We’ve had a great time working with Burn the Curtain over the last couple of weeks on some community animation workshops at Exeter Food Bank and St Katherine’s Priory. This was part of their Imaginarium project which you can read more about here.
The concept of Victorian Xmas cards was used as a starting point. If you haven’t seen Victorian cards before take a look at some examples here. Christmas cards were invented during the Victorian era and took off in a big way in the 1880s. A demand for novelty led to a whole genre of bizarre and darkly humorous cards. Santa kidnapping naughty children, creepy clowns and dead birds were just some of the popular themes!
With this concept of a quirky, fun-loving and slightly cheeky take on the Christmas card as a starting point, we created characters based on local themes: Exeter Victorian sculptor Harry Hems’ collection of characterful medieval angels, Exeter’s blue boy and St Katherine’s medieval nuns. The workshops were aimed at being light-hearted and fun, so as well as themes suggested by us, participants were encouraged to let their imaginations run wild and create their own characters and storylines to animate.
With animations featuring minecraft characters rescuing an ice-skating snowman, nuns bowled over by giant snowballs and mischievous angles, it was a truly Victorian Xmas card-inspired result! Here are the animations, courtesy of Burn the Curtain:
It was great to be a part of Heritage Open Days this year and we were thrilled to be a part of two fantastic events!
Roman Military Exeter
The first event was A Guided Walk Around the Fortress of the Second Augustan Legion at Exeter with Dr. John P. Salvatore. This tour evolved out of a celebratory coffee with John, who has worked 50 years in archaeology this year – quite an achievement! John has a keen interest in Roman military archaeology and mentioned he runs occasional tours of Roman military Exeter. We were really keen to attend one of his tours and he kindly agreed to run one, which we organised as part of Heritage Open Days.
It was a fascinating event, transporting us back in time 2000 years to reimagine the Guildhall shopping centre as barrack blocks and Exeter Cathedral as the site of a Roman military bath-house. It was a unique opportunity for local people to see the location of excavation sites from the 1970s, with an archaeologist who worked on them. Here’s feedback from two of our eighteen participants:
We thought John Salvatore was an inspiring and imaginative speaker – he really made you ‘see’ the Romans in Exeter. The idea of walking the perimeter of the fortress was brilliant and to have a fully kitted-out Roman soldier describe daily life at the time was a real treat at the end of a terrific evening. Top marks to everyone involved.’
Linda and Ian
Dunkeswell Abbey Tour
The second Heritage Open Days event was a guided tour of Dunkeswell Abbey, delving into the skills and masterful water management of the monks who lived and worked there. The tour was part of the Connecting the Culm project which aims to make the river better for wildlife and people, and more resilient to flood and drought.
Participants found out about the resourcefulness of the Cistercians, how they managed the water landscape in the medieval period and why they chose this beautiful rural site to build their abbey. We were kindly given access by a local resident to see the impressive earthwork remains of the fish ponds, astonishing in their scale.
The beautiful weather combined with the idyllic rural location and a pop-up cafe (run by local residents) selling tea and cake made this a perfect day out. We had a great turn out with 44 people attending the tours.
We had a great time on World Book Day 2022 working with a group of children in Beacon Heath, Exeter to help them discover more about Mincinglake Valley Park and create their own book.
Our heritage educator Catherine Farnell helped the children visualise Mincinglake today, and to understand the history behind it, by creating ‘archaeological layers’ which the children could ‘excavate’ and discover finds from the past, each with their own story.
Once we’d got the group thinking about Mincinglake Valley Park and inspired them with natural objects, archaeological finds and ideas, they were each given their own Mini Mincinglake Book. The children could create whatever they wanted in their books – drawings, writing, sticking, rubbings or anything else which appealed to them. We wanted to embrace all sorts of books for World Book Day – fiction and non fiction, written books and picture books, published books and self created books. For our Mini Mincinglake project we wanted the children to express themselves and explore their thoughts and ideas in their own personalised way.
The session went really well and was great fun. We’d love to develop more ways of helping children to understand and explore their local area and to express their thoughts and ideas.
The Archaeologists gave us an inspiring session. We appreciated the excellent preparation, for keeping to our timing, producing something that engaged the different ages. And generally being very easy for the children to relate to. Great work they are doing!
Di, Elfins group leader
Many thanks to the Woodcraft Folk’s Elfins group and to Tesco Bags of Help for their community funding.