by Sam Mullins OBE, Museum Director
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!
Following on from our first Project X blog post about the show character Lady T, we thought we’d introduce the second female character in the production.
Ms. Claymore doesn’t exactly come out of the same stable as Lady T. Like Lady T she is strong, attractive and dominant as a character but her role is more functional. As a child of, and believer in, the power of ‘The Administration’ she dresses in the utilitarian uniform befitting a parole officer. Only her killer heels and tight fitting top hint at the dominatrix that may well lurk behind the rigid force of her beliefs. She is not a lady to mess with.
Costume Designs created by Kevin Freeman. For more information on Project X, including videos and how to buy tickets, go to: www.projectx-london.co.uk
We saw a lovely fashion photograph recently in the Mail on Sunday You magazine which rather reminded us of the costume that Lady T wears in Project X, which was designed by Kevin Freeman. But hold on, what exactly is Project X…and who is
Well, Project X is an interactive immersive theatre experience in which you have to solve clues, find characters and walk around. It’s a clever mix of time travel, murder and cryptic clues which combine with mysterious characters in covert locations who help you to unravel strange secrets! The Project X production is the result of a collaboration between the museum and tradesecrets, a company that specialises in producing immersive interactive theatre pieces. The experience itself takes place in the heart Covent Garden so Costume Designer Kevin’s brief for all the costumes was to place theatrical characters in an area that is populated with all sorts of wonderful brightly dressed people – some actors and some just hanging out and passing by.
Lady T is one of the many characters in Project X. She is a non-conformer and does not fit into the repressive future of 2101. Instead she is a tough, straight talking marketer who, having landed in 2012, fits comfortably into the more flamboyant aesthetic of Covent Garden where she is free to celebrate her individuality. We therefore wanted Lady T to evoke a quirky Dickensian street-seller feel. In doing so Kevin has managed to tap into current A/W 2012 fashion trends…maybe we can see into the future after all!
Lady T’s look is quite hard to miss – look out for her on Saturdays and Sundays – she might just, you never know, have something to sell…
For more information on Project X, including videos and how to buy tickets, go to: www.projectx-london.co.uk
London Transport Museum has organised a community volunteer programme called the Happy Museum which aims to create a more inclusive Museum environment. The 7 volunteers working on the Happy Museum programme will develop a Handling Trolley which will be used as part of the museums Mind the Map exhibition.
The Volunteers Perspective
At the start of the project we discussed why we wanted to volunteer and what we wanted to achieve as volunteers. As a group we wanted to meet new people, gain work experience, and learn about the history of transport as well as be able to use Museum resources and work with Museum staff. We wanted to make use of our free time and for our contribution to be recognised. Last but not least we wanted to enjoy our time at London Transport Museum.
What we have done so far as a group is take a tour of both the Acton Depot and the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden. The Museum curators gave us a briefing on what the Handling Trolley is for and its role as an active exhibit. We also had a tour of the library, which will enable us to research and get a better understanding of the collection.
To see more photos from the Happy Museum volunteers see our Flickr set.
Written by James Murphy and Bryan Fulton, Volunteers