Monday, September 24, 2012

Waxham Barns, Norfolk

Last week I was telling at Waxham 16th Century built barns in North Norfolk to the first years at Acle Academy. It was part of a history and geography field trip, which works well at Waxham because the site focuses not only on the history of the building, but also it locality in terms of environment and economy over four hundred years.


I think thats what stood out for me - the detailed interpretation on many different aspects of both the barns and regions history. There were for example a number of panels focusing on the labourers over many hundred of years as well as the original owners...

Panel about local labourers

There were also some that focused on how the barn was built with displays of building techniques, half finished so their construction was clear...

Cob bricks made of clay, and straw

Knapped and squared flints

 Other panels focused on the the areas and peoples relationship with the sea. From smuggling to ship wreaks and their reclamation by the manor and the locals who often ignored the manorial rights over such material!

Reclaimed ship mast for beam

There was also information on the areas importance at the time it was built especially its vulnerability during the time of the Spanish Armada...

Local detail from a 16th century Armada map
A reconstruction of barn and manor as it might have looked at the time of the Armada

Outside there are panels focusing on the the local flora, fauna and wildlife conservation all of which helps make the barns relevant to today...

Wildlife exhibit inside the barn

All in all a stunning place and one that deserved to be rescued from neglect and certain destruction in the 90s. There is a cafe for visitors and the local beach is quite for those seeking some solitude and huge Norfolk skies. It even has its own local legend of the Devil himself and an 18th century lord of the manor, Sir Berney Bograve. The story goes that every new years eve he held a feast for six of his ancestors whose ghosts would eat with him until midnight. Not only that but on another occasion he was mowing alongside his farmhands and he boosted that he could out mow the Devil. The Devil appeared and challenged him to a race for his soul. Sir Barney accepted but strew the Devil's field with stones so that his scythe was blunted and he gave up with the words, "Barney bor, them stones do cut damm hard". So even a bit of local dialect at Waxham Barn!

There are nice touches like the sheaves in the window slits to keep out the weather

I didn't see the Devil when I was there but I did add some stories of Old Hob to my set. And if you look closely at some of the photos of panels you will see a strange figure from long ago lurking in the here and now!

Thanks to the cafe staff at Waxham for the warm welcome and to Paul and the pupils at Acle Academy for making it a fun day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Good Karma at the British Museum

I've been telling again at the British Museum, both last Saturday and on the following Monday and as usual it's been great (For two earlier visits to the museum go here and here) On Saturday I was telling 'Tales from Shakespeare' to the museum's young friends and I set up just in front of some Buddhist and Daoist deities. The fellow on the right was happy enough but the one immediately behind me had quite a scowl on his face, which probably had something to do with the fact he has been sitting still for nearly a thousand years and not because he didn't approve of my stories!

Buddhist deities to middle and right with daoist on the left
Click on image to enlarge

The following Monday I was telling to the older friends at the museum and this time I was sat in front of two Assyrian human headed and winged lions.  They once guarded the entrance to the royal palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) in what is now modern northern Iraq. Now some may think that they would be even more oppressive than Buddhist deities and yet they were not, for if you click on the image below to enlarge it you will see that the one on the left is actually smiling!

My own Assyrian guards!

I like to think it was because he enjoyed my 'Shakespeare's Bawdy' - A set of stories from early Tudor geste books that would have been well known to the Bard and which picked up on many of the themes that found their way into his plays - From love and death to farce in the form of disguise, deception and all manner of mishaps and mistakes. Certainly the friends of the museum seemed to enjoy themselves with 60 plus at each of my sessions and many returning to hear more tales.

Guerrilla Theatre in the galleries

I was honoured, especially since there were so many other events going on that night including 'guerrilla Shakespeare' with actors who having been given the script to Troilus and Cressida came together to perform the play without the benefit of any rehearsals what so ever. I sat in after my last session and enjoyed it immensely. Not only the performance, but also the weird and wonderful costume that some of the actors had put together, whilst others simply turned up quite casual. It all made for a surreal end to a great night.

Thanks to Sarah, her volunteers and all the other staff who stayed late to make it a wonderful night.

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