Monday, 27 March 2017

 Week One: First thoughts:  The Belgian Refugees in Tunbridge Wells; A Weekly Diary by Caroline Auckland
The very first thing I decided to do after joining this community project was turn to the written past. We had been asked to think about what we might like to work on, research or how we might contribute.
I decided to scan the local newspaper, the Kent & Sussex Courier, of 1914, for references to Belgian refugees in the area. Firstly to see if there were any and secondly to isolate themes. Yes, there were references and now I have a file full of themes with columns of text waiting to be dissected.
But, unexpectedly the major item which jumped out of the editions I scanned digitally on British Newspaper Archives on-line was not an editorial piece, it was an advertisement.
An ephemeral filler, the search function had located the word ‘Belgian’ and provided me with the first challenge to my perception of this project.

Figure 1 Kent & Sussex Courier, Advertisement for Weekes Department Store, Friday 27 November 1914, p.4.

Full transcript:
Now Open
R.W. Weekes’
Grand Christmas Bazaar.
British Toys for British & Belgian Children.
Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!
British, French, Belgian, Russian and Indian Soldiers.
R.H. Artillery. Boy Scouts and Transport.
Naval Landing Parties. 4.7 Guns.
English Castles as Fort
British Squawk-a-Boo   Fur Animals
All Kinds of Games   Dean’s Books and Rag Toys.
‘Meccano’ for model construction, a splendid pastime for Boys.
Please enquire about the £200 ‘Meccano’ prize Competition.
Christmas cards and Calendars.
Tom Smith’s Crackers Lanterns and decorations.
R.W Weekes
Opposite S.E. & C.R. Station, Tunbridge Wells

An advertisement for Christmas toys is worded ‘British Toys for British & Belgian Children’.
This posed the following issues:
A respectable shop advertises its wares. Seasonally marketing products to increase its own profits.
By introducing a nationalistic title to ‘children’, defining them as either British or Belgian within the same sentence, both groups them as a collective - ‘children’ and separates them as different from each other within that definition. ‘British Toys for British & Belgian Children’ also promotes home produced items, but by prefixing the child with a country of origin suggests that the child from one country is different to another.
Do they need different toys?
Implicit is gender reference. 
The advertisement suggests they need: ‘Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!
‘British, French, Belgian, Russian and Indian Soldiers.’ The miniature toys of war, but even they are defined by race.

Is this to appeal to the Belgian families to come and buy toys for their children?
Or is this an altruistic appeal to the local community to visit the store to buy toys to donate to the refugees who have arrived with very little and are being provided with clothing and homes by local committees, families and the church?

Have their children become objects of social curiosity, almost playthings, a counter celebrity status, and the children of war. They become the ‘other’ the outsiders, their needs defined by their place of birth or departure and slightly exotic in their differences.
Dolls are not listed by type but toy soldiers are- all from the same side of the war but still distinguished by nationality with no opposition mentioned- no Germans, Turks or Austrians?

Here is a postcard of Weekes- with it awnings. Its close proximity to the railway station is also interesting. This station is where many of the refugees arrived in Tunbridge Wells and it is also the main travel artery to London and the coast. Which, significantly, is even mentioned in the advertisement ‘R.W. Weekes Opposite S.E.& C.R. Station, Tunbridge Wells’ therefore it could be suggested positioning itself as a symbol of modernity, movement and connections.

 Figure 2 1911 Postcard, Unknown Publisher. Weekes, Tunbridge Wells
It is also important to consider the rest of the page, what is this advertisement placed next to? What is the editorial content of the rest of the page? What other editorials also appear?
I would love to know if Tunbridge Wells Museums has a selection of dolls and toy soldiers from this period, plus the other toys mentioned. This could make an interesting small exhibition to run in conjunction with this project.

All questions to mull over during the next week.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Lino-cutting the Victorians

Cards and postcards are relatively easy to produce as long as the photographic image is appealing but sometimes you don't want to produce an image that looks directly like a symbol of mourning. But cemeteries can be a wonderful source of original inspiration.
One of my favourite angels is in Tunbridge Wells Cemetery and here she is:

This monument is to Gertrude Mary Engledue, (1868-1952) she was reputed to have been the second wife of Sir Arthur Henderson Fairbairn (1852-1915), the first Deaf and Dumb baronet who resided in Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells.

But enough of history, today I took the photograph and turned this celestial being into a lino-cut during another craft work shop with Elizabeth Harbour.

After lots of this , the following emerged

And a while later after intensive concentration

And actually. considering it is my first attempt I am quite happy with the result.

Thank you again Elizabeth and Tunbridge Wells Museum for another inspirational day. 

Elizabeth Harbour :

Tunbridge Wells Museum: Tunbridge Wells Museum

Friends of Tunbridge Wells Cemetery

Saturday, 5 November 2016

One I Made Earlier

               What to do after finishing an MA? The books are not tidied away nor the papers filed. I am awaiting the final confirmed result and feel a little in limbo land. So when in doubt go back to a museum. I am so lucky to have Tunbridge Wells Museum as my local resource. Others may go shopping on a Saturday, I go back to the past. This time not to research but to play, to be inspired and to relax a little.  I was worried I had forgotten how to just be, to have no expectations, no requirement for precision.

         The academic course followed me in my head as I wandered around the museum looking for inspiration. Should the object I chose be Victorian?  If I copy it will it be plagiarism?  Can I even remember how to hold a pencil to draw rather than take notes in the British Library?

I should not have worried, in the expert hands of Elizabeth Harbour the inner child emerged and I chose this horse brass for inspiration. Liking its contained, repetitive pattern, its smallness and solid metallic surface I started to draw.

But as the process continued, I realised just how difficult it is to repeat patterns perfectly and physically I could feel myself relax. The shoulders which had been weighed down with academia began to feel lighter and my drawing began to move outside of the contained space. Perfect hearts wanted to be different from the hearts next to them, they wanted to leave the circle, fly off into their own space, to elongate and kick left and right rather than just tick a box of perfection.

            After tracing , I was let loose with a scalpel and my heart truly began to beat.

Using the plastic film, similar to the type normally used for covering my children's school books, the template emerged.

 Roller-brushed with acrylic paint and then randomly outlined a few hearts with black fabric pen and my tote bags were hung to dry.

                    I saved the hearts cut free from the page and popped them into a saucer.

The others in the class were creating amazing items all inspired by different objects from around the museum, butterflies and birds from the Natural History Section being a particular source of reference. So I carried on playing and scattered my hearts as if they were being blown by the wind, the bold blue a visual representation of strong gusts.

                                          Then love in a dark place:

                                          A great way to spend a Saturday.

                                               Thank you to :

Elizabeth Harbour :

Tunbridge Wells Museum:

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Notes from the Archive: Post 4 and a half

Yes, a massive image. Because that is how large this whole experience has been for me. I did write another blog post, but it in the end that stays on the back burner or rather it has been inserted into the MA conclusion because it came from the heart. Although it might be edited or even edited out, it needs to sit awhile amongst academic reasoning although it is a personal response.

This has been the hardest two years of my life. However, I would not have swapped it for a comfortable existence. I count my blessings and my library tickets. My access to the British Library, Senate House and Birkbeck, JStor and on-line Victorian periodicals. I love my new friends who are as mad as I am, who adore Victorian cemeteries, smelly books and highlighting the printed page. I've enjoyed the meeting of minds, the feeling out of my depth and the new literature written before I was born. It has been a self-education from which I am yet to graduate.

That self-sabotage voice says 'give-up', but I don't want to. I have a duty to finish what I have started, if only for myself and to tell a little story from the past.  

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Notes from the Archive : Part Three

                                This image has nothing to do with the archive, directly.
                                      It is from a place I visit when I need to think.

When I have had enough of this.

And am feeling rather like this.

                                           Today, the archive moved to London.
                                I entered through this enormous black heavy door.

                            Armed with with my appointment details and identification.

                                      Plus, the obligatory pencil and sharpener.
                                        I can't abide writing with a blunt instrument.

                    Whilst I turned pages and stared at microfiche film, my eyes feeling sore;

I realised this portal to times past is where I am happiest.
The archive, with its silent words, speaks to me with such a clarity that I feel at home. 

                     The world carries on, outside, building auditoriums to modernism.

Watched by the Triton by William McMillan.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Notes from the Archive : Part Two

 'If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.' 

 Lewis Carroll 

                                               Not what you expected to see?
                                                            I didn't either.

 But, I realized when I walked into my garden, that I had missed the apple blossom.
I wondered what else I had missed.

                    The days out exploring, the nights in watching rubbish on the TV.
                     It isn't just the changing seasons that seem to have passed me by .

                    So, from now on, in between the studying and the procrastination,
                                   I am endeavouring to walk outside.

It might be considered a form of deviation from the end goal.
I call it, thinking time around the archives.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Notes from the Archive

So here I am again. After a long time away from my blog I felt the need to return to these pages.
I am now writing my dissertation for my MA in Victorian Studies.
Frankly I feel a little rusty.

I have missed my morning pages, my scribbles and my writing classes with the wonderful Sarah  Salway. 

I can't even really say exactly what I am writing about for fear of plagiarising myself.
But the visuals are a clue, of time and place.
But not of gender or artefact.

I have discovered that I love archives, old papers, illegible handwriting and the smell of lives lived.This is the view from my archive chair. Although I do choose a different aspect each time I visit.

Today, was particularly beautiful.
After the couple of hours spent with my head in books, I decided to shake it all off.

I walked amongst rhododendrons fragrant with azaleas heady scent.  

 Finding this hidden pond reminded me of Monet's Water Lilies. It may be slightly out of focus but that resembles my research at the moment, it's all just an impression and I am looking for clarity. The writing must be academic so for now the blog page will continue with that other writing tool of mine - my eyes. In the future, if the commas and semi-colons are all in the right place then I might be able to share what has occupied me for months but until then I will occasionally post from the research field with visual reminders of a place once home to a family who were very innovative.