Food and flowers

By Judith Phillips

I’ve been somewhat remiss in writing about the events and talks in October and November, so here’s a report on two fascinating days that enthused everyone who took part and might well crop up again in the future…

In early October we tried something new.  Jan and Richard Crouch are food historians and, not only do they talk about food at home and in the trenches during the war, they cook too!  We had arranged the day as a ‘drop-in’ from 10.30 to 3.30 with Jan and Richard ‘on duty’ to answer questions, show examples of wartime food and encourage people to taste them, and with Richard giving a short illustrated talk at 11.00 and 2.30.  We soon realised that handing out small samples of Anzac biscuits and trench cake to museum visitors as they passed through the Entrance Hall was a great way to encourage them pop down to the Education vaults to find out more.  The event was a huge success, with over 100 people taking up the offer.

At the same time the Education team encouraged visitors to join them in creating wet-felt flowers in red (poppy), white (marguerites) and blue (cornflowers) to be added to a large canvas.  Most visitors (mainly adults) had never done wet-felting before and you could tell from the noise that everyone was having great fun.  One of the Education volunteers had painted a beautiful field as a background and vivid splashes of paint had been added to give an impression of a battle.  The wet-felt flowers will be added to the canvas and there’ll be more about this piece of community creative art in a later newsletter.

November was also a full-day.  Lee Karen Stow has had a career in documentary photography and she spent the morning running a photography workshop.  She used her own work and experience to demonstrate how photography close to home can be as rewarding as in far-flung places, how the bigger picture can develop from small beginnings and how to set about creating an exhibition.  Several workshop participants stayed on for the afternoon talk when Lee showed how she had developed her exhibition ‘Poppies: Women, War, Peace’.  Her work with women in West Africa who had been displaced and damaged by war in their own country had led her to consider the poppy – that now universal icon of remembrance and yet hope for the future.  American Moina Belle Michael was inspired by John MacCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders fields’ to make poppies for sale for veterans’ charities.  Frenchwoman Anna Guérin also saw the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for the millions lost during the war and she introduced the idea of the cloth poppy to Earl Haig.  As well as introducing us to her new exhibition ‘Torn’ which is currently on display in Hull, Lee wove the story of these women, the war-damaged women she had worked with and a series of beautifully-photographed poppies in a wide range of colours and at different stages of their lives into a fascinating illustrated talk.