Friday, 27 January 2012

HMD London 2012

I was at the 2012 HMD Commemoration in London on behalf of Portraits for Posterity  and saw quite a number of our sitters there. This tower of coloured perspex tiles is the creation of The Decorators - but the symbolism has to be explained.

 Emily Maitlis and Jonathan Freedland presented the event which included video messages from the Chief Rabbi, Archbishop of Canterbury and Prime Minister plus candle-lighting led by Ben Helfgott and a  prayer marvellously sung by cantor Jonny Turgel, grandson of Gena T and Sam Gardner.  Singing too from the Solid Harmony Choir and Roma music from Aven Romale.  Then an address by Rt Hon Eric Pickles, Minister for  Communities and Local Govt, the dept that funds HMDTrust.  Thankfully he spoke well, about his recent visit to Auschwitz, where he encountered tourists from South Korea and was startled to find the extermination camp on the European historical heritage trail of must-see sights or sites.  Interestingly, the govt  last month granted £2m towards the conservation of Auschwitz as a museum site, which I did not know.  Pickles also quoted from Trude Levi's testimony.
Below is the HMD installation in Trafalgar Square - pillars for public to sign and write messages on.  The fountains were illuminated in scarlet as if spraying blood.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

HMD in York 2012

Portraits for Posterity features in the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations organised in York this year, in the city and at the University.  The portrait selection features Survivors now living in and around Leeds, together with others from different regions of Britain.
Jacki Reason  and Matt Writtle will represent the project and I’ll hope to post a picture.      Meanwhile, details here:

Here are four of the Portraits on exhibition at the New School House Gallery

Thursday, 19 January 2012

MAY MORRIS postage stamp

how many people still send letters by post?  and how many fewer queue to buy stamps at dwindling
 numbers of post offices?  which I imagine is the only way to obtain special issue stamps.
But one of the new series issued on 23 February may come your way.

It commemorates the 150th anniversary of the birth of May Morris - at Red House in Bexleyheath on 25 March 1862 - and features her Orange Tree embroidery design.
I'm not sure why May has been selected for this honour, and named among nine other Britons of Distinction on first-class stamps, but it's a welcome recognition.  Later this year the anniversary will be marked by a display of her designs, artworks and portraits in the Coach House at the William Morris Society, Upper Mall, Hammersmith. 

PS the other Britons featured are seen here

WMG Rebuilding

The Brangwyn Trustees [of whom I am one] had a site visit to the William Morris Gallery to view progress on redevelopment, which is scheduled for completion in July - not long in building terms, but we could see how it may be done, with over 40 workers busy on site.  Even as the main roof is being replaced and the extension wing to house exhibition space and cafe is still rising [see photo above], on the top floor plastering, floor-laying and toilet plumbing [see below] is underway.  More important than speed is quality and retention of the spirit of the place despite all the interventions over the decades.  Opened up, the spaces of the original Essex villa are extremely attractive notwithstanding the acrows and cabling right now. They feel not just spacious but gracious - hopefully this can be maintained even when fitted out with museum displays and visitor paraphernalia.  The omens look good  and wholly vindicate William Morris's visionary founding of SPAB, to protect and repair old buildings without destroying their souls.

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Saturday, 14 January 2012

William Morris and the Swinish Rich

The display of star items from the collection of the William Morris Gallery [currently under re-development] at the new exhibition venue 2 Temple Place on London’s Embankment has proved very popular with visitors over the past two months.  Which is good news for the WMG and 2TP but ironic also.  Two Temple Place is a curiosity building, designed by the ‘great Goth’ John Loughborough Pearson for the billionaire W.W.Astor as a pied-a-terre (his main house being Cliveden).  Perpendicular without, the interior is all mock-Tudor panelling, timber staircase, elaborate ceilings, decorated with carved figures of Astor’s heroes and heroines, from history and fiction.   When first proposed as a venue for the WMG collection, it seemed unlikely to work as a setting for Morris’s already elaborate designs, fabrics, stained glass, but it does – just. 
The irony is that both Astor and Hoare’s Bank, funders of the Bulldog Trust that owns 2TP, are representatives of the rich capitalist sector whose downfall was energetically sought by William Morris the Socialist.    This overlays another irony, of which Morris himself was acutely aware – even before he embraced Socialism, he deplored the fact that his high-craft furnishings were so expensive that his business was constantly ‘ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich’.
Then there is the contrast between the site of 2TP and that of the WMG, at the northern end of the Victoria Line in the blighted borough of Waltham Forest which struggles with impoverishment and social deprivation.  Visitors no doubt flocked to 2TP in part to see a building only recently opened to public view, but they have never flocked to the WMG, owing to its location (when re-opened, it will have a cafĂ©, which should help).
Artist David Mabb plays, seriously, with Morris wallpapers and wellie boots.  He gave a thought-provoking presentation at the Courtauld Institution last week, laying out the unresolved contradictions between Morris’s political ideas and his pastoral patterns. 

William Morris and the Swinish Rich

HMD 2012

The life of Holocaust Survivor Dora Love is being celebrated on 24 January  as part of this year's University of Essex Holocaust Memorial Week.  Her portrait taken by Matt Writtle for Portraits for Posterity will be hung in the foyer as friends and colleagues  hold an evening in memory of Dora and her life - and also think about how we, the present generation, can continue the work of the Holocaust survivors once they are not with us any more and cannot speak of the horrors they lived through with the authenticity of a survivor. The evening is not intended to be a solemn or tearful event - rather we want to reflect with fondness the long time we had with her and the contributions that she made. It will include performances of a couple of her poems, extracts from her testimony given to the Shoah Foundation, and materials from her work at the home for Jewish child survivors in Blankenese.

The event  takes place on Tuesday, 24 January, at the Lakeside Theatre, Colchester Campus.  For details contact