Tag Archives: exhibitions

Ditchling and the Downs

In April, I visited the recently-opened Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft. The tiny Sussex village of Ditchling was home to Eric Gill and his apprentice Joseph Gibb, where they founded the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic. Gill gathered around him a number of talented men and women artists, who were inspired by the ethos of the late-Victorian arts and crafts movement whilst evolving a new kind of English modernism that bridged the medieval and the present day. (Gill, of course, is well known for his iconic typeface Gill sans as well as for his unorthodox sexual practices).

The exhibition is smart and high quality – less is more for this architect-led redesign that unifies a collection of farm buildings through strategic use of honest metal and wood materiality. The interpretation is, as expected, beautifully designed by graphic design heavyweight Phil Baines, with elegant wayfinding symbols (also found on the cafe’s cups and plates). Sadly, I found the writing on those panels failed to catch my attention, and often left panels half-read, even in this very small exhibition. Given that I had an existing interest in the subject matter, I suspect I just wasn’t in the mood, or that the text was dense or dull in a way that made it hard to digest whilst standing up and walking around. I’ll be interested to revisit and see how my outlook changes.

From Ditchling, you can follow a very lovely walk across the Downs to Lewes, only 5 or 6 miles away, and from there, take the train back to London. A perfect little day.

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Filed under Adventures, exhibitions, Life

Rainbow Jews; the exhibition

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Last year, I started working with Rainbow Jews, a pioneering oral history project supported by Liberal Judaism  that tells the untold story of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in the UK. On 2nd February, we installed the fruits of our labour at the London School of Economics, in their Atrium Gallery; and on February 6th we held a launch event – which, despite tube stries and dreadful weather, was incredibly well attended.

For this exhibition, the Rainbow Jews team gathered long-form interviews in which people speak openly about what it is like to be both Jewish and LGBT. These oral histories are an ongoing project for Rainbow Jews and those interested in contributing should get in touch.

Many of these people had never spoken out about their faith and sexuality before, though there were others who were known for their ground-breaking visibility in being both gay and Jewish – such as gay rabbis Lionel Blue (listen to his Desert Island Discs) and Mark Solomon, and lesbian rabbis Sheila Shulman and Elli Tikvah Sarah. It became clear that the networks and support groups founded by Jewish LGBT people were vital to provide a new kind of community for those who felt on the outside of more traditional faith and family structures. Though I knew little about the Jewish faith, and even less about LGBT Jews, the stories drawn out through these interviews are universally compelling. Throughout the process, we aimed to speak not only to those with a specialist understanding of the subject matter, but also to those who knew very little.

The exhibition is running for a month (open Mon-Fri 10-6) and finishes on 28 February. A series of rainbow-coloured panels, which reflect in the highly polished floor, lead the viewer through the story. Two showcases hold objects, such as ephemera and memorabilia, as well as more substantial items such as the AIDS quilt. Several media points along the wall allow audiences to hear from the interviewees in more detail.

The panels are rich in content and suit in-depth reading, as the real assets of this exhibition are the voices of the interviewees. Their honesty, humour, bravery, anger, fear, relief and celebration are overwhelmingly apparent as they describe how in course of a single lifetime, to be Jewish and LGBT has gone from something completely unacknowledged, to something celebrated – with all the attendant struggles for personal and public acceptance that this kind of social history usually entails.

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2014-02-02 15.31.46 2014-02-02 15.30.36 2014-02-02 15.30.08My role in making the Rainbow Jews exhibition happen was as a volunteer curator, content developer and exhibition coordinator. I worked with the project manager, Surat Knan, and her team of volunteers who wrote exhibition script, conducted many of the interviews and assisted with specific research tasks. Graphic design was by the superb Urjuan Toosy, and the exhibition booklet (more on this soon!) was created with help from wonderful Kate Brangan.

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Filed under Creative, London, Museums, Work

Rainbow Jews – new project!

I’m thrilled to be using my exhibition development knowledge in a volunteer, “coal-face” context, working with the Rainbow Jews, organised by Surat Knan at Liberal Judaism. Although this is a totally new content world for me,  I’m hoping  I can be useful in helping to develop and deliver the temporary exhibition next February at the London School of Economics.

The exhibition is about opening people’s eyes to the intersection of Jewish and LGBT identities, more specifically, about how having a Jewish and an LGBT identity makes life doubly complex. The stories we’re telling are often fraught with struggle and emotional conflict, and strike at the heart of what it means to belong and feel happy in oneself, while at the same time answering to the expectations of others. A dedicated team has been collecting oral histories and filmed interviews from people with stories to tell.

To find out more or to get involved yourself, take a look at the Rainbow Jews website. I’ll be posting about this in more detail as we get stuck in!

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Filed under London, Museums, Work