Monthly Archives: October 2011

‘From Highfield Road to Wembley Way’: Public Appeal

In April 2012, a new exhibition opens at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. ‘From Highfield Road to Wembley Way’ will celebrate Coventry City Football Club’s success in the 1987 FA Cup final. The unexpected win – the first in the Club’s 104 year history – brought together the whole city, who lined the streets to welcome the team back to Coventry. Whether you were a child, a teenager, or an adult; a staunch supporter or perhaps not even a football fan at all until that point; everyone remembers the day that Coventry City Football Club brought the Cup home.

Part of the exhibition will be dedicated to CCFC fans, and we are keen to gather their memories, stories, photos and memorabilia. A public appeal was launched in the Coventry Evening Telegraph and online from September 2011, and we have received a positive response so far!

Some of the memorabilia which has been offered for display include tickets and signed programmes from the final; a commemorative medal which was awarded to Coventry and District referees; a menu card from the celebration dinner held at the Club; and commemorative bottles of beer and wine. Home-made items include t-shirts, a scrapbook, and a banner made by Kay Preece (then Bridgland) which was displayed in the window of the Coventry Evening Telegraph. It is astonishing that fans have held onto these for 25 years!

Walsgrave Road house display

We are also building up an archive of home photographs. So far, these have mostly been of the Victory Parade through Coventry’s streets – which show houses decorated with flags, bunting, balloons and CCFC scarves. Sheila Basbrown sent us images like this of Walsgrave Road, as well as some of her and her colleagues dressed for work in ‘sky blue’ for the week running up to the final! Maurice Rattigan’s photos of his trip to Wembley clearly show the anticipation and excitement of the crowd, and the euphoria that followed. These photos are being uploaded to our Flickr site (http://www.flickr.com/groups/theherbert) and we are encouraging anyone else who has memorable photographs of the run up to the final, the final itself, or the Victory Parade, to do the same!

Crowds outside the Council House

It has been great to hear people’s memories, which really show what a momentous occasion the win was for the people of Coventry. Two fans have even sent us poems! Some of these memories will be featured in a short film in the exhibition. If you would like to share your story, please email us at skybluestories@theherbert.org. We would love to hear from you!

This post was written by Elizabeth Pratt, who is volunteering on this project.

RIP Dorothy Heathcote MBE

Dorothy Heathcote was a giant in the development of classroom drama, and in my previous career I was lucky enough to use her ideas often and work with her occasionally. She passed away on Saturday 8th October. I have found her ideas transferable to so many other contexts, and just about everything I do owes a big debt to her.

Dorothy Heathcote

Here is a brief handful of her inspirations:

Dorothy’s work stemmed from observing the rules children use when playing freely. This is the heart of all inclusion work – learning and using the cultural reference points your audience already has, rather than imposing your own. Our summer exhibitions strongly rely on this approach, closely observing how the space is used, then finding ways of deepening the ways children chose to play.

Trusting to the drama. This boils down to trusting the children. Dorothy would often let children explore a theme they wanted, but made sure they did it ‘her way’, so Batman became an exploration of how children could grow up to be heroes. She advocated lessons being planned like a military operation, but all that work is happily thrown out of the window when the children think up something better.

So often, children’s play, whether it is set in ancient Greece or deep space, turns out to be a metaphor for issues that they are facing here and now. Our summer exhibition has developed a more and more open structure over the years, so that the children are free to re-interpret the space and the materials in it however they wish. This means they are free to play their games, not ours, and to consciously or unconsciously explore whatever they choose.

Profligacy / parsimony. Like many of Dorothy’s concepts, the language sounds daunting, but the core of the idea makes complete simple sense. When people work together, there is a natural rhythm alternating between “profligacy” – creating lots of ideas, widening the field, then “parsimony” – filtering the range of ideas to find the best ones. This repeats, so the best ideas are developed into many possibilities, which are refined again and so on. One really important lesson from this is to end any session with the parsimonious stage – if you are in a meeting and have agreed a small number of outcomes, you can pick up from there and continue later. If, however, you stop with dozens of ideas in the air, when you re-convene, everybody will have mentally distilled their own choice of those points and the process either needs restarting or becomes competitive.

“Signing”: the art of communicating things indirectly is an important skill for a friendly exhibition. We welcome so many visitors who have never been to museums, or not to museums like this one, and we don’t want to face them with a book of rules, so the careful placing of things to sign the rules that operate is a critical design consideration. Along with signs and signifiers, Dorothy also talked about lures, gems which spark the curiosity and draw the children in. Like so many of her concepts, creating ‘lures’ is obvious common sense, but by naming and pointing these things out she enabled us to analyse our craft, share knowledge and improve.

There are a thousand more and above that a humane and no-nonsense sensibility. Her work lives on in the thousands she’s inspired.

For more about Dorothy Heathcote, visit http://www.dorothyheathcote.org

Godiva Procession double booking

My neighbour has always been interested in the history of Coventry. We were chatting recently and he asked if I knew the story about a double booking of actresses for the 1870 Godiva Procession.

Reading about the procession in the Coventry Herald newspaper it appears that organisers feared the no-show of the actress Madame Stacey who had been hired to play Lady Godiva in the procession. Ladies playing Lady Godiva traditionally stayed in St. Mary’s Hall the night before the procession. When Madame Stacey failed to arrive on the last train from London the organisers rushed off to Birmingham to hire another actress, Rose Williams.

However on the morning of the procession Madam Stacey arrived and was not impressed to find another actress in her part. Heated discussions followed as to which lady would play the part as there could only be one Lady Godiva. Madame Stacey, much aggrieved, apparently flounced off and later successfully sued the organisers for breach of contract.

The Godiva Procession which has taken place in the city since 1677-78 always drew a huge crowd. Unfortunately on this occasion the crowd were eagerly expecting Madame Stacey and were disappointed by Rose Williams. Poor Rose was described in the Coventry Herald as ‘too girlish and lacking in dignity’. She does look very young in the photograph below but I think this is a little harsh!

Rose Williams as Lady Godiva from http://www.picturesofcoventry.co.uk

However the rest of the procession was pronounced a great success. The route through the city centre took four hours. In addition to Lady Godiva the procession included followers dressed as significant characters from Coventry’s past such as the Black Prince and Mary Queen of Scots. There were also several bands, representatives from Coventry societies and companies, three elephants, two dromedaries and two camels from Mander’s Menagerie!

– Rayanne

References:

PA 2113/1/1-2 Godiva Pageant 1870
Coventry Herald and Free Press and Midland Express 24 June 1870
JN 398.2 Burbidge Old Coventry and Lady Godiva

Object of the month October 2011

Brimley Hill, Devon by Robert Bevan

Brimley Hill, Devon, around 1915
By Robert Bevan (1865 to 1925)

This painting by Robert Bevan was acquired by the Herbert in 1982.

In the 1890s Bevan became a friend of the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, whom he met in Pont Aven in Brittany. At this time, Gauguin had just returned from his first trip to the South Seas and was experimenting with a style of painting which involved the use of simplified colour and flattened clearly outlined shapes. This clearly had a powerful influence on Bevan and a radical and expressive use of strong pure colours became characteristic of his work. One critic, commenting on a painting by Bevan, described ‘a rainbow horse, drawing a crimson plough, followed by a magenta ploughman over a purple field’.

Bevan was a member of the Camden Town Group of Artists which grew out of the Fitzroy Street Group in 1911. He painted many views of London’s horse drawn cabs and cabyards. His work also featured the suburban streets of St Johns Wood and Hampstead and the rural landscapes of Sussex, Somerset and Devon.

Bevan’s first solo exhibitions, in 1905 and 1908, were poorly received and his work was strongly criticised. His contribution to British art was not widely recognized until 1965, the centenary of his birth. In that year the artist’s son published his memoir and organised a series of exhibitions. His work is now found in many museum and gallery collections, including the Tate.

This painting is on display in the Herbert’s Art Since 1900 gallery.

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