Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life is among a long list of 20 museums for the Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award. From Scotland to Southsea, Cardiff to Cumbria, there are museums that entertain and entrance visitors of all ages. And from the necklace of dried frogs at World Museum to Andy Warhol in Wolverhampton Art Gallery, they have stories to share and real things to wonder at.
The long-listed museums have been nominated because they go out of their way to make you feel welcome. They organise archaeological digs for your teenagers. They provide messy play for your toddler right beneath an awe-inspiring work of art. They are places where you can be comfortable, hang out, chill and chat.
“Museums are changing and visitors are becoming more and more discerning – including my three kids!” says Dea Birkett, Director of Kids in Museums. “It’s no longer enough to offer a few finger paints for five year olds. Visitors have said in their hundreds that they want the whole family – from fifteen to a few months – to feel they belong among the Mummies and Old Masters. That’s the challenge they’ve set museums. And that’s what the long list are working so well towards meeting.”
The long-listed museums are:
World Museum, Liverpool
Haslemere Educational Museum, Surrey
Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands
National Army Museum, London
The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent
River and Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Jewish Museum, London
Museum of English Rural Life, West Berkshire
Brixham Heritage Museum, Devon
Geffrye Museum, London
The Cardiff Story
Cumberland House Natural History Museum, Southsea
Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon
Wolverhampton Art Gallery
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives
Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Cumbria
What Happens Next?
A distinguished panel of judges, chaired by Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, pick a shortlist. The shortlisted museums are road-tested anonymously by families.
Commenting on the news Pippa Griffith, the Museum’s Curator, said: “We are thrilled with the news. We’ve tried really hard to ensure the museum is family friendly, and this news reflects that. We’d like to say a huge thank you to the people our visitors and supporters who nominated us. This national recognition stems from the support of local people.”
When people think of surfing they might think of Hawaii, California or the Beach Boys. Yet there is an altogether different culture which is on our doorstep in North Devon. It’s one in which people move away from good jobs for the opportunity to live by the sea and paddle out in the middle of winter in thick wetsuits in order to catch the best swell in the right conditions. Yet, despite its obvious pull, it’s often hard to put into words exactly what it is that makes it different.
For everyone it is a case of wanting to get away from the day-to-day and capture those moments on a wave which seem to take us outside of time and yet live on in our memories forever. But it’s also about sitting ‘out the back’ beyond the waves, watching the rise and fall of the sea as if counting time to the heartbeat of the world. To see oyster catchers playing or maybe catch a glimpse of a porpoise. In a world full of noise, bureaucracy and a vacuous celebrity culture it is to experience silence. To immerse yourself fully in the beauty of the natural world. To feed the soul and admire the beauty of the creation which surrounds us.
For an overview about surfing in North Devon by Tim Kevan – with stunning photos by Roy Riley and Jamie Bott – see the winter 2011 issue of Exmoor The Country Magazine, out now in the shops. There is a full list of stockists, including those in Woolacombe, Croyde and Braunton, on our website.
And why not subscribe for yourself or as a gift for Christmas?Just £13.95 for a year – the perfect present for anyone who loves the area. Call 0845 224 1203.
Wimbleball Lake has been nominated to be the first Dark Skies Discovery Site on Exmoor and to celebrate there will be a launch at Outdoor + Active Wimbleball this Friday, 25 November, to which everyone is welcome. The evening will begin at 6pm and end at 8.30pm with stargazers being given the opportunity to stay later to continue watching the heavens if the weather is right.
A number of local astronomy groups will attend and present a series of talks and there will also be telescopes available for people to see the wonders of the night sky for themselves. The event is free and people are recommended to wrap up warmly and bring a torch; refreshments will be provided by South West Lakes Trust.
Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, the first place in Europe to achieve this prestigious award and only the second in the world. Emma Dennis, Landscape Officer at Exmoor National Park, says: “The Dark Sky Discovery project gives us a great opportunity to involve communities in and around the National Park in promoting our award winning dark skies as well as the conservation of the resource for the benefit to local people and visitors alike.
“From a city centre location we might see about 100 stars with our naked eyes, and the further away from the streetlights you go, the better the view becomes. Under a really dark sky we can see over a thousand stars and can even see our own galaxy, The Milky Way, stretching across the sky.”
Wimbleball Lake is a fantastic location for stargazing within the Exmoor National Park International Dark Sky Reserve. Individual or group activities can take place with level hard surfaced areas for setting up your telescope that overlook the scenic lakeside with clear big sky views far from any light pollution. South West Lakes Trust is planning to hold a Star Camp in March 2012. Please contact Wimbleball on 01398 371460 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
An exciting new trail will be found at National Trust’s Arlington Court this winter. Every weekend in November and December, inquisitive visitors will be able to explore the grounds of the Regency House near Barnstaple by following the plot of a well-known novel by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Arlington will be the setting for several vignettes taken from the book, from going through the wardrobe doors to discovering the White Witch in her snowy kingdom. The trail booklet (disguised as a ration book) will be full of clues to help adventurers follow the story line.
There will be stickers and rubbings to collect, as well as a secret code to unlock the treasure chest for a special prize. Children will also be able to decorate their own crowns to become king or queen of Narnia.
On 18, 19 and 20 December a very special guest will arrive with an extra sticker to complete the trail booklet; Father Christmas will be visiting Arlington Court and bringing gifts for all good girls and boys.
The trial will cost £1.50 per child and children of any age are encouraged to participate. To launch the event, anyone who arrives as a character from Narnia on 5 or 6 November can participate free of charge.
The report contains a full update on the new website, a summary of shows visited, an overview of marketing work last year and plans for the future and much more besides. The report has been sent to many providers and can also be downloaded here.
The annual Exmoor Tourism Conference is scheduled to take place on the 23 November at Exford. Further details will be available on the website in the near future.
Blackmore Farm in Cannington, Somerset has been named AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for England 2011-2012, beating off stiff competition from all over the country.
The official AA press release states:
“Blackmore Farm in Cannington, Somerset has been awarded the prestigious honour of being named AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for England 2011. The announcement was made at the AA’s Bed and Breakfast Awards at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in London on Monday 16 May. With prizes provided by AA Hotel Services’ partner Villeroy & Boch, this annual Awards event recognises and rewards the excellent services provided by the UK’s very best B&B establishments. Blackmore Farm, run by Ann and Ian Dyer, is a stunning 15th Century, Grade 1 listed Manor House nestled in the foothills of the Quantock Hills in Somerset. Guests get the opportunity to step back in time when they stay at Blackmore Farm as it retains many period features including oak beams, stone archways and medieval garderobes. The Dyer family offer guests a friendly welcome, beautiful surroundings and wonderful home cooked meals. Along with the guest accommodation Blackmore Farm is home to a farm shop, café and self-catering accommodation. Simon Numphud, AA Hotel Services Manager, said, “The AA is delighted to name Blackmore Farm as the AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for England for 2011-12. With old world grandeur, this establishment offers a truly memorable experience and is fully deserving of its title.””
Ian and Ann have been receiving bed and breakfast guests in their home for the last 22 years. They were both shocked and delighted to be recognized by the AA for their hard work at the Awards Ceremony in London. Ian said, “We are over the moon to win this award as recognition of the hard work that both ourselves and the staff do to make sure that our guests have a terrific and memorable stay.”
The UK Film Council’s most recent figures show that we, as a nation, have fallen back in love with cinema. Last year 173.5 million people bought tickets, the second biggest box-office turnout since 1971 – beginning of the home entertainment era that saw our romance with cinema cool as we all bought TVs and video players. Ten years later, leaving the house to see a movie was a little bit passé. Many cinemas were turned into bingo halls in the 1980s.
Fortunately, the gloomy demise that saw thousands of screens close in last century’s latter decades is now as much a part of cinema history as toffee sticks, intermissions, B-movies and usherettes scanning red-lit torches through swirls of cigarette smoke looking for the last spare seat. Ah the nostalgia. Of course it was more likely in those days that the dodgy sound system would pack up or the film reel would snap but most of us have happy memories of huddling in the dark, cradling our paper bag of sherbet and being transported…
Happily, it’s not over. In 2009 over a million of us went to the cinema at least once a month. For the theatres in, and on the fringes of, Exmoor – Wellington, Ilfracombe, Lynton and Barnstaple – this roughly translates into 4,000 visitors per week – a fairly healthy number. But why the turnaround? Why have we all gone back? Home cinema set-ups are better and cheaper than they have ever been. We can watch crystal images on massive screens playing perfect surround sound with our chosen friends and pause everything to put the kettle on. It sounds good. Apparently though – it’s a bit dull.
The cinema, by contrast, is exciting, and more exciting now than ever before. The films are good, often visually spectacular, and theatres are making a huge effort to improve facilities and choice. Even the food and drink is… well, it’s unique and we like it now and then. Most importantly though, going to the cinema/movies/flicks/pictures is sociable. It’s easier to cry in a cinema where it’s dark and everyone’s doing the same. It’s somehow more satisfying to laugh too when the people around are also laughing. The appeal is in the collective experience – whatever that might be.
One of my favourite cinema moments happened during the newest ‘Star Trek’ film when the entire audience held onto their chairs, rocked from side to side and threw their popcorn around in the “I canna push her any harder cap’n” turbulence scenes. One of the warmest was the final scene of ‘Marley & Me’ when boxes of tissues were passed up and down the aisles. The beauty of seeing hundreds of outstretched hands trying to touch the floating parasol seeds in ‘Avatar 3D’ and the thrilled expressions of a few hundred children who are literally on the edge of their seats urging Harry Potter to get up again and fight on are magical times. It’s just not the same in your living room. And then there’s the pleasure of digital re-mastering which has given us the chance to see all those old movies as they were intended to be seen – huge, loud and in public.
It is still a treat – an affordable, special night (or day) out and one that the people of Exmoor and its surrounds can enjoy in many different ways – even the more conventional set-ups have some delightful quirks that only add to the experience.
First, the full-time cinemas…
Quirky certainly describes the stylish Art Deco Wellesley on Mantle Street in Wellington. It is unusual for a modern cinema, retaining the traditional theatre style of one auditorium divided into stalls and a circle. The façade is a monument to 1930s architecture and the striking interior has everything gracefully ageing film lovers hold dear, minus a person appearing out of the floorboards playing an organ during the interval. Offering a full programme of blockbusters and classics, the Wellesley is making an admirable effort to cater to all tastes with tickets almost half the price of a standard multiplex.
At the opposite end of the Exmoor catchment is another treasure from a bygone age, brought bang up to date with a two-million-pound refurbishment by owners Scott Cinemas. The Central Cinema in Barnstaple first opened its doors in 1931 as the Gaumont Palace and seated well over 1,000 people in a plush single auditorium with an East-meet-West blend of art deco and oriental soft furnishings. There followed a chequered journey through the century which included the Central being split in half with the stalls becoming… a bingo hall – and the circle remaining a cinema. Today, the Central is a modern, stylish environment with four screens (soon to be six), a restyled foyer, contemporary café/bar and everything necessary for the optimum cinematic experience – new seats, new screens, perfect sound, etc. It is also the only one of our featured cinemas that currently shows films in 3D, although others are rapidly working their way towards providing this facility.
Along the coast, Ilfracombe is home to another remodelled period piece – the Embassy, prominently placed in the High Street and sporting an unmissable sky-blue façade. This small but perfectly-formed cinema boasts three screens and six films on show every week. It also has some wonderful little extras – a bar, a staff of film buffs who are not afraid to call a turkey a turkey and the sumptuous Screen 7, a lot of luxury in a little auditorium. Expect to find leather armchairs and sofas, a table for your cocktails and the opportunity to hire the whole thing and choose your own film. Possibly the perfect hybrid of home comforts and full-on cinema experience.
Last but certainly not least of our full-timers is the tiniest full-time cinema in the country and the smallest cinema in Devon. Continuing a tradition of film that began with silent movies in the Picturedome in 1916, Lynton is now home of the Lynton Cinema. Opened in 2001 on completion of a project to convert the former Methodist Chapel, this unique picture house has top-quality sound, full air conditioning and comfortable seats for 68 people and is especially noteworthy for allowing plenty of legroom. Films are up to the minute and change frequently, accommodating both children and adults during the summer months and providing a special Monday afternoon matinée in the winter along with nightly performances at 8pm. There is even parking right outside. Like most of the cinemas featured, the ticket prices are well below average.
Then there are the part-time cinemas or film societies.
Minehead’s meets monthly at the Regal in the Avenue, home of cinema in the town since 1934 with an exceptionally large screen and roomy traditional auditorium. It is the largest film society in the South West and the second largest in the UK. Co-organiser Victoria Thomas said its purposes include “giving exposure to films that might not get the coverage they deserve” and to “provide local people with more opportunities to view high-quality films”.
The society does not discriminate against box-office failures or successes. Commercial and non-commercial films in English and other languages are selected from both the British Federation of Film Societies and the Independent Cinema Office’s special screenings. The Regal Film Society goes from strength to strength, with over 300 in the audience to see Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer in ‘The Last Station’ at the end of the 2009/10 season. This year Victoria and her associates have spearheaded the formation of the Dulverton Film Society that launched its first season in the Town Hall (bring a cushion) in September with a healthy membership of over 100 people from the town and around. There is now dual membership available for both societies.
Smaller, but by no means less estimable, is Film South Molton where eight performances per year are screened on Sunday evenings in the sumptuous surroundings of The George in Broad Street, accompanied by drinks from the bar, hot chocolate and homemade cake. Alongside the usual itinerary there are also special events – a live pianist improvising the soundtracks to silent movies and films of particular local interest that help garner community support.
Such enthusiasm for film is evident across Exmoor and it is not restricted to places that have a sizeable population. The tiniest film society in the region meets year round on the second Thursday of the month in Brompton Regis where a good proportion of the population of around 450 head to the Village Hall (cushions again) for an interesting programme of diverse films complete with interval ice creams. If you think your community would enjoy something similar, there are options. One is to start your own film society. Another is to get in touch with Moviola, a South West organisation run by a bunch of terribly enthusiastic people who describe themselves as ‘evangelists for community cinema’. In a nutshell, Moviola will bring all things cinema to your village hall, school, church, etc; a large adjustable screen, a high-quality sound and vision system and the films you choose from their long and diverse lists. Most importantly, they bring a hassle-free community experience, their passion, expertise and friendliness. Established in 2001, attendances at their film shows have leapt from 2,528 in the first year to a staggering 46,486 last year.
Finally, to underline cinema’s newfound popularity, it is pertinent to mention the re-emergence of a cinematic sensation first experienced in the late sixties and restored today for our viewing pleasure. The Vintage Mobile Cinema is the beautifully eccentric and last surviving purpose-built Bedford mini cinema seating 22 in a sound-proofed, climate-controlled environment with both HD and surround sound. Based in North Devon, its history and the labour of love that saw its restoration reach a nail-biting but ultimately satisfying climax is itself a worthy subject for a movie. It is available for private hire, for public events and charity fundraisers. Capable of turning any reasonably accessible Exmoor location into a cinema venue, it is surely the ultimate gift for anyone who adores film.
Tim Pywell, Chair of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Somerset Local Association met representatives of West Somerset Mineral Railway project recently to present a ‘Highly Commended’ accolade in the Building Conservation Category of the RICS 2010 South West regional awards for the Railway’s work.
The project required swift but sympathetic intervention to preserve three rapidly degrading historic sites forming part of the former West Somerset Mineral Railway – an important part of Exmoor’s late Victorian iron ore mining heritage. It included of the repair and rescue of Bearland Chimney, a scheduled monument; restoration and conservation works to allow the opening up of the ruins of Langham Engine House; and repair and conservation of a 1.1km long railway formation running between the top of Brendon Hill and Comberow.
Rob Wilson-North, Historic Environment Manager with Exmoor National Park Authority said: “I am delighted that the West Somerset Mineral Railway Project has received this Award. The judges liked the project as a whole and described it as ‘an impressive educational and leisure resource’. This reflects the commitment of all the project partners and is also testimony to the quality of the industrial heritage of this area.”