Fabulous Fifties at the Museum of London

I’ve long been a fan of all things 1950s from rock and roll music to swingy skirts to drinks with cocktail cherries, and I’m currently glued to BBC 2’s The Hour, so naturally I was delighted to be given a couple of tickets to a late event at the Museum of London paying tribute to the 'fabulous fifties' last week.

The Museum of London is one of my favourite London museums and not only because it’s literally a stone’s throw from where I currently live. The permanent galleries tell a fascinating story of London’s history from the first people to dwell in settlements along the Thames up until the present day, and there are some great temporary exhibitions too: currently there’s an engrossing exhibition of London Street Photography from 1860 to the present day as well as a fun display of hand-drawn maps of the city in the foyer. Downstairs in the cafe, you'll also find an installation by the Light Surgeons, which is to be the first in a series of media art commissions at the museum.

I’ve been to plenty events at the museum before but this was the first event in their Late series that I’d seen, transforming the entire museum for the evening after the usual closing time. On offer was music from Laura B and the Moonlighters and The Broken Hearts DJs, vintage pin-up makeovers, talks on fifties fashion and popular culture from the museum's curators, dance classes with The London Swing Dance Society, craft workshops from  Tatty Devine, and of course, fifties-style food and drink.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the current fashion for all things vintage and nostalgic, this was a hugely popular event: the Tatty Devine workshop was so busy that sadly I didn't get chance to join in, but I was lucky enough to get my hair styled by one of the stylists from the Vanity Box, who provided a pop-up vintage salon creating 1950s hair and make-up looks. And as well as tapping my toe to a few fifties tunes, and sampling some chips in a cone, I also snapped a few shots of some of the amazing dancers twisting, strolling and hand-jiving the evening away - for once I managed to remember a camera! It was a great evening for people watching, with some amazing outfits and retro frocks on display, but what's more, it was interesting to see the museum transformed into such a buzzing and lively space for a fun evening event - this was certainly a clever strategy for drawing in new audiences, as well as to approach learning about the history of the 20th century in a different way.

This event was part of a month-long programme across the city to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain: find out about more events at Story of London.  For anyone who like me, enjoys 1950s music, you might also be interested in this fifties inspired blog written for the event by The Broken Hearts DJs featuring some of their favourite tunes from the decade.

Save our Placards!

 Back in March this year, I took part in the March for the Alternative along with about 500,000 other people. The march was a protest against the government’s spending cuts, and one of the largest demonstrations ever seen in the UK.

Being on the march was a fascinating experience: it was great to be part of such a friendly and positive crowd, meeting and talking to people about why they were there, and admiring the wealth of amazing banners and placards that people had made for the event. Never ones to resist the opportunity for a bit of drawing, cutting out and sticking, we of course made our own placards for the march too, and afterwards donated them to the Museum of London, who together with the Save our Placards team from Goldsmith’s were helping to document the occasion.
We were very excited to find out recently that one of our placards (the snappily titled March for the Squeezed Bottom, above) had been selected to take part in an exhibition, Nothing in the World But Youth, opening at the Turner Contemporary in Margate in September.You can read about the story behind our placard (and see some photos of me drawing the lettering) over at the Save our Placards blog; but more importantly, the team are still trying to trace the creators of 8 of the 12 placards selected for the exhibition. If you were on the march in March, then do take a look at the slideshow of placards, and get in touch with them if you know who made any of these beauties.

(It goes without saying that I'll of course be going to Margate to see our placard sharing exhibition space with work by Peter Blake, Sarah Lucas, Andy Warhol and many others, so watch this space come September for more...)