“Chop, chop…” said the Carpenter to the Oak Tree – How do Authors use Heritage?

I wasn’t old enough to watch the television adaptations of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series when it first aired on ITV between 1993 and 1997. I was only really just aware of the later additions to the pantheon in the early 2000s. It was actually a University that one discovered the series, via an impulse purchase from HMV after a particularly heavy night of drinking. One needed something simple to watch, to fill the silent void left by Rum, bad decisions and a kebab that had somehow left it’s scent on the bedclothes. Purchasing a boxset of all of the Sharpe episodes felt like a natural action for an Historian. How right I was. How quickly one fell in love, with the uniforms, the sound of cannons and Sean Bean’s beautifully crafted rough Yorkshireman and his remarkable ability to make the word “Bastard!” rattle windows and the soul of the watcher. Eventually, after creating a drinking game, looking into what we shamefully called “Sharpe at Sea” – Hornblower… – I began to read the source material. I found a complex and well researched narrative, rich with reference and smothered in adventure. It wasn’t the first time i’d read Historical fiction, far from it but it was a turning point. Now as I get more and more involved in the narrative of our shared heritage, discovering what individuals and groups consider to the most important aspects of the meta narrative and equally how we “Get in to History” – That’s not a subject for one blog post believe me, I have an entire post just about how I found History and Heritage, let alone those who I know, love and talked to. It is of Historical fiction that we now turn our eye.

*A note of appreciation to all those who have contributed to my slim research for this post. Twitter has allowed me to connect with some of the most remarkable people and there words are featured below, with respect and thanks.

With Historical fiction we have a multiple routes of access. Is it the style of the Author? Well that is incredibly important, this Author has opened books and despite a claim that he never leaves a book unfinished, there are books that technically are unfinished, mainly because despite the interest in the subject or the idea of the book’s overall narrative, the eyes cannot make the brain comprehend bad writing… I have just noted as well that the subject is sometimes the lure. I work in a building formerly occupied by Oliver Cromwell so of course I have an interest in any fiction around his life and times, equally I am a Victorian Historian when it comes down to it so my love of that era in both contemporary fiction and modern fiction is a big lure. These facts are not, however, the subject of this particular post – I’m not a book-blogger, that’s the realm of friends of mine and the many other excellent bloggers out there. I’m here to consider HOW author’s of Historical Fiction use history. Where better to start than with an Author?

I reached out to a number of Authors via Twitter and many responded. The first was L J Trafford, who writes on a subject of which my understanding and awareness extends to when I studied the Roman Empire during my Primary School education. For L J Trafford however, it is an all encompassing subject matter but like all good Historians, they have reached in to a particular area and focused on it; specifically the year 68 to 69ad – described as the Year of 4 Emperors. A small amount of background information is as follows – “The Roman emperor Nero was the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.  During his rule, he was disdained by his people because of his vanity and inadequacies as leader.  He had one wife executed and he murdered another with a fatal kick.  All this resulted in a great conspiracy against him and he was forced to commit suicide on June 9, AD 68.  What followed was a year of chaos as four different men of high social standing declared themselves emperor, each with his own army of loyal supporters.  They clashed until only one remained, a man who would become the head of a new dynasty.” – It almost begs to be turned into Fiction!

L J Trafford says of the subject – “I write about 68/69 ad The Year of the 4 emperors so it’s pretty dramatic stuff to write a book about. I also wanted for myself to understand the machinations and swirling alliances of the era. I like writing Romans because they have a very different morality, views and lives to us and I find that interesting to explore.” – It is perhaps the last line that interests this Author the most – I like writing Romans because they have a very different morality, views and lives to us and I find that interesting to explore. – This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of why Historical Fiction is so important – with fiction, with the lure of escapism, we can drift off into a different world – one inhabited by goblins, elves and dragons or one where an event has changed our own accepted narrative – post-apocalyptic or steampunk perhaps. with Historical fiction alas we don’t have that – it is our history and it is real – Perhaps we can recreate that though? The Past is a Different Country…. We can perhaps look back with such an amount of removal from the subject and the ways and practises…. That is perhaps the fiction that we find – “It is so different to now, it’s almost unreal…”

It is on the note of escapism that we must continue. The next author I spoke with happens to be someone I know, alas not extensively, in reality and beyond Twitter or Facebook. His name is Jemahl Evans and the main reason we spoke was entirely built on a monetary footing – Not only did and does Jemahl use Heritage and History in his works, set in the 17th Century, but he directly referenced my beloved Oliver Cromwell’s House! “An old vicarage with a leaky roof….” is a badly worded quote from “This Deceitful  Light” which is the second in his Blandford Candy which is a fabulous romp, worth your time! I asked Jemahl to launch his book at Oliver’s Old Vicarage (NB the day we spoke on the telephone, we had a torrential rain storm in Ely, the House leaked….) When I eventually met Jemahl, I discovered a warm and witty Welshman, and I knew when I began considering Historical fiction that I had to talk to him.

“I am not overly concerned with the process of historical change as an author, but I am fixated by the personal stories of the past no matter how biased, anecdotal or apocryphal. That is what really drives my reading and research. The Seventeenth Century is also not a period I have studied academically, and that was quite deliberate. I felt that retreading ground as an author that I researched for my degrees would only lead to me getting sidetracked by the ‘History’. It is fiction.”

The concept that takes some time to consider, in my opinion. Jemahl, to give extra context, to discuss how much he uses Primary resources, how his Kindle is packed full of contemporary histories. He also talks about the huge glut of research that is available and which has been used. Is it perhaps one of the greatest honours to Historians that many years on, an author uses their hard work to create a fictional text that can allow for the subject to be accessed by a much wider audience? Yes, I think it is. We are all to often assaulted by great and worthy historical texts that are written to be read by individuals who are academic and knowledge seekers, wishing to rehash a subject, an argument and a perception. (My Medieval Historian is a frequent single voice chorus of Revisionist history.) Alas, as much as this is hugely important, it can be intimidating to an individual who is seeking an understanding on many levels, but who have encountered a negative front from academics. Information and knowledge should be shared and Fiction allows that to happen. The works of authors such as Jemahl Evan and L J Trafford do just that. Long may they continue.

My final note, on History and Fiction, comes from an unexpected source. I have used two examples of Author’s using connection to some of the greatest era’s of global history, utilising information from Historians and evidence. The last point comes from Robert Rankin. Robert Rankin, the Father of Far Fetched Fiction, may seem like an unusual choice for a comment on the subject of Heritage and History but having read nearly all of his books, there is a constant theme. Brentford and it’s inhabitants, it’s buildings and it’s very soul are crafted in to something truly remarkable. When I approached Robert for a comment, I received this.

“I would say that I use my heritage and memories constantly, my fiction is built upon my fact, the things I have seen, experienced and love. Such really is the nature of my being. But, that said, surely it is the nature of everyone’s being.”

If nothing else can be taken from this rambling text, if nothing else can be gleaned from reading anything I’ve written here to date, I hope that the above can be crafted by better wordsmiths than me, comprehended by better minds than mine. In the above quote, we see the true spirit of Heritage. “My fiction is built upon my fact, the things I have seen, experienced and love. Such really is the nature of my being. But, that said, surely it is the nature of everyone’s being.” Our heritage should be deeply personal. It should sing to our souls and it should evoke thoughts and feelings, it should challenge us. Heritage is wide and wonderful and the concept of channelling it into a creative art form, be it writing, be it theatrical (NB that’s another blog post Dear Reader, as yet unwritten) or song (NB equally another unwritten blog post) should be supported. To allow us to understand our rich past, to allow us to become aware of our shared humanity, we need fictional characters and narratives, rooted in our past; be that the Roman Empire which is a concept far removed, a culture so disjointed in comparison to ours, or be it 1960’s Brighton viewed through the kaleidoscope of an Author’s personal inner eye, it should all be celebrated in equal measure for this is one of the easiest routes in to our shared Heritage.

Reading List

Jemahl Evans’ Blandford Candy Series – “The Last Roundhead”, “This Deceitful Light” and “Davenant’s Egg and Other Tales”

L J Trafford’s Four Emperors Series – “Palpatine”, “Galba’s Men” and “Otho’s Regret”

Robert Rankin’s back catalogue is extensive and wonderful – a personal favourite is “The Brightonomicon”

 

“Excuse me, can I have a slice of your Fatberg?” The Weird and Wonderful things that make a Museum.

I can still vividly remember the early hours trawling of the internet that was caused by a combination of insomnia and an unusual BBC News Article. The headline is as follows “Monster Fatberg found blocking east London sewer.” and I’ll be honest dear reader, the minute I opened the article I should have turned back. I didn’t, and it got pretty vile from that point onward. I best begin with the definition of what a Fatberg actually is (for the sake of clarity and context) –

“A fatberg is a congealed lump of fat, sanitary napkins, wet wipes, condoms, nappies and similar items found in sewer systems, which do not break down like toilet paper. “

So there you have it, it’s only taken a few weeks of blogging here for me to reach the point that I am talking about about the above revolting topics. The question is, why? Why is someone who seeks to champion heritage, talking about such a revolting subject? Well it all comes from a follow up article, upon the eventual defeat of the Fatburg of the East End. I will never ever forget, i’m sure, reading the following headline. “Monster fatberg to go on display in museum.” I don’t think my heart has jumped at such a disgusting prospect before, and perhaps never again will it reach such heady heights. I honestly think this is absolutely and utterly wonderful.

The Museum of London has announced that a slice of the Fatberg is going to be displayed at the Museum for people to consider and inspect, the focus of the exhibition will be how modern life and archaic infrastructures created by our forebears are meeting and coping with each other, or not as the case may be. The very idea that someone has had the forethought to take this disgusting entity and utilise it in a Heritage setting is utterly remarkable. I have often argued amongst friends and colleagues that the more revolting aspects of one’s heritage are the easiest route for people to access it.

English Heritage posted a tweet about the “Top 10 Toilets in History” – Why is that important? Why should English Heritage be talking about toilets? I did read someone asking “Is this what I pay my membership for?” to which I wanted to respond – Yes! You want to preserve our shared heritage, you want to see the continued maintenance of these fine buildings, sites and items – That’s great but, to quote the marvellous Freeman Tilden –

  1. Any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.

If we simply preserve the sites etc without finding that common ground (NB – Different common ground!) we are failing. A large stately home, full of portraits and Georgian decor are very nice to look at, but what connection do they have to the average home? All homes have a toilet however, where not all have a vaulted ceiling or a library stuffed with leather bound books. The toilet is a universally understood concept and item, be it the European porcelain bowl or the variations further afield, we all… poo! So when it comes to bringing the story of Lord A Nnoymous of Somewhere-upon-Such back to life for a visitor, remember that despite his social class, despite his breeding and his diet, his vaulted ceilings, he also had to use the lavatory!

Does the idea of someone using the toilet disturb you? Well how about the food they ate? Perhaps the idea of eating is the one that will bring you round to interacting with the interpretation? I know from a recent event at my work place that food has a galvanising impact on engagement. If not food, then what aspect of your life, your hobby, your family would you most like to engage with?

I know that the lavatory for some is a deeply personal thing and for some people, it is not a topic for discussion. That is perfectly fine, but we must accept that there are subjects we would traditionally believe have no place in a serious museum, that are now the perfect launching point for further discussion and conversation about our shared heritage.

So from a Magpie, to the Museum of London – Thank you! Thank you for taking in a fatberg and using it to open the way for consideration of the subterranean London.

Be brave, for without bravery we will never challenge that which went before.

“Do you have an appointment?” – Shared Heritage and access to it.

First off, I’m sorry – I’m about to do something that my friends would tell you, I do often in private, but this time I’m doing it publicly. I’m going to misquote a song lyric. The whole reason why I’m doing it is because it amuses me deeply and because I know that the inspiration for this article is well known for meddling with songs to amuse people (or exasperate them…) so here goes. (For the original wonderful piece of music check here for my preferred version)

“At 16:49
Close to St George’s Hill
A long haired man they called M Ward
Came to trace the people’s will
He tried to defy the landlords
He chose not to deny the laws
He was most displeased
And intend to reclaim what was lost!”

Before I go on Dear Reader, I best quickly make two points – Politically I am left wing and one of my greatest passions is folk music. 

So where did this post come from? What is the kernel which it formed around? As with most things I’ve ever written it came from a fairly common conversation with a friend/colleague. I believe we had been discussing the follow up to another project that I had got my friends involved with and the narrative drifted and zig zagged as it tends to, until we came to discuss a moment in the life of the marvellous Matthew Ward of History Needs You.

 

Having been doing a talk about a mile away and on route to another engagement, Matthew decided to visit a site of great importance to himself personally and of equal importance to the Meta Narrative of English History, Left Wing Political History and to Global history – St George’s Hill, Weybridge. I’m going to dart off in to the history of the site, to give some needed context to the story. Bare with me reader, passions may be about to be inflamed.

A fairly clear explanation of what occurred is provided by The Surrey Digger’s Trail – “The Diggers first broke the ground on St George’s Hill on 1st April 1649 as they set out to make the earth a ‘common treasury for all’. The Hill is the place usually associated with their project and ideas, and it is from here that their influence, and the practice of Digging, spread to many parts of England.” The route of this movement however requires some deeper exploration. “The Diggers”, a Gerald Winstanley and his followers would quickly be known, were a group of working class individuals (technically labouring classes) who chose, in defiance of “The Masters”, to begin to plant and grow crops on common ground, the intention being to become self sufficient and to retain control of the produce they toiled over. After 5 months however, a court case would force the Diggers from St George’s Hill – the idea and the dream they had however wouldn’t be so easily crushed. They had come with one aim – “to make the land a common treasury for all” (I encourage you all to read more in to The Diggers and the Wigan born Cow Herd (Gerald Winstanley) who would lead them.)

It comes now to the modern day and to the story we previously mentioned that inspired this post. Matthew Ward, between appointments, felt the understandable urge to stand on the site where The Diggers had made their stand back in 1649. Now alas, we get to the crux of the issue – St George’s Hill is now occupied by…. a golf course. Not to be deterred and expecting it to be quite a common occurrence for the owners, to be presented with curious individuals or groups wishing to see the site, feel the earth beneath them and bask in the knowledge of what went before. Alas, Matthew was to be confronted with an entirely different greeting. The greeting came from a robustly built gentleman, in a dark suit.

“Hello Sir how can we help?”

“I’d like to pop in and have a look at the site The Diggers claimed, on St George’s Hill.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“Well no, I’m on my way between appointments and as I was close I thought I’d pop by.”

“Unless you are a member or you have appointment you can’t come in.”

“Why?”

“Because those are the rules.”

Matthew relayed that he asked if he could make an appointment and was told he needed to call or email, when he asked if he could have the details he was told to check the website. Returning to his car, Matthew began to check the website as instructed, only to be hailed by the Gentleman in a Dark Suit with a tapping on the car window.

“I’m just checking the website.”

“You can’t do that here. You need to leave!”

“What, why?”

“You haven’t got an appointment”

“I’m just….”

“Can you please leave sir….”

“I’m just setting my satnav up if you don’t mind entirely!”

I am reliably informed that the Gentleman made a noise that sounded like “Hrumph” – Matthew, for anyone lucky enough to know him, has a remarkable sense of humour. It would prove to be spot on during this encounter as he began to write a tweet to express his displeasure, he noticed the time; 4:45 pm. Matthew decided to wait for four minutes…. posting his tweet of displeasure at 16:58…

So what does this have to do with the wider issue of Heritage? This is one guy, denied access to one bit of land. What is the impact? Well the impact is enormous and this is the perfect example.

Heritage belongs to everyone, well on certain levels. My heritage, my personal heritage is mine, my family heritage is equally mine but shared amongst my relatives, who we choose to that with is our prerogative as family, as individuals. How we interact with our heritage is equally very personal. There is no denying this. However, when the site is of national importance, when that site or building is much larger than the sum of a single individuals memory then the rules change – St George’s Hill is not governed by the same rules as the shoe-box under my bed, with the family photos in. Sites such as St George’s hill are shared, they are “common ground.” But then again, in this day and age, that common ground may also be private property.

The problem described above, of shared heritage becoming private property, is not going to be one that is easily solved – building’s don’t simply repair themselves, landscapes don’t simply retain their natural elements, heritage cannot preserve itself and equally preservation, required for the longevity of our physical heritage, costs money. I won’t write here that all museums, stately homes, visitor centres etc should be free at the point of access. I can’t. Why? Because I’m a realist. I work in a heritage site, a building to be precise, and it needs care, it needs attention and it needs to be heated. It requires lights, otherwise it’s a bit dark, it requires gas because otherwise, it’s a tad cold. It requires water because otherwise it wouldn’t be deeply unsanitary. At the end of the day, money makes the world go round and heritage cannot be spared from that mechanism.
The National Trust, English Heritage, Historic England and many other organisations rely on charitable donations, legacies, membership fees and the sale of paraphernalia in their gift shops, to keep afloat, to pay for repairs and to make sites accessible and to cover the cost of interpretation. That is unavoidable but equally their mission statements are all aimed at sharing and revealing the rich narrative of our shared heritage (I won’t go on about what I dislike about some of these organisations, that will be another blog post) However, despite the inevitable cries of “How much?!” when it comes to access, you can still gain access. You can still walk in the footsteps of the “Great and Good” or indeed the ordinary individuals not born on satin sheets.  This is not the case with all sites as has been shown in the above anecdote.

I am not going to sit here and write a manifesto stating that the only way forward is to claim all private property and restore it to the hands of the populace – sometimes these sites are people’s homes, their private heritage. They choose to allow access, sometimes through schemes such as “Heritage Open Days” and this should be celebrated, thanks should be given and respect as well, in equal measure. Equally, those who become custodians of Heritage, those who buy the land and settle on it should equally take a moment to consider their actions and responses to request to access heritage. If you, by chance, end up owning a site of huge national importance, do you have the right to refuse access? Of course you do! It’s private property, on a legal standpoint you’re absolutely entitled to preserve the privacy of private property. Morally however? It’s a different story.

You are buying in to the narrative of this country, this world. The people who have been born on that site, loved on that site. breathed that air and walked that ground. You are the custodian of a site that perhaps means something incredibly important to someone, they have a strong emotional or spiritual connection to that space, that place. How would you feel if someone denied you access to something you cared about? Something that made You; You? Imagine that is the shoe-box with the photographs in, of school, of friends and lost loved ones, of silly moments and sad ones, happy memories and bemusing ones. Imagine now, that someone has that box in their hands and they are refusing to allow you access? The pain that could bring.

Sites such as St George’s Hill, now an exclusive Golf Club, are always going to be contentious but there is compromise. Respect for the intentions of those seeking their heritage should co-mingle with the respect shown to the owners. If someone wants to access a service, exclusive to members, then they should pay. If someone simply wants to wander, without causing harm or damage, then equally this should be allowed. Churches and Cathedrals may charge for a guided tour, but then they wave such a fee for those who wish to visit simply to worship. There is a middle ground, finding it and forming a relationship of respect and access for specific purpose is surely the way forward.

Let us take a moment to breath and make this land, a common treasury for all.

 

“How to solve a problem like… Team Building?!”

It was possibly the oddest brief I’ve ever had, whilst working in Heritage. I took a call from a friend and colleague, Steve Blake of East Anglia Puzzle Rooms, who I first met during the gestation of the “Royalist Round-up” Pop-Up Escape Room at Oliver Cromwell’s House. A project which began as a slightly crazy idea, combining an site of great historical importance, the oak panelled office in which Oliver Cromwell would have worked during his time as Collector of the Tithe, with the latest craze in “Experiences” – the Escape Room.

An Escape Room is the physical version of the internet craze of the early 21st century, often “Point and Click” flash games, with problem solving driven scenarios, usually a combined selection of seeking and finding key items and solving puzzles, allowing the player to progress. They are now often found in industrial estates, with wonderfully crafted but still “synthetic” surroundings and props. It’s fair to say, since they appeared in Japan, they have begun to spread across the globe, creating a whole new sub-section of “Tourism” – Escape Room Tourists, like their E-Gaming cousins, dedicated and professional individuals or teams who tour their local area and beyond, taking on every room they can. The disposable income and the hunt for non-tangible experiences has driven this industry to a point of great expansion.

What Steve and the Oliver Cromwell’s House team wanted to do however, was to create something unique, something that couldn’t be put in a box, taken from one place to another, unpacked and recreated. From a single weekend per month, with sceptical and ultimately limited hope, the Royalist Roundup went from a few sessions booked to extra sessions being added, corporate groups seeking a new and exciting form of team building and over a year of great success, leaving Steve Blake and I in a position where we both take pleasure in saying “We never ever get tired of hearing people say “Wow” when they enter the puzzle room.” It’s been fun, it’s been frightening at times and it’s been hugely successful. But where next?

Steve received a call from a client, wanting a large scale team building exercise to allow a cohesive union of different office groups, due to a large scale restructuring, he was given a location, a budget and left to his own devices. That’s where I came in. As i said at the start of this post, Steve called me. He called me one evening and said “Remember we talked about….” This unspecified point of reference is and was, a theatrical experience Steve had enjoyed in Suffolk, based around theatrical led interactions and puzzles, imagine a large scale Murder Mystery event and throw in the concept of “Cluedo” or as our beloved US cousins would call it, “Clue” and you might begin to get the idea…. Well we’d talked about it over a few ales, in a beer garden in a pocket city and then we’d sadly put it to the back of our minds. Steve had a Lord Protector to be coping with, as did I, Steve also had his business running other pop-up Escape Rooms all over Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and I had my job, which was consumed by large scale events for the coming season. Now however, the ideas came clawing back to the front of our minds.

The planning began, in earnest. Steve found the venue, the wonderful Moyses Hall in Bury St Edmunds and after an initial visit, I was given the outlined logistics of what Steve wanted to achieve, agreed with the client, and an enormous span of History and Heritage to work from.

Sir Terry Pratchett, who I miss dreadfully having read his books since my early teens, once said of Folklore “I think about folklore the same way a carpenter thinks about trees” – It is perhaps a little heavy handed to say the same thing about Heritage, but it should be noted with a second quote by Pratchett, “A good carpenter works with the grain of the wood and should endeavour to make a table that leaves the tree glad that it became timber”, that the same should be done by any Interpreter of History and Heritage. Preserving the integrity of memory, association and legacy of an artefact or event should be the primary objective, though equally it should share it’s position on the pedestal with engagement and entertainment.

Without going in to the laborious aspects of the planning, research and consideration, and causing you to drift away from the blog post, the narrative became apparent, the characters began to form from either the rooms, their exhibits and their stories, along with a decent sized lump of imagination and humour. What began as a slightly odd idea, became something more tangible. Utilising murder, medieval history and warfare, along with an exciting Sci-Fi exhibition, a story of mischief and madness took shape and the next steps became apparent.

Steve Blake, it must be said here and now, is a dangerously devious genius. Truly a Puzzle Master, who can be given a very brief narrative idea at 11.30pm on a Monday only to return to the author at 8.34am the next day with the framework of the puzzles, including their links to other later aspects of the experience. It’s like alchemy, you lob the raw base metal in and suddenly you’ve got gold.

As things progressed, we set the date, booked the venue, polished the narrative, Steve designed the puzzles and I found the players for the snap-shots in History that we had chosen. I had a great deal of fun with my own character, The Celestial Meddler (An entity who finds joy in confusion, sadness and puzzles).

Bringing in trusted comrades, one of my closest friends with whom I’ve appeared many times on stage, Damien O’Donovan, and the remarkable History Needs You team, Matthew and Gill, Steve and I with the rest of the team, met outside the venue as the sun set on a Friday evening in November. What we went on to create, with laughter and trepidation, was something truly unique.
Four teams, four rooms, four snapshots of History, each featuring a unique puzzle based around the room, it’s contents and it’s particular narrative, with a rounded character (in appropriate costume) acting as a location specific guide and narrator, turned in to a fast paced, fun and testing event, culminating in a final salvo from The Celestial Meddler, in which all of the teams came back and formed a single unit and were forced to take aspects of each room and defeat the well attired antagonist of the piece.

After the dust had settled, the warmth and delight that emanated from a group of people who had, in many parts not known each other before hand, knocked the entire team of their feet. As people left, they shook our hands and smiled, thanked us and in many cases said they would be coming back to the museum to have a more leisurely wander to explore the heritage of the area.

Whilst we changed back in to a normal selection of clothing and tottered off to a local pub for a well deserved pint, we left a museum and staff, slightly bemused but enthralled by what 5 very odd people can do within a venue that can often be overlooked.

We left very proud, we also left in a very reflective mood, buoyant from what we had achieved, with pockets full of ideas, modifications and future plans. So, when you hear about an “Immersive Theatrical Problem Solving Experience” in a heritage site near you, perhaps it’ll be Magpie Memoria and East Anglian Escape Rooms trawling through the wonderful collections of your local museum, country pile, townhouse or place of faith, crafting something truly wonderful from objects, stories and places, to show you the future in history.

For further information, don’t hesitate to get in touch and keep an eye out for events near you, in the near future, set in the past.

Magpie Memoria

What does Heritage mean to you? That’s not the easiest question to ask, I know. Heritage is a massive subject. If it was a machine, it would be similar to the old style computers that took up entire rooms. The computers of memory and myth, with complex aspects, presided over by individuals, experts in their own fields.

Heritage must be personal, it must engage with the audience on the multiple levels in which it is accessed; such as the individual tourist who has discovered, or through the directory of such agencies, a large historical home with no direct association apart from, perhaps, a sense of nostalgia instilled by, depending on generation television programs such as “Upstairs, Downstairs” or “Downton Abbey”. Perhaps they are someone with an associative memory and connection to the site. a former resident (Though rare, not entirely impossible) or perhaps this particular site houses a noteworthy example of ‘something’ – such as a complete and personal set of stamps, collected by a former occupant and now a part of the very fabric of the building, displayed in a quasi contextual manner in a drawing room, as if the collector had simply “popped out for a piss”. (N.B. The Author swears.)

The biggest question is how does one reconcile all of these particular interests, casual to academic, personal to professional, distant to intimate?

Magpie Memoria is a small operation, dedicated to discovering and disclosing heritage and history in a personal and fun way. Having worked with some of the best Interpreters on a number of projects, with years of combined Historical Re-Enactment experience ranging from the 12th century to the 20th, along with professional experience in Heritage sites, Magpie Memoria can provide and produce engaging activities and historical events along with long term heritage interpretations.

 

Don’t forget to email us at magpiememoria@gmail.com