It’s Ours Whatever They Say

Roz Currie, Curator


Islington has less open space than any other London borough –its twelve adventure playgrounds are vital in providing a place for the children of Islington to play. This exhibition explores the story of the adventure playground movement in Islington. It was curated by Jordan James of Islington Play Association as part of the ‘PLAY, PAST, PRESENT AND IN PERPETUITY’ project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The exhibition includes banners made by the children of the playgrounds, archive photographs from the history of IPA, and a film reflecting the early story of the organisation.

There is also a den which all visitors to the museum have helped build, change and make their own…

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To find out more about Adventure Playgrounds in Islington please visit the IPA website or look on Islington Council’s website

The History of Martin Luther King Playground

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By Jordan James

In 1968 an Adventure Playground opened for a summer play scheme on some derelict land. It was a 10 acre site surrounded by a high corrugated iron fence, completely empty and unused and there was at the time nowhere for the children to play. The Greater London Council (GLC) gave permission to the parents to use the land for a summer play scheme.

martin-luther-kingChristian Aid agreed to help fund the volunteers on the scheme on the condition that the funding was matched. One of the play workers, Anne Power, approached the Martin Luther King foundation which was giving out grants to fund community projects in multiracial areas in the county. The foundation agreed to give the playground a grant as long as it was named after Martin Luther King -it has remained that way ever since.

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MLK’s banner made for the 2016 exhibition

On the first day that they opened their gates, hundreds of children poured into Martin Luther King Playground and TV camera crews arrived to interview the mothers. By September 1968 the GLC agreed to a permanent playground on a corner of the large 10 acre site. They also announced plans to turn the rest of the site into “Paradise Park“.

The corner the Adventure Playground had been given had a derelict Woodbine Tobacco Factory on it. In the Spring of 1969, with the help of prisoners from Pentonville Prison, the Martin Luther King Association members and parents started to do up the playground.

The playground was the first project that the Foundation had supported and so they brought Coretta King, the widow of Martin Luther King, to visit. She, her sister-in-law and two of her children spent time at the playground with the mothers and children. The playground was also visited by Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

To find out more about Adventure Playgrounds in Islington please visit the IPA website or look on Islington Council’s website

The Origins of Islington Play Association

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By Jordan James

Islington Play Association was created in the early 1970s, when a rumour spread through Islington’s Playgrounds that an “outsider” was going to set up a play association. A group of Islington locals got together and decided to create an Association of their own.

“…But meanwhile we had pre-empted him, we’d had a meeting we decided we’d set up a Play Association already. So I remember when he said I think we should have a Play Association one of us put our hand out and said actually we’ve already set one up. That took the wind out of his sails; we didn’t want to be set up by somebody else.”

Margaret Pitt talking about the decision to set up Islington Play Association

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In the summer of 1973 Islington Council went on strike. This gave IPA the chance to organise the play schemes themselves, working with local community groups and hiring summer staff. Play workers at that time were paid very badly and were often students interested in working in the inner city. Many didn’t have anywhere to live so the IPA had to provide accommodation.

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 “We needed somewhere for them to stay…. So I went down to the GLC Northern District Office down at Kings Cross and I said to the manager ‘I’m desperate I absolutely need a house to put up about twenty people’ so he said, ‘Let me see what I can do for you’. So he gave us this house in Stanmore Street, it’s now been demolished and it had cold water and electricity, it had an outside loo and we just put lots of mattresses from the PDSA which is Peoples Dispense of Sick Animals which was just beside Martin Luther King Playground in those days. Then we plonked them down there with some bedding and we left them to it, and I dunno it was a bit shocking really but some of them ended up working in play permanently so it can’t have been a totally ghastly experience.”

Margaret Pitt – talking about recruiting new playworkers.

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 From such beginnings the Islington Play Association has grown and developed. It now manages six of Islington’s twelve adventure playgrounds.

To find out more about Adventure Playgrounds in Islington please visit the IPA website or look on Islington Council’s website

Flood at the Museum

Roz Currie, Curator

In May we came down into the museum to find water up to our ankles. Following very heavy rain, a deluge had raced down St John Street and come up through the basement floor of the museum.

We were very lucky that the flood was only a few inches deep. The first job was to remove as much water as possible with specialist hoovers. We also used dehumidifiers and fans to help reduce the humidity in the air and stop any mould starting to grow.

 

A lot of our objects are very sensitive to humidity. As you can see from this graph, our humidity was a lot higher than usual after the flood –it is normally about 50%, but went up to 65% at its peak.

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I took very sensitive objects off display and into the store for about a month. For example our Joe Orton book covers, which are stuck with glue, might have come apart in the damp so were packed away until normal humidity had returned.

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Hacked book cover

Floods are very bad things for museums to deal with –once objects get wet or mouldy it can be very hard to look after them. We were very lucky as no objects actually got wet. We have had one casualty which is a cast iron fireplace which has become rusty as a result of the humidity. I will be assessing it to do conservation work in the next few weeks.

WWI Embroidered Postcards: Sharing cultures, sharing lives

In 2016 artist Sarah Pimenta worked with teacher Louise Murtagh and Year 1 at Moreland Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

Second World War embroidered postcards

Leonard Mansfield was only 18 when in 1916 he left his home in Islington for the Western Front where he was a signaller. Leonard was seriously injured in a gas attack on the 25th August 1918 but survived the war.

Leonard sent a number of silk embroidered postcards to his mother and girlfriend, Margaret from the trenches . Beautiful artworks in themselves, they contain embroidered images of French and British flags, flowers, insects and seasonal messages. They give us a unique insight into personal relationships transformed by war.

Panel 7 -Mansfield wedding

Silk cards were manufactured in France from 1900 onwards but became popular throughout the conflict as souvenirs for troops to send home to family and friends in Britain. The embroidery was made at home by French and Belgian women and was then sent to factories to be made into cards. Designs include flowers, patriotic messages and the badges of individual regiments.

Leonard survived his injuries, marrying Margaret in 1925. They lived in Islington for the rest of their lives.

Moreland Primary  chose to work with these objects to explore the idea of why people send postcards . They thought the idea that Margaret had kept the postcards from Leonard so safe for so many years was a lovely message about treasuring and valuing things given to us by those we love. The simple designs of the postcards depicting images from France and England was also an interesting point to start thinking about heritage and identity visually.

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 Activity 1: My cultural heritage

  • pencils
  • paper
  1. Explore Leonard’s story with the class. Think about why we send postcards. Our class was very mulitcultural so we explored the idea of sending postcards across different cultures. We looked at how Leonard represented both his home culture and the French culture in which he was temporarily living in the designs and symbols on the postcards. We looked at how this linked into the idea of France and Britain being allies in the Second World War.
  2. Pupils spent time researching their own different cultures, looking for key symbols and colours that represented their perceived cultural identity.
  3. They then designed a postcard that combined these symbols, like a secret code that represented their cultural identity.

Activity 2: Mono printed postcards

  • A5 polytile
  • printing rollers
  • sharp pencils
  • A4 sugar paper
  • block printing ink
  1. We gave each pupil a postcard sized piece of polytile l. Using a pencil, pupils drew their postcard designs on to the polytile, filling the sheet. They needed to be careful to press hard enough into the polytile to make an indentation, but not too hard so that it pierced the polytile.
  2. Pupils put some printing ink on to the paint trays, rolling it with a printing roller until it was smooth.
  3. Pupils then used the printing roller to put ink on to their polytile, covering their design, remembering to not use too much ink.
  4. Pupils place the inked side of the polytile on to a piece of paper. They ran a clean printing roller over the back of the polytile, pressing it on to the paper. They then carefully peeled back the polytile to reveal the printed postcard design on the paper.

Activity 2: experimenting with mono printing

  • A5 polytile
  • printing rollers
  • tissue paper
  • glue
  • scissors
  • mark making tools such as stamps, bubble wrap, lego blocks etc.
  • A4 sugar paper
  • block printing ink
  1. We gave each pupil a piece of sugar paper on which to experiment with mark making techniques. Pupils used different tools dipped in ink to print onto their paper. They experiemented with pattern, shape and colour.
  2. Once dry, we also encouraged pupils to cut and glue a few strategically placed pieces of tissue paper onto their piece of paper on top of the mark making. You can again experiment with colour and shape.
  3. Once everything was dry, we then printed our polytiles again on to our sugar paper, following the instructions above.
  4. Layering techniques created interested explorations of colour.

Moreland was keen to develop its pupils literacy so we turned our artwork in to real postcards. Using Leonard’s text and format as inspiration pupils addressed and wrote their own postcards, sending them to family members.

Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the artworks created by Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School and Sarah Pimenta as part of the Imagine Islington Project.

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Hello to Islington

What is Islington? Who is Islington? When did people start living here? Why did they live here? What interesting things have happened here? What interesting things are happening right now? Angel Live Webcam

As the new curator at Islington Museum (I’m Roz) it’s my mission to tell at least part of that story. Just over 10 years ago I lived on Pentonville Road as a student, but understanding the great health benefits of tomatoes as advertised by Indian Veg on Chapel Market (it used to be a £2.99 all you could eat buffet) maybe isn’t reflective of the borough as a whole.

We have a fascinating collection in the museum and local history centre…but so many questions to answer…

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Bust of Lenin

Why is he part of the Islington story?

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New River Waterpipe

Why is this made out of wood?

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Holloway Prison 1862

What was it like to be imprisoned at Holloway?

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Clerkenwell Explosion

What happened here?

So.. in this blog we’ll be exploring Islington -the place and its people -and how it is (and isn’t) represented in our collections. I’ll also be talking about our exhibitions and hopefully inviting different guest bloggers to tell us their stories of the borough.

 

Boy Soldiers: voices from the Great War

Boy Soldiers: voices from the Great War, is a short film, commissioned by the Museum of London which tries to imagine some of the experiences of boy soldiers in the trenches.

No one aged under 18 should have been able to sign up, yet we know that over 250,000 boys fought in the war.

Research carried out by John Shepherd at Islington Museum found that over 50 boys from Islington alone joined up and never came back. The names of these Islington boys create the backdrop for the film.

Actors from Islington’s Young Actors Theatre give voice to their peers from 100 years ago and in so doing try to bridge the gap of the intervening century connecting the generations together. Scenes filmed at a reconstructed trench are juxtaposed with teenagers in contemporary Islington locations interspersed with archive footage some of it taken from the Imperial War Museum.

The film was conceived, written and directed by artist and film maker, Mark Maxwell and produced in collaboration with Islington based Three Legged Theatre Company  Mark Maxwell has over 20 years experience creating artworks, video and paintings. A common theme in his work is the transformation of materials and their reformation to show qualities not normally visible. Founded in 1990, Three Legged Theatre Company focus on commissioning and developing new writing. They have produced 14 plays including a national tour. This is their first foray into film.

The film was shot on location at a reconstructed trench in Charlwood, Surrey and at Barnard Park and the Young Actors Theatre in Islington. It was funded through Arts Council England.

We hope that the film will stimulate debate and discussion around the Great War.

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