Every summer, the Horniman hosts a large outdoor event and, for the second year, we were invited to capture the community coming together in Forest Hill. This yeah, Africa was the theme for the whole of the summer in the museum and gardens inspired by their incredible African collections. Africarnival was the culmination of all the events and activities that had happened before it.
We were really struck by the scale of the event and the incredible atmosphere across the gardens as audiences watched acrobats, danced to live bands, paraded in the carnival, took dance workshops, ate Ghanian street foods and generally smiled from ear to ear. It was truly joyous to share in the experience with such a diverse crowd that could only be found in London.
The Horniman completed their on going project to review their collections earlier this year and we were invited to capture elements of their final theme, War and Peacemaking. We worked closely with curator Tom Crowley to film a number of incredible objects from the store and were introduced to contemporary cultural practice and art pieces that are directly linked to these objects. It was a revelation to hear how seriously museum professionals take the display of weaponry and indeed how loosely the the understanding of what makes a weapon may be in some cultures. There were a great many messages, ideas and events to capture for this film and yet we still only feel like we were scratching the surface of this complex topic.
I would encourage you to watch the film and leave your comments or visit the Horniman’s website for more information.
As part of the review of their anthropology collections, the Horniman invited 32 lucky local people to engage creatively with some key objects from that collection. The Community Fieldworkers, as they were known, were given special access to the collections store and training on how to work with and consider the objects they would be responding to. They were then sent 18 postcards, each one showing a different object. From this stimulus they were asked to create, research, respond or tell a story based on at least one of the objects they felt a connection with.
All of these responses were gathered together for public display one afternoon in the Horniman’s pavilion building and we were invited along to record the work and chat to a small handful of the fieldworkers who contributed to the project. The work was very diverse and often very beautiful. The Community Fieldworkers had really risen to the challenge of engaging with the objects and everyone’s responses were so individual that I can only say I wish I had more time to really look through it all.
Nicola Scott was one of the coordinators of the project and tells us a little bit more about it here:
Then we heard from the fieldworkers who made pieces ranging from spoken word readings to Sculpture via collage and maps!
There was a wonderfully warm and community atmosphere as visitors, fieldworkers, friends and family investigated and documented the work for themselves.
The Horniman runs a very inclusive volunteer programme providing public facing activities and experiences for their visitors helping them to engage with the museum and garden collections. Engage in nature, it is also Engage in name. The Engage Programme was started five years ago in 2009 and to mark this anniversary we were invited to make a short film explaining the work that was shown as part of the celebrations at an Afternoon Tea in the Pavilion of the Horniman Gardens.
With so much to cover we had a packed day giving is a real insight to the variety of opportunities available to volunteers. We were able to see, not only how much the visitors get out of their interactions with the hard working volunteers, but how much the volunteers get back by speaking to former volunteers who are now employed – both at the museum and in other organisations.
Luckily we had really beautiful weather which really helped capture the feeling and atmosphere of this successful addition to a wonderful museum.
We have traveled up, down and across the country making a recent set of videos. These videos were commissioned by the Heritage Lottery Fund to promote their funding programme called Young Roots.
The heart of Young Roots is the young people who have the ideas, run the projects and gain a whole range of skills and qualifications along the way. To make sure that we were really going to be speaking to our target audience we had a number of consultations with a group of young people who gave us their very knowledgeable and sharp insights into this process.
The young people we met and worked with did a fantastic job of informing and invigorating our approach to the videos. Their discussion of heritage and how to present ideas of heritage was essential in helping us develop the concept for the our initial video. We call it, This is Mine.
After the consultations were complete we went out to visit projects in Newcastle, Forfar (in Scotland), Cardiff and Brixton, London. We had read through a wide variety of projects that we could visit and sadly there were so many that we wanted to visit but restrictions meant we had to limit our visits.
We started in Newcastle and were just as excited as the group we were scheduled to meet:
We began walking along the Tyne to get some establishing shots and then walked through town up towards Circus Central and were really taken by the city which neither of us had ever visited before.
When we arrived at the old church that houses Circus Central the group really got our filming for this project off to a bang. Juggling, headstands, unicycles and fancy dress were all de rigueur for the day. These guys were so mature and clearly passionate and excited about their wonderful project it was a real pleasure to film them. After visiting the Discovery Museum and Tyne and Wear Archives we finished the day on a moor just outside the city getting some wonderful action shots that can be seen in the This is Mine video.
Our second visit was up in Scotland and, for a project about Heritage, it was particularly poignant that we were visiting Forfar. The town where my father and grandfather had both been born. Forfar is a small town surrounded by beautiful Scottish countryside.
We walked along the shores of a loch and climbed hills before finally dropping in to meet the gang of young weavers at the PitStop Youth Cafe. The atmosphere at PitStop was very friendly and we immediately felt welcome. It felt like a very open environment where everyone was allowed to make themselves at home and offers of food and cups of tea were plenty. We arrived, it has to be said, with some trepidation as to how excited young people might be about weaving but again we had underestimated these young people. Their passion and enthusiasm was infectious. They showed off their weaving skills, gave us a historical tour of Forfar before taking us to the hidden Angus Archives in the grounds of a ruined church.
Brilliant day yesterday filming with @acapmedia brilliant day full of laughter, #youngroots all the way 🙂 thanks to chris and aaron 😉
Before leaving Scotland I managed to have a brief visit with my dad and grandfather to discuss their memories of Forfar and touch on my own heritage as part of this journey.
It wasn’t long once we got back to London before we were off to Cardiff to film at Cardiff Story Museum and Butetown Youth Pavilion. As with Newcastle our tour through city really took us by surprise, not just the glorious weather that we were very lucky to have but the vibrancy and excitement of the city. Sadly my phone was broken that day so there were no Cardiff tweets despite filming the Castle and Millennium stadium before even getting to the Butetown Pavilion..
We were warned that filming at the Pavilion on this evening might be difficult as it was a girl only evening and we wouldn’t be able to move freely through the building as it was a safe environment for young Muslim women. We were welcomed very warmly and if there were concerns about having two men roaming their corridors they were mostly hidden from us. We were limited for time so flitted between rooms filming art work, group leaders, articulate and funny young women, a small fashion house and an editing suite. We left Butetown to the sounds of laughter and with a clear sense of the excitement and sense of achievement these women had from working on a project with such a broad scope.
Back in London it was a very odd experience to just jump on a number 37 bus to visit visit our next HLF project in Brixton at the Photofusion gallery.
The work of this Organised Youth group was very moving. Their review of the Black Panther UK movement was clearly personal but also grasped the wider ramifications of that work and it was wonderful to see young people tackling these issues in a modern context. We met three young men who gave us a tour of their exhibition, talked us through how they had achieved their goals and then took us up on to the roof of the gallery to let us look down over Brixton Village. It was a really great to be able to leave one of the projects and be able to recommend the output from the young people to my local friends as something that was really worth a visit. Even better is that I know some people did visit and loved their exhibition.
Once filming was complete we had a great deal of footage because everyone had such great positive and meaningful things to tell us but it had to edit down to three short videos. This took a great deal of honing and trimming and once those first drafts were complete we shared them with our Young Media Consultants again and with HLF. A little bit of back and forth between all interested parties has honed these fantastic projects down to these videos. The first focuses on the young people and their journeys while the second is targeted more at youth and heritage leaders who need to be on board to support young people through these projects.
Thank you to everyone involved for an amazing, eye opening experience throughout the project.
To mark the opening of their new display, At Home With Music, the Horniman asked us to film a music recital. The instrument was a beautiful 1772 Kirckman harpsichord which has been restored into playing condition specifically for this new display.
This was a live event at the opening of the new display and the harpsichord is displayed fairly flat against a wall along a narrow corridor between stunning display cases. There was a challenge then to get a range of footage in a dark, tight and busy environment that would also best respect the music and occasion. To do this we arrived early to insert a camera in overhead ceiling vent and employed a gopro which sat almost directly on the keyboard giving us a bird’s eye and an ant’s eye view of the proceedings.
The pieces we recorded were the two new compositions that had won a competition run by the Horniman to mark the opening of the new exhibition and restoration of the harpsichord. They were wonderfully played by Jane Chapman, who was very accommodating to our technical discussions, and really brought the new display to life with her performances.
The Sprawl by Adam W. Stafford
Vine by Tim Watts
The exhibition is a permanent new display, curated by Mimi Waitzman and is a collection of keyboard instruments from the V&A and Horniman collections. Unsurprisingly it can be found in the museum’s music gallery and is very inviting, the only problem is trying not to touch the very welcoming keyboards and stunning pieces on open display.
A little while back the Horniman invited us to cover an event they were hosting exploring amulets and amuletic practice. I wasn’t sure what an amulet is so it was fascinating to see and explore the amulets from the Horniman collection that ranged from a First World War intricate heart shaped tin keepsake to a necklace made of human teeth.
Speakers at the event included representatives from the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall as well as anthropologists from UCL and international artists.
As a non-specialist observer it was interesting to hear those involved debating what it is that makes something an amulet, which was one of the key questions that we wanted to answer when we were first asked to cover this event. For some it seemed it can be anything that we might use as a lucky item. Although I am not immune to superstition I realised that I don’t have any amulets myself but I do wonder how many people do hold special or lucky items with them, particularly for special occasions.
The video is just over two minutes long but because it’s in time lapse it covers three full working days of material.
We started by going in a few days early to his spit and polish so that he would be leaving looking his best. There was a very surreal moment when Christopher Biggins arrived to take a couple of shots of the walrus and then disappeared again. Nobody seemed to know why and the museum wasn’t even open yet. Anyway the walrus looked very clean and relaxed at the end of that day.
On Monday we did arrive at what we thought was a “very early” 0715hrs to begin filming his departure but contractors and museum staff had been in since 6am to prepare for the moment everyone was very anxious about. Lifting the one tonne gentleman over the cabinets by way of a winch. We did question why they couldn’t just move the cabinets but turns out that the beautiful Victorian casing is much more problematic to move than an overstuffed walrus.
There was a lot of excitement in the air, with a slight hint of nervous tension, and there was a lot of interest surrounding the fact that he was getting x-rayed before he left. Apparently this is the first time he has ever had his insides examined. I overheard two Natural History curators casually discussing if they thought any of his bones were still inside. They both agreed that his skull and flipper bones must be there as the shape of them was accurate compared to his over stuffed body. They were of course proved correct. I love it when people obviously know what they are talking about. Expertise at work!
To create the sliding effect whilst maintaining the time lapse effect can be done with a very expensive piece of equipment or with a lot of patience. On this occasion we went with patience. We placed the camera on our slider and moved the slider a quarter of a centimetre every three seconds. The result is a dynamic and fluid shot.
This is why when the moment came for the walrus to fly over the cabinets I missed the whole thing. I was fully focused on moving the camera a solid quarter centimetre. I managed to get a look of his while he was suspended in the air which was rather awe inspiring. There was a palpable sense of relief when he touched the ground again and applause spontaneously erupted for all those involved. It was a great job, well done and exactly to plan.
I think I'll have seen about everything, now I've seen @HornimanWalrus fly!
After a little bit of crating he was allowed an early night because the next day he was wrapped up, padded and battened into his crate for the journey to Margate. He looked rather peaceful and we decided he looked like he was going to Margate for a spa treatment. His crate was then fully closed up and he was left in isolation.
The next morning was another very early start and we all hung around in the gardens waiting for his grand exit. The conditions were arctic, perhaps to make him feel more at home, and after waiting for some time he was lifted into the lorry very quickly and easily.
Spent the morning filming & senses being attacked by icy cold winds & noise of the traffic on the south circular #glamour@HornimanMuseum
We thought we had very little time to get into position to see him leave the site so dashed off but in reality everyone else went off for a cup of tea and we stood on the south circular in rush hour traffic in windy and cold conditions waiting for everyone to return. In minutes it was all over and off he went to Margate.
We asked visitors why the museum was their museum of the year and to sum up all the aspects of the museum in one word. It was a really fun video to make and a pleasure to see how much people love the museum. We didn’t struggle to get positive comments but we did end up capturing more than enough footage and so we have had to cut many glowing reviews to get it down to a consumable size.
Now let us know if you have been to the museum and what you think of it in the comments!
UPDATE… just seen this cute thing via Twitter…. a walrus wearing our video as an accessory. acapmedia fashion coming to a market stall near you soon.
Following the Horniman being announced as a finalist in the Art Fund Museum of the Year award we were asked to come in on Thursday and get a flavour of their visitors’ reaction to the news and we had a really great time.
We spoke to all sorts of visitors: some on their first visit, families who go two or three times a week, people who have been visiting for 60 years or more, teenagers, toddlers, parents, grandparents and people from all over the world.
The message was clear; people really love the museum and gardens. They use it to research design, culture, to learn about animals, entertain children, engage in art activities, to enjoy the gardens, to listen to music both indoors and out… the reasons are endless and different to each person or group we spoke to. We asked visitors to sum up the Horniman in one word and here are a few of the things they said:
Video coming soon…
Good Luck Horniman!
On a side note, we also took these pictures when we popped into the aquarium at the end of the day: