Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Art Installation at the Leper Chapel (Cambridge)

A break from our usual here, museums and a review of an art installation at the Leper Chapel in Cambridge. We will be posting about the Leper Chapel shortly. When we landed back from our recent trip to France we were walking along Newmarket road in Cambridge on a Friday night. As we passed the Leper Chapel we were aware of some form event on. As it transpired it was the opening night of the new art installation by Debbie Lauder and Anna Salamon.

Here are the two interviews with the artists in question.



The work itself was made in the Leper Chapel with a mixture of earth and netting material. The artists attempted to integrate their work as much as possible with the building itself. The work was intended to invoke the history and culture involved with the Leper Chapel.

With the dark and bright materials in question along with the white interior of the chapel the idea of shade and differing lights was crucial. The exhibition was open during the day and the night. The contrast between the lights made for very contrasting images. On top of this with the change in light during the day, due to clouds etc. the concept felt as if it was continually shifting. By night candlelight offered some illumination but the shadows that the majority of the work resided in was enough to confound the usual senses of dimension.

Having listened to a podcast the week before on the mythologies of Avalon, one of the central pieces stood out within my mind. It seemed at first to be a flat scattering of sand / soil but as I stood above it this flat substance seemed to transmute into a more mystical and fathomless pool. The exhibition itself gave me an overall feeling of reverence and awe within a fantastic location.

I will be looking out for both artists in future and definitely looking forward to any further collaborations that occur.

Monday, 21 September 2009

New Flickr Page and Interesting news

We have a new flickr page here, so you can see more of the places we have visited and reported on:  http://www.flickr.com/groups/puppyjourneys

We are going to participate with Localyte.com as you should see on our sidebar, to give you the reader more about the local areas you read of.

And Feedmill to help get our content out to more people around the web.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

La Piscine, Roubaix, France

childThis wonderful old swimming pool has been converted into an art gallery.  The concept of having a gallery in somewhere beautiful is not new, why  destroy old buildings of cultural, historical and artistic appeal when they can be incorporated into the newer displays?  A local friend of mine, who lived in Lilles as a child, told me of her surprise to find the swimming pool she used as a child converted into an art gallery.


painting two morrocans The gallery comprises of two exhibitions, the temporary and the permanent collections.  My big interest was in the swimming pool and so I only went to the permanent display.  This comprises of sculpture mainly in stone or plaster, porcelain, artwork of various forms and a textile display.


top of swimming poolThe gallery is quite big and is displayed amongst the original rooms.  The pool itself has been converted into the main display room.  The old shower cubicles to rinse off before coming into the pool are still in tact just in front of the pool.  The pool, itself, is lined on both sides by statues.  From the end it seems to be a line of women on the left a line of men on the right.  In the centre a strip of water has been kept.  With the original windows (from the 1930s), high up, remaining the light shines through in a fantastically beguiling red and orange glow.  It is very reminiscent of 40s / 50s style american glamour.


There is an incredibly detailed display upstairs (the old viewing galleries) of textiles.  Roubaix was famous for its textile industry of which there is a fantastic map-like painting of the region upstairs.  For my personal designer bathing suitsinterest I felt there were too many of the fabric swathes but on the other hand, I suppose, acting in its role of museum of the Roubaix tradition this information should be preserved.  There is also a fantastic display of clothing and fashion down through the ages and a tactile display of cloth and the differences between materials.  Downstairs a small display has been hosted for local youth designers, showing that the Roubaix tradition is not dead.


stained glass The majority of the left wing downstairs consists of materials art, such as glass, clay etc. with a mixture of paintings thrown in.  There is also a porcelain collection there too.  The rear of the gallery comprises of sculptures while the right wing is mainly portraits.  At the bottom of the swimming pool to the right lies the remainder and the majority of the paintings.  Their is a fantastic mix of artwork well presented and laid out.


Many of the original features are still present, such as the shower cubicles and some of the hot bath rooms.  A fantastic room to look out for is the shop and the original boiler still in the background, no longer accessible but still visible.  The shop itself is very well stocked and has some very interesting books on art, even for the non-art disciple (such as myself.)  It is a pay-in museum and some of the most interesting and well presented art in the original layout is not accessible by wheelchair.  Having said that the remainder of the museum is wheelchair accessible and also sports a magnetic hearing aid.

All in all it is well worth a visit, to see great art in such a fantastic, local and cultural environment is astounding; let alone the depth and increase in beauty it lends the works itself. :-)


23 rue de l'Espérance, 59100 Roubaix, France

Website http://www.roubaix-lapiscine.com/index.php
Telephone (0)(0033) 320692360

Permanent Collection:
> full fare: 4, 50 € / reduced fare: 3, 50 €

Temporary Exhibition:
> full fare: 4,50 € / reduced fare: 3, 50 €

Check here for reductions or free fares


Tuesday to Thursday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm,
Friday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm,
Saturday & Sunday 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Public Transport By train: Roubaix Train Station
By subway : Line 2, "Grand'Place or "Gare/Jean-Lebas" station.
By bus : line 25, stop at «Musée Art et Industrie" or "Gare/Jean-Lebas".

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Belfast next week so be prepared, we will be live

Next week me and Zoe with my parents in law will be off for a week in Belfast.  This will be a sight-seeing and cultural tour.  Expect regular mini-updates on here and maybe short clips, flickr pics will go up too.  On top of that we will be filming it and the idea will be to release a video diary of the trip.  Where online we don’t know yet, if you have any ideas get in touch and let us know?  Any suggestions what we should do let us know!

Twittering this all next week so check out my twitter account at http://twitter.com/clanravencub.  On a slight aside to everyone interested in the culture or history of Northern Ireland the new drama from BBC Best: His Mother’s Son is fantastic

Monday, 13 April 2009

Cambridge and County Folk Museum, Cambridge

P120409_15.28Today Caoimhín and I visited the Cambridge and County Folk museum which is situated on Castle Street in Cambridge city centre. This is a private museum separate from the university run by a very small core team and  large number of volunteers. The more intimate setting of the museum and the warm atmosphere within makes it a refreshing change from the, at times, slightly more imposing university museums.

The museum is housed in the  old White Horse Inn the earliest parts of which date back to the late 16th century. The inn was run by from 1901 up until 1933 and was transformed into a museum in 1936 in an attempt to preserve fast fading ways of life for the education of the generations to follow.  The building itself is made of wattle and daub and within the shop a small display of this has been made.  Winning points with us on one of our crusades – museums that recognise their own structures as history.

P120409_15.34[02]The museum is mainly separated into displays partially relating to the different areas of the building that is the bar, the kitchen and partially by aspects of Cambridgeshire such as the University and the  Fenlands.  The Bar, which is the first display you encounter upon entering the museum is also one of the best displays within the building. In  the corner of this  room is the original bar of the  White Horse Inn complete with barrels, glasses, jugs and even an old sugar loaf. This is the area of the museum which I think has stayed most true to that original ambition to preserve a snapshot of life for the future and a fantastic snapshot in time it is. This is an extremely rich and display with fascinating little details – don’t miss the 1937 graffiti on the glass panes at the front of the bar for example.

The second half of the room is a hodgepodge of pub treasures such as a collection of clay pipes and my own personal favourite the old pub sign. Extending into the snug area is a random set of displays including a  display of the earliest Hoovers. The one criticism I would have about these displays is that although the the theme begins consistently with the Inn display, this tails off as you pass through into the snug and while some things are clearly identified and labelled others have been not. Both the inconsistency of theme and a persistent lack  in labelling articles crop up at times in other displays throughout the building and is what I  must call one of the only flaws in the museum.

P120409_15.35[01]Travelling onwards you pass into the kitchen, which I personally love, due to the sheer  quantity of items lain out where ever possible as they would originally have been. The objects on display range from an example fireplace, table and nearly every kitchen implement imaginable. A wonderful progression can be seen from the eighteenth century up until the 1930’s with the first electric irons, and early refrigerators beginning to appear. The display does show the huge amount of effort that cooking cleaning and simply running such a large area must have took even with all the mod cons of the day-  watch out for an early washing machine.

Overall the museum is very child friendly with the kitchen table in the centre of the room usually having some form of look and touch display. The child friendly aspect is repeated in other rooms of the house where possible and gets a big thumbs up.

As you progress onwards from the kitchen what will be a problem for some becomes apparent in that the rest of the house is navigated via narrow spiral stair cases and narrow passageways. While there is access to the upper floors by lift this aspect of the building and the fact that you often  have negotiate a step while moving  from room to room in these  narrow areas can make things difficult for wheelchair users. Upstairs the themed aspects of the house slip away to a certain degree although fascinating items are to be found galore. I loved the old linen press seen upon entering the university display where freshly washed linen was stored to keep it neat. Interestingly in Ireland cupboards are often still referred to as presses making me wonder if this is the originator of the phrase. Once again there are artefacts on display although this time behind glass and there are also quiz questions laid out for children.

P120409_15.48[01] Naturally any depiction of Cambridge must include life with the university and  the folk museum does so with an interesting if extremely bitty display. I must regard the university display as one of the most inconsistent within the museum. There is a reasonable amount of information depicting the university from its  founding including the religious influence and  the ongoing town and gown issues however the display jumps from one picture of the university to another; for example it discusses how the students of the university were incredibly poor and yet another board describes how there were only six labourers sons in the university and the remainder being wealthy men during a similar time period. In the same way the town and gown rivalry and the issue of women within the university flit back and forth between various depictions almost as though the writers can’t quite decide upon their own personal opinion of the university. While containing some interesting artefacts such as old maps and manuscripts the display really suffers from a lack of overall shape and focus. The  room does also contain a very interesting apothecary display however the WW2 display looks a little.

Other rooms in the house contain a very interesting display of crafts, most of which have died out in the last hundred years or more, within Cambridgeshire and returning to the household theme a child’s room. The child’s room displays a beautiful collection of dolls some old examples of cribs and a perambulator (circa 1895). While interesting this room is very bland unlike the bar and kitchen downstairs and to be honest was a bit of a disappointment to me.  It showed many of the standard dolls and items but failed to enlighten me on the particular character of childhood in Cambridge. The crafts display while still interesting similarly did not contain quite  so much of the vibrant atmosphere found downstairs. Overall these displays could really benefit from a bit more shape and a better balance between the artefacts on show and the information provided.

P120409_16.01In contrast to the rooms aforementioned and of fantastic interest is the fenlands exhibition.  This display shows various aspects of fenland life ranging from the practical to folklore and superstition. It contains everything from farming equipment to shoes and a beautiful little display on different remedies such as moles feet to help with rheumatism and 18th century witch bottles buried outside a house to keep it safe. This is a lovely display of rural Cambridgeshire and life without the university domination experienced within the city centre. With suitable display boards it mixes treasures and information in a good balance

P120409_16.02 Finally the attic contains a lovely exhibition of children’s toys from the Edwardian era up until the 1950s. This is a far more lively display than that shown in the children’s room and I think it surpasses the children’s room in what it was aiming to convey. Helping the atmosphere a lot is the fact that this is the most spacious area in the museum with a box of replica toys for children to try out for themselves. There are some fantastic examples of old dolls houses and a Punch and Judy set that may bring back memories for many visitors. This room recaptures the energy that shone through in the bar and the kitchen that had become a bit lacklustre in some parts of the upstairs area and is a must not merely for  those that have children but for all visitors.

Not to be forgotten downstairs besides the shop (which is a veritable treasure trove  in its own right) the museum holds a temporary exhibit   currently on photography with examples of early cameras and pictures up to and throughout the second World War. These temporary exhibits are rotated regularly as indeed are some of the artefacts in the permanent displays meaning there is always a reason  to go back for a return visit.      

P120409_16.03 The Folk Museum is situated at 2/3 Castle Street in Cambridge city centre. It is very easy to get to and as you are right  in the middle of the city there are plenty of pubs and restaurants nearby should you require a drink or a bite to eat upon leaving the museum. The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays 10:30 to 5 and Sundays 2 till5. It is normally closed on Mondays but is one of the few places open on Bank Holiday Mondays. There is a £3.50 admission fee for adults, £2 concession fee and £1 for  children.  There is a policy of  One child free per each paying adult. If you join the friends of the folk museum and association group you also get free access to the museum from then on. For more information about the museum it has an extremely good website http://www.folkmuseum.org.uk which in addition to the usual about the museum, opening hours and so on also contains a virtual tour of the bar, kitchen and yard. Despite some obvious constraints (you can’t actually move around so you can only see what is in the direct vicinity) this is still a fantastic idea and it would be nice to see it developed to include some of the less accessible rooms.

Over all the Folk Museum is a nice little museum with a refreshingly modern attitude towards rotating exhibits and using modern technology such as computers within the museum and  its up to date website. Despite the little inconstancies here and there this is on my favourites list and I would definitely recommend a visit.    


Cambridge & County Folk Museum,
2/3 Castle Street, CB3 0AQ

Website http://www.folkmuseum.org.uk/


Telephone 01223 355159

Adults £3.50
Concessions £2
Children £1
One free child with every full paying adult


Tuesday-Saturday & Bank Holiday Mondays
10.30am - 5pm, Sun 2-5pm. 

Last admissions at 4.30pm