Having been able to see proofs of this year’s festival brochure, I can say that our event will be just one of over two hundred enticing things across the country. Other events already taking shape for the festival include a ‘Shanty mob’ pub crawl around Liverpool, bus stop poetry readings in Bristol, a ‘zombie walk’ around Mary Shelley’s Dundee! … But back to Bird and Michael (and a cream tea!) in the Poynter Room of the Museum cafe.
Given Bird’s interest in the intersections between gender, sexuality and class, this was an apt setting for discussions. Originally called the Grill Room, in the 1860s visitors could come for breakfast when the Museum opened at 9am and watch the cook prepare it on the stove. Fred Hill, a catering contractor from the Oval, offered a long menu divided according to social standing – meaning that there were first-class and second-class menus.
The room was designed by Edward Poynter, with a scheme centered on blue Dutch tiles which were painted by a special tile-painting class for ladies at the Schools of Design. In 1860s society, it was unusual for women to train professionally and so for them to be engaged in such a public a commission was a very forward-looking and bold move. Bird was particularly pleased to find a depiction of Sappho on a tile by our table! With the funding approved, the date set, a tempting title and the (rather capacious) Lecture Theatre booked, it was time to revisit our early plans and for Bird to update us on where her research has been taking her.
Bird is particularly interested and committed to making the event to be accessible on a number of levels and for elements of the content to be available to as wide an audience as possible after the event. Michael is an Audio Describer and joined us to offer guidance and advice on how best to approach using Audio Description as one way of doing this. We’re also making arrangements for sign language too. Of course we don’t want to give too much away, so I will just teasingly say that discussion was enthusiastic, entertaining and revealing, with topics including the Museum’s facade, Simeon Solomon, Pre-Modern Asia, Kabuki, Kama Sutra, and ‘rabbit gods’!
Author: Dawn Hoskin
Title: Assistant Curator at the V&A in the Furniture, Textiles & Fashion department
I am an Assistant Curator at the V&A working on the development of the new Europe 1600-1800 Galleries. My interests are wide-ranging but subjects I have particularly enjoyed exploring for this project include: European depictions of Africa and Africans; Dutch domestic interiors; early ballooning; the gambling halls of 18th-century Venice; the fashion for singeries (depictions of monkeys apeing human behaviour!); wig-making and hairdressing.
My 'favourite' object going into the new Europe Galleries changes on an almost daily basis ... I am also Co-Chair of the V&A's LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Group.