Did you know that London Underground has its own football league? Every year two divisions of teams compete for the cup. It’s a popular competition with non-league enthusiasts. The London Underground Football League was set up in 1996. In the early years you had to work on a particular line to play for their squad. Since then it’s been opened up to all TfL employees, and players can transfer without changing jobs!
Transport employee sports teams have a long history. Early in the twentieth century, companies operating London transport ran sports team for employees, to help keep company morale high. These included subsidised facilities like tennis courts, football pitches and athletics tracks.
In 1933 these clubs and societies became part of London Transport, which at one time owned 11 sports grounds. The depots and garages had their own teams, and some of the most popular sports included football, cricket and darts. There were also popular athletics competitions and there were international competitions against teams from the Paris Metro.
Many of the clubs closed in 1984 when London Transport restructured, and eventually following government cuts, the sports grounds were sold off in the 1990s. At that point, the company arranged to use other facilities and set up the football league – which has been running ever since.
Earlier this month, the Piccadilly FC team presented their new moquette-inspired kit at London Transport Museum. The kit is now part of our collection. This year’s football league has been disrupted by the pandemic, but players are hoping to play the last games this Autumn if it can be done safely.
I am delighted to announce that at last, after 173 days closed, our Covent Garden doors open to visitors once more on Monday 7 September 2020!
We have moved our opening times back to 11:00 to enable visitors to use the public transport system while it is off-peak and quieter. You might enjoy arriving to the Museum by foot or bike. My favourite London views are up and down-river while crossing Waterloo Bridge from the mainline station, with the City and St. Paul’s Cathedral to one side and the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey on the other. You might try my commute from Temple station through the Inns of Court and the majestic Somerset House or from Embankment through the gardens and up Carting Lane and across the Strand to Covent Garden Piazza.
The coming weeks are a great time to visit; Covent Garden is for once not too busy with crowds, so it’s a rare opportunity to savour the Piazza and a quieter London Transport Museum.
Before you visit us, you will need to book timed tickets in advance, even as a season ticket holder, to allow us to monitor visitor numbers and ensure social distance. We will also make provision for spur of the moment visits, from passing trade too. The Museum has met the We’re Good to Go standard in terms of cleanliness, social distancing and safety – be assured, we are sanitising the building but not your experience. You can see this for yourself in our ‘welcome back’ video.
You will be welcomed by my colleagues and I with open arms (and a visor), and be able to enjoy our displays showing how transport has shaped the capital’s personality. You will see Tube trains, buses, trams and even a sedan chair, admire Edward Johnston’s iconic typeface and the revolutionary map of the city created by Harry Beck’s Underground diagram. Our immersive Hidden London exhibition, where you can experience disused stations and their rich stories, has been extended; see Churchill’s dining room in the WW2 bunker at Down Street, the bunk beds in Clapham South deep-level shelter recreated in our Global gallery, as well as clips from films featuring lost tunnels and stations.
Through September and October, we are offering late night openings on Thursdays from 18:30 until 21:00. With fun transport-themed quizzes in our Lower Deck café and a complimentary cocktail in hand, you and your friends can share a night at the Museum, enjoying our galleries after dark as our vehicles shine in the display lights.
We are reopening into uncertain times, especially for the former honey pot of the West End. Like the theatres, restaurants, coffee shops, galleries and museums around us, we have made a great success of our location and its high footfall. This has been much diminished. We are awakening the Museum from its slumber and we need the patter of both tiny and bigger feet to put us back on our journey to inspire you with the stories of this great city.
I’ve been thinking about a poster I had as a child that exhorted, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and how appropriate it is for the challenges we’re all facing with the pandemic. What this proverbial expression encapsulates is the optimism that you can think your way out of a problem, find solutions, create something new that can be transformative and better, in short, to innovate.
We all know the pandemic has been massively disruptive and absolutely devastating to many, and we’re only starting to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of business closures and unemployment. The cultural sector has been hit particularly hard. However, the creative sector is also incredibly resilient and full of can-do people who are adept at problem-solving and overcoming barriers. Ask any creative person to describe a good brief and invariably you’ll hear that it had a clearly articulated problem or barrier to address.
Forced closures, social distancing measures and visitor anxiety about travelling and being around other people are all pretty big barriers. London Transport Museum has been closed since the middle of March and we’ve only had a small team working and grappling with how we overcome these barriers and get our beloved Museum open and activity back on track. We’ve been learning from colleagues in other creative organisations and have drawn inspiration from some of their approaches too. We’ve noticed that the really savvy players are pushing forward with innovation in areas of strategic importance.
Accelerating the shift to digital
Many of us enjoyed the vast amount of high-quality digital content that was made available when museums and theatres closed their doors. It was the sector’s way of staying alive and reaching out to our visitors and audiences. National Theatre at Home every Thursday, #MuseumAtHome on social media, Hamilton on Disney+, the Metropolitan Opera streaming whole operas every night… It was a wealth of content to audiences hungry to connect. London Transport Museum’s online shop and social media channels thrived.
It was clear this explosion of content wasn’t sustainable, it was difficult to monetise when so much was free, and what is proving interesting now is the new approaches that are emerging. The Tenement Museum in New York followed up its free content with the launch of ‘private virtual events’ starting at $300.
We have developed Hidden London Hangouts a free offer on YouTube which has attracted viewers from around the world. We’re now following up with a new experience to let our fans become active participants with a monthly membership on the Patreon platform.
Re-inventing and re-imagining live experiences
Never underestimate the sheer determination for creative people to find a solution. The Minack Theatre in Cornwall re-opened its summer season with a two-person show and ushers that used a 2m stick to seat groups as they arrived with socially distanced gaps. Andrew Lloyd Webber staged a pilot performance with Beverly Knight at The London Palladium to prove that socially distanced live music is possible. The ENO is performing opera at a drive-in theatre, with the audience in their cars.
We knew that our visitors were anxious about public transportation and being inside closed spaces, so we created a new experience at our large Museum Depot in Acton, utilising outside space and attracting a local audience.
The personal touch
Personalisation has been a buzz word for ages and the importance of having a genuine personal connection and relationship has never been more important. I’ve tried to get out to visit as many museums, gardens and attractions as possible, and the ones that have excelled have had cheerful and helpful front of house staff and personal follow-up. The personal welcome and farewell in person made the difference. I loved my trip to the Eden Project, Tate and Kew Gardens – but it was the welcome at the Tate as I struggled with two children and face mask, and the chat with the Visitor Services Manager at the Eden which made my visit a delight. And why I’m happy to keep up my memberships.
We’ve been putting a lot of energy into the staff training and ‘re-acclimatising’ for those who have been on furlough. We’re really heartened that our first wave of visitor feedback from the Depot family summer season shows how important and appreciated our friendly staff are.
Prioritising the important stuff
Right now there are so many ideas and possibilities – the challenge is focusing on the right things for a near term lift and long term gain. We’ve been impressed by the innovation that moves in the direction of the bigger aspirations. The overarching goal of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is that by 2032, 80% of journeys are to be made by walking, cycling or public transport. They’ve used the time during lockdown to expand cycle lanes and widen pavements which accelerates the realisation of the goal. This is the kind of innovation that is truly inspiring.
At London Transport Museum, we’re thinking a lot about prioritising the right stuff to ensure our future funding and income. In the short term, we’ve launched a fundraising appeal, and we’re focused on getting the doors open on 7 September 2020, fast-tracking our digital offers, re-inventing live experiences to attract new visitors and delivering exceptional customer service. Longer term we know we need to reach new audiences and re-invent our successful business model to deliver our purpose of igniting curiosity to shape the future.
We know it’s a rocky road ahead but we are committed to overcoming the barriers, gathering up the lemons and using the alchemy of our creative people and opportunities to make lemonade.
Tucked away over the bridge by Acton Town station, our Museum Depot is one of west London’s best kept secrets. The huge warehouse and operational base of London Transport Museum, the Depot is a transport Aladdin’s Cave and only usually open to the public for special weekends, guided tours and schools’ visits. But this summer, as a local response to the easing of lockdown, the Museum Depot will be open with a special ten-day family programme.
We have long nurtured the idea of a family summer camp at our Museum Depot. Easy access from west London, the outdoor spaces, the Depot full of buses and trains, signs and signals, roundels and tunnel rings, lifts and escalators, and the London Transport Miniature Railway make it a unique and stimulating place to visit. So, as a response to all the restrictions of Covid-19, and parents and children facing another long holiday with limited options for stimulation and distraction, our brilliant team have rapidly thought up a ten-day family programme at the Depot, from Wednesdays to Sundays, on 19-23 and 26-30 August 2020.
This is not the conventional summer Depot opening – it has been designed specifically for family groups with children aged 5-11 and will certainly not be the crowded transport festival of our open weekends. Family groups, in pre-booked small numbers, will progress through a self-led trail of the bus and train sheds with mini challenges and quick quiz questions to explore our remarkable collection. In the interests of our visitors’ safety, not all of the Depot features or the vehicles will be accessible, but the 1938 tube stock train will be.
An outdoor craft area at the back of the Depot will encourage families’ creative response and the individual, sealed activity packs can be taken away to extend the fun at home. To conclude the experience, enjoy a coffee, support our shop and take a ride on the London Transport Miniature Railway which will give you an opportunity to ride on your own exclusive family carriage.
If this family programme works well, we hope to extend into weekends in the autumn. Tickets are on sale now with many timed slots available. I for one will be at the gate personally welcoming visitors back to the Depot – we are so very keen to be back in action – and I hope to soon be able to announce the Museum at Covent Garden opening in September. Watch this space!
By Fenella Goodhart, Head of Learning, and Matt Brosnan, Head Curator
Planning is now underway to get the London Transport Museum’s Depot in Acton open in August. We can’t wait to welcome visitors and staff back and to unlock this treasure trove of London’s transport history.
We are planning a family experience at the Depot for two weeks from 19-23 and 26-30 August 2020. It will be a timed ticket offer so that we can control numbers and ensure a safe and relaxing experience for visitors. We will create a trail of the Depot vehicle sheds which will not only reveal some of the stories of this rarely seen collection but also keep those Maths and Literacy neurons for firing over the summer holidays!
Our vehicles are some of the crown jewels in our rich collection. We care for 85 vehicles including buses, trains, trams, taxis and even a tractor. Some are on display at the Museum in Covent Garden, but opening our much larger Depot gives visitors a detailed insight into how travel in London has changed since the nineteenth century. It is also an impressive sight to stand in the space and take in a bus and tram shed packed full of vehicles and row upon row of Underground trains.
On their trail in August, visitors can encounter a beautiful ‘garden seat’ horse bus dating from 1881, a time when London’s streets were filled with horse-drawn traffic. Immediately alongside is a handsome red B type bus from 1911, the very first mass produced type of motorbus in the world. Visitors will see for themselves that not all London buses were red, with brown, green and even gold examples at the Depot.
Visitors will also be able to weave their way around an array of trains that have served London’s commuters since the early days of the Underground. They range from the functional to the beautiful. Practical vehicles like an 1897 ballast wagon and a 1939 sleet locomotive share rails with a shiny red 1938 Stock Tube train filled with stylish Art Deco touches.
Inspired by the collection, we will be providing family visitors with their very own sealed, activity pack to use on site or take home. We will be making use of the large outdoor area behind the Depot to allow families time to rest and relax in the fresh air and dip into their activity packs. Hopefully snacks and hot drinks will also be available for visitors.
And to top it off, the London Transport Miniature Railway will be up and running, completing the Depot experience with this much loved attraction.
Foremost in our minds in planning the reopening of the Museum Depot is creating a safe, welcoming and enjoyable experience for visitors and staff. Managing numbers and social distancing, a robust cleaning regime for all, friendly and knowledgeable staff and clearly planned and signposted one way routes are top of our list of priorities. We look forward to keeping you posted on our planning and welcoming you to the Depot for our summer season from the 19 August 2020.
Geoff Rowe, Assistant Director of Operations and Resourcing
Protecting your health, safety and wellbeing are key to you being able to enjoy yourself and having confidence in us that we can provide a safe Museum experience. As our minds turn to opening our Museum Depot in Acton and Covent Garden again to visitors, your Health and Safety is our top key priority.
The Government have issued their guidance on re-starting the visitor economy and Visit Britain have successfully launched their `We’re good to go` industry standard. My team and I have read and re-read this guidance and are putting the measures in place to ensure we successfully meet the standard to give you confidence to visit us. We will have the `We’re good to go` standard when we open and have almost completed the work required, so please look out for this on our social channels soon. I have listened to multiple talks on toilets (a key concern for many people!), learned from our European colleagues who have already opened their doors and spoken to friends in other attractions about how they have opened to get an understanding of how to do this best at LTM.
Our risk assessments are complete and ready for sign off, a reduced capacity agreed, a new chronological route to best showcase the collection, clear signage is being worked up and staff will be consulted on their return to work. Staff are crucial to the process of welcoming you back. Their engagement and confidence is key to ensuring you have a great visit. We don’t want the team to feel stressed when visitors return to see our amazing collection and we want to welcome you as we did before.
When you visit you will notice some differences, this is nothing to worry about. Staff will be wearing clear visors and there will be screens at key points such as tills and the information desk. We have made the decision to wear visors because we still want to communicate with everyone and face coverings don’t allow this. They are not accessible to people who need to lip-read. This will not increase any risk to you or our team as we will have measures to ensure everyone’s protection.
You will see our staff regularly cleaning floors and other high useage areas around the Museum. This does not mean you cannot still ask them questions or talk to them. We are still keen for you to engage with our team but we want to visibly show we are looking after you and cleaning is part of that commitment and reassurance.
A key area of concern for visitors returning are the toilets. Never before has toilet talk been so important and socially acceptable! Operations Managers across the country are working out how best to open toilets. I had never anticipated toilets would be the centre of all my planning. There will be an enhanced cleaning rota for you to see how often they are cleaned. Some toilets may not be available but we know we need as many toilets open as we can, so you can have a comfortable visit.
Not everything might be open. We are confident that we can open most of the Museum, given the high performing cleaning materials we have, especially a product that will kill bacteria for 28 days. However, any areas that we are not comfortable with due to the nature of play in that area we may close off. This will not stop your enjoyment as we are confident 90% of the Museum will be open for you to enjoy.
To support our capacity and for track and trace, we will need you to pre-book timed tickets via our online booking system or call centre. This will give you a timed entry so you can have a comfortable and quick arrival experience.
We also need you to help us. It is really important that when you come and visit you read the pre-visit information we provide and you look after your visiting bubble. We need everyone who visits to be responsible as we continue to get life back to normal. We know the kids will be excited to be back, so will we, but we need to ensure that we work together to help ensure that the Museum remains safe for everyone. Please help us do that, support our survival and do that safely.
The team and I are excited that we are talking about opening and we will soon be able to confirm dates. When you are visiting, please don’t be shy, please talk to us about your experience and let us know your concerns or if you think we have done a good job. We will listen and learn together. We look forward to welcoming you back and having life back in our amazing Museum.
Around the world, we are seeing countries and cities slowly easing restrictions that were put in place to control and minimise the spread of a highly dangerous virus. We have yet to understand the full scale of the impact that this killer virus will have on our economy, our children’s education, employment and sadly, the loss of loved ones.
After several weeks of lockdown in the safety of our own homes, children, adults, employees and customers alike are cautiously stepping back into the real world. In order to try and get back to some kind of normality, we will need to adjust our behaviours, interactions with others, and ways of moving through public spaces by foot, cycle or public transport.
But how do we resume ‘normal’ life and what does it look like?
Retail shops, offices, schools and visitor attractions are gradually beginning or planning to reopen, with the uncertainty of what may be around the corner. However, one thing’s for sure, it’s certainly not going to be like it was before.
New signage and wayfinding systems are going to be an essential part of everyone’s journey, be it for business, school, leisure or essentials. Communication, instruction and interaction are crucial to helping people navigate through this new existence where there is still an uncomfortable amount of fear of contracting the virus. A well designed signage system will help to provide confidence and encourage people to venture out into this new world and resume some kind of new normality.
We are working hard on planning the re-opening of the Museum and thinking about what measures we will need to put in place to ensure that staff and visitors are safe. Questions such as ‘how anxious will visitors feel?’ are yet to be tested and resolved. But whatever the solutions, our aim is to ensure that the visitor experience will not be diluted.
Key objectives that we are taking into account for our new signage and wayfinding system include:
Adopt consistent messaging that is in keeping with the wider society to ensure that content is familiar and easily understood
Avoid harsh messages and communicate in a way that is friendly and calm by using design and tone of voice to provide assurance and clear guidance
Allow for trial and testing of signage to ensure messages are clear which must be adaptable and flexible for changes as required
Create a safe route around exhibits to avoid bottle necks and to minimise queuing
Make the signage more engaging by adding symbols or illustrations from our own collection as visual aids to enhance spatial awareness
Use colours or other visuals that are uplifting, align with the Museum’s personality and will stand out well within the space
Consider the material, location and scale of these new signs so that they complement the environment
Create a kit of parts toolkit that is eye-catching and impactful, and can be applied consistently across all of our locations – the Museum, the Depot at Acton, the Shop and eventually the Canteen
Ensure that all signage meets the ‘We’re Good to Go’ kitemark accreditation standards in order to provide assurance to visitors
Develop friendly, informative messages for our website, social media, and other digital communications, to let visitors know in advance what to expect when they return
There is still lots to be done and questions to be answered, but we continue to work hard on getting the Museum back on track. Our absolute priority is to ensure that our staff and visitors will feel safe and at ease in this time of uncertainty. We know that a vital part of this is to make sure the signage and hazard tape may be reassuringly be our visitors’ first impression, but that their lasting impression is of the warm welcome and unique personality normally associated with London Transport Museum.
My second return to Covent Garden, and the sleeping London Transport Museum, was made on Friday 5 June. It was so good to work – at a distance – with a handful of colleagues who I had only seen on Zoom since mid-March, to have a real conversation and bounce some creative ideas around. We began blocking out a physically distanced linear route around the Museum for when we are able to open, noting pinch points, interactives and access to vehicles. We are confident that this is feasible; the challenge will be to provide an experience for our staff and early adopters which is visibly safe but retaining the lively personality and welcome we are known for.
The sunny Piazza itself was just as quiet as three weeks before; a few lonely sightseers, the occasional urban explorer and the smell of paint and varnish as two solitary painters began sprucing up and installing signage in anticipation of the return of non-essential retail on Monday 15 June. The openings on the Piazza will be limited for the time being. We are making preparations to open our shop, but only when there are customers to serve and for the moment the West End is a ghost town. A visit to Pret a Manger on the Strand, the only premises trading in the area, was remarkably a novelty after 11 weeks, the coffee and croissant being passed through a mousehole in the large Perspex screen across the counter.
We returned home on our bikes, rejuvenated and buoyed up by the approaching horizon of re-opening, even if not until August or later. Suffering a heavy shower on the cycle home did not dampen the spirits at our Friday evening social online. So, we continue to plan, to watch museums open in Europe and learn from their experiences, change the plans again and again, and set a timetable for decisions on re-opening. Those plans will likely include timed tickets, later opening hours and probably days for families and evenings for adults alone. I feel like the Director of a play where the scenery is being built for a production not yet written, the leading roles as yet un-cast and the opening night uncertain and to a reduced audience!
We headed into lockdown committed to keeping the Museum alive in your hearts, minds and across your digital devices. The Learning, Curatorial, Digital and Hidden London teams have been producing exciting new content for you to access from home. Our new Activities at Home page has quizzes, games and resources for families with children of all ages. Some are specifically aligned to the primary curriculum, blending history, science and making whilst also supporting core reading and comprehension skills. We have even recreated our popular under-5’s singing and stories sessions.
Many schools across the UK re-opened on Monday 1 June and we wish all staff, parents and carers and children well with this new phase. Whilst it must be exciting to be back in the classroom, there must also be lots of challenges and lots to get used to. We are thinking about ways in which we can support schools across London locally and digitally now and into the new academic year. If you have a child at school or you are a teacher and you have an idea for how the Museum can support your school, please get in touch email@example.com.
Finger’s crossed, it won’t be too long before we are able to open the Museum and possibly even the Acton Depot again. Thinking about how to ensure your visit is safe, clean and socially distanced helps us to understand how to reimagine the visitor experience so that it continues to be fun, interesting and enriching. We are exploring making use of our outdoor spaces, how digital apps and trails might add interactivity to a visit, pre-packed making kits and small scale live experiences amongst many other things.
In spite of this being a challenging time for the Museum, we are also really proud to have continued to deliver some of our more specialised programmes too. Our young people’s skills programme supports young Londoners aged 16-25 who are in low or no employment/under employed and are seeking meaningful careers in the cultural and transport sectors. Since the end of March, we have delivered 373 hours of digital learning through interactive employability workshops; we have engaged our young freelancers in work across the Museum and we have delivered some soundscape workshops with young people in Thamesmead. We know that as we emerge from this crisis life will be challenging and we are committed to playing our part in shaping a positive future for everyone.
Although our physical shop doors in Covent Garden have been closed, our online shop has been very much open and trading well thanks to your support. Fortunately our online shop is fulfilled by an external fulfilment company who have done an amazing job getting orders to our customers as quickly as possible. Our online partner also fulfils for the online shops of several other charities so they quickly adapted to providing socially distanced, safe working measures for all their staff, with any office based staff working from home.
March was a particularly busy time for the Retail team as it’s when we’re signing-off our Christmas ranges. So, after the team quickly adjusted to working from home, and getting used to video conferencing(!), we turned our attention to Christmas and adding the final touches to this year’s Christmas knitwear and fairtrade bauble designs. I think this year’s design is our best yet so sign up to our enewsletter to be the first to see it when it launches later in the year.
We’ve seen some interesting trends in online sales since the start of lockdown, including lots of home improvement purchases such as our iconic prints, posters and exclusive moquette furniture. We’ve also sold lots of game and puzzles to keep the family busy. One thing we’ve noticed which is very heart-warming is the sending of gifts to people, so it’s nice to think we’re helping to put a smile on someone’s face during this difficult time.
In recent weeks, our focus has now shifted to re-opening the shop in Covent Garden. We’re looking at how best to promote a socially distanced and pleasant shopping environment which may mean the removal of some shop floor fixtures and managing the numbers of people entering and exiting the shop. We’ll be following Government guidelines, increasing our cleaning and installing screens around our till points to keep our staff and customers safe. The team especially our Shop Manager, Simon, is desperate to get back on the shop floor to welcome you all again soon.
Thank you for your continued support. Every purchase helps us to re-open our doors so please do keep visiting our online shop.