National Autistic Society Project – Carriage 353 Community Project

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As part of the Carriage 353 restoration and learning project, a diverse range of community activities have been taking place over the past few months. In August, the National Autistic Society (NAS) took the chance to get involved in the celebrations. Six members of the society participated in a two and a half day creative project exploring the restored Victorian Metropolitan Railway Carriage 353, and related subjects and themes, through the use of drawing, applique and embroidery techniques. London Transport Museum (LTM) was the setting for the event which was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days for all involved.

The fun began with the screening of a fascinating film outlining the life of Carriage 353, from its use in the late nineteenth century on the Metropolitan Line, to its life as a garden shed, and finally to its recent restoration. It was then time to explore some of the themes of Victorian travel and the history of the Capital through consideration of some the Museum’s objects. For example, participants had the opportunity to get dressed up in old uniforms which helped bring our transport forebears, and their work, to life.

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Up next was an engaging tour by our Visitor Services Manager Michael Dipre. Everyone got a real feel for Victorian travel by sitting in former Metropolitan Railway carriages, an important reference point for the creative activities to be undertaken later in the day.

These activities centred on the creation of a fabric artwork depicting Carriage 353. Each participant chose a particular area of interest with regard to Carriage 353 on which to base their artwork, and created a detailed drawing, with a view to turning them into fabric pieces. Different fabrics and their textures were examined, with participants picking out suitable materials. Using fabric pens they then created an outline, before cutting out the pieces to collage together and create a fabric interpretation of their chosen theme. These then needed to be sewn together onto a calico panel.

Although everyone had some experience of sewing, a quick refresher was provided and soon they began appliqueing their fabric panels. Certainly a challenging task, the group showed impressive skills to embroider their panels.

The fabric panels display different aspects of Carriage 353 – its interior and exterior, and the contrast between the old carriages and new ones. These will be put together horizontally in a train-like fashion, with each panel resembling a carriage and will be exhibited in a touring exhibition, ending at LTM early next year.

It was certainly a thought-provoking activity and different participants had varying highlights. For Oke it was the drawing, whereas for James it was learning about the history of the carriage. For Gabby, it was the contrast between old and new that fascinated him the most.

The whole group took a great deal of care in their work, and worked extremely hard. They were rightly proud of what they had produced, and took time to admire the work of their peers. For some, the project showed them that they possessed some impressive creative skills they never believed they had!

Overall, everyone had a great time and enjoyed the chance to meet new people and get creative. The group made it clear that they can’t wait to come back together in the autumn for a tour of the Metropolitan Railway Carriage 353, when it will have returned to the LTM depot in Acton from its most recent adventures. Proud of their fabric artworks, they are also keen to bring their friends, family and colleagues to see their final pieces being exhibited both locally to the NAS, in the autumn of 2013, and at the London Transport Museum in early 2014.

Written by William Cooper, Marketing & Development Intern

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