Gypsars and Daubers Online Event 2
A New Museum for London
Online: 4th June 2020
It was another bumper turn out of Plaisterers for the second online event. The pre-6 o’clock gathering allowed members to spend some time catching up with each other – seeing who might have been growing a beard or growing a bit bigger or even admire those who were snugly settled into their living rooms for a good evening’s entertainment.
The event in hand was a presentation by Sharon Ament, the Director of the Museum of London. The Master’s charity this year is the Museum of London, supporting their work with children with special educational needs. This is a programme dear to the heart of the Director and the evening gave Sharon the chance to talk about this and her passion to tell the story of London to all Londoners. The Museum has a tag line “to reach every school child in London” and she is determined that no one should miss out whatever their personal circumstances.
During the Covid 19 lockdown the number of school children accessing the Museum site has gone up 400% whilst the situation has also shown that 7% of school children have no access to a computer or the internet. In order to address this latter issues the Museum has created physical packs of information and projects and these are being disseminated via foodbanks, surgeries and community centres to those most in need. The work of the SEND programme has been described by teachers as “pitch perfect” and “outstanding”. It is very gratifying to be part of this work. As Sharon emphatically said “Museums can change lives”.
Stemming from the current crisis the Museum is now “Collecting the Pandemic”. As mentioned in the recent Plaisterers’ City newsletter, the Museum wants people to consider what signifies the pandemic and what can be donated by way of digital, audio or physical items (the latter only when the Museum opens again). Sharon emphasised that whilst the Museum does tell the story from London 10,000 years ago it also tells the story of now and that is important in the new Museum’s plans.
Sharon showed us an amazing aerial photo of the current site in 1977. This was used to suggest how inaccessible the current site was when built with no high level bridges linking it to the surroundings. For Plaisterers it was intriguing to see the locale of our first Hall in London Wall only 4 years after it was completed. Can you spot it? The Museum site is complex and in need of significant capital expenditure so that the idea posed by the City Corporation to move into a new site in West Smithfield was a gem of an idea. That part of the old Smithfield Market had been a derelict site and not occupied for some 30 years. It still retains great charm and character. All of which she wants to retain in the new Museum. Areas will be repurposed but with their original use in mind. What were the Temperance Cocoa Rooms – a counterbalance to the bombastic drinking habits of the Smithfield traders with liberal licensing laws – will be re-used as the best coffee/chocolate shop in London. The previous small shops around the perimeter will again be used by artisans selling their wares to make the location a place to visit at all hours of the day and night. Sharon showed us the plans and layout of the site – all very current and exciting as the matters go before the
City Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee for approval on 23rd June. Good luck to her!
The Plaisterers provided some interesting questions about the possible marking of the role of London Livery Companies and whether immigration would be a good narrative for the new site. Both of these were effectively to be covered in the story of London which, after all, was about the people wherever they came from and the trades that they pursued. Liveryman Lady Freeman (an expert on Horace Jones who designed the original market) was keen to know if some of the features that were destroyed in World War II might be reinstated. However that did seem a big ask when the budget was already quite eye watering just to secure the site and carry out the current Museum’s plans.
At the end of the evening the Master was pleased to present a makeshift cheque for £10,000 to the Director as the contribution from the Plaisterers’ charity to the Museum’s work. The real thing will be delivered in due course!