Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Visit to M Shed

I visited M Shed today with my cousins, Joy who lives in Thornbury and Sandra who flew over the week before last from New Jersey on a blizzard-defying visit prompted by the launch of my book, Dart.  Neither had been to this comparatively new museum before, so it was quite high up their List of Places to Visit.


I like the upstairs part of the museum better than the ground floor, as it contains more about the lives of people living in this city.  I have to say that as a novelist engaged in research, I need more detail than any museum could hope to include amongst their displays, but as a poet, there are plenty of telling details at M Shed that spark the imagination. For instance, I'd forgotten that we used to call the bits of surplus cooked batter which we often had scrumps; a story about Paper Sal, a newspaper vendor in the late 1800s and early 1900s, reminded me.  Here she is.  



Next we moved on to the exhibitions.  There was one about the chocolate-making industry in Bristol, which made me feel very nostalgic (we used to get Frys misshapes very cheaply when I was a child, from someone my father knew) and one entitled Revealing Stories, about the experiences of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people living in Bristol.  This second exhibition is long overdue and was by far the most interesting of the day's displays.  It was good to see my friend Dru Marland's story included, as well as mention of two of my colleagues who are involved in Deafab, and two of my favourite local poets, U A Fanthorpe and her partner, Dr Rosie Bailey.  There were also three pencil portraits by Malcolm Ashman of Bath Artists' Studio which made my heart jump a bit, not least because I met him on several occasions last year, when he drew a portrait of me as part of the Faces {Bath} collaboration with Bath Poetry Cafe.  

In the M Shed shop I was pleased to see a poem on sale there by local poet, Miles Chambers. 

And there was a moment of delight when we scanned a school photograph from the 1940s and my cousins picked out their mother, my Auntie Mavis, who died of breast cancer in 1979 when she was 48 and they were 19 and 17 years old, and who is much missed more than thirty years later.  It was so good to see that she is still part of our city's story.    


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