid last week and couldn't make the trip after all, Meryl Ainslie kindly suggested that everyone went anyway without me which worked out very well, although of course I missed out on what looks to have been a lovely afternoon out. So thank you to all who provided photos. Looking at the website, I can see that the Summer Exhibition at Rabley Gallery is showing new works by Sara Lee, one of the 'artists in focus' along with other artists mentioned below

Here are a couple of photos showing the lovely, light and airy gallery space at Rabley
and here is Meryl talking with Sara Lee woodcuts behind her
More Sara Lee woodcuts below:
and here:

Emma Stibbon RA, whose work can be seen below in the next two photos
This one above might be 'El Chorro Gorge' a woodcut
On the left, the picture is called 'Blast' and on the right 'White House' in Icelandic, both are made by intaglio printing.


I think the next photo is showing woodcut printing:
and this one below shows Sarah Gillespie's Moth, this is, I think a mezzotint as bought recently by the V & A and Pallant House Gallery, if you click on the link you can see a lot more
I'm going to end this series of photographs kindly taken by visitors to Rabley last week with these lovely photos taken from the outside of the building showing the beautiful setting in the Marlborough Downs
There's something really lovely about the views
And this one of the outside of the gallery
So thank you once again for hosting the Friends Meryl, and for the great photos those who sent them to me